Rich and naked: Prince Harry gives anti-monarchists a boost
The royal family cannot afford to be associated with the arrogance and extravagance of the super rich
IT COMES as no surprise that The Sun newspaper, instrument of the deeply anti-monarchist Murdoch clan, should be the first to publish embarrassing photographs of Prince Harry in Las Vegas, defying efforts by Clarence House to keep a finger in the dyke through pressure on the Press Complaints Commission.
Instead of a story about the prince's latest indiscretions which would have blown over fairly quickly, we now have a story about attempts by the royal family to restrict the ability of the British press to publish information freely available via the internet across the globe.
Frankly, Prince Harry's latest misadventures are no big deal. The idea that somehow the army has been offended or let down is inaccurate, sanctimonious tosh. The Household Division to which Prince Harry belongs as an officer in the Blues and Royals has always had a broad-minded approach to matters of the flesh. More than any other part of the army it recognises the distinction between on and off duty.
Still, as an ardent monarchist I do worry. I have a feeling that much of the affection and loyalty the monarchy generates is personal towards one particular monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. When she dies there will be a huge outpouring of national grief. It would not surprise me if millions of her subjects queue round the clock to pay their respects as she lies in state in Westminster Hall. She will be a hard act to follow and there will be danger ahead.
Her likely successor, the Prince of Wales, is not as popular as he should be given the huge amount of charitable work he personally undertakes and the influence he is invariably willing to deploy to better the lot of his less fortunate fellow countrymen. The reason? The caddish way he treated Princess Diana. He is also known for his extravagance – largely financed by his income from the 133,000 acres of land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall.
His consort, the Duchess of Cornwall, is popular in some quarters, particularly with the services, but there are many in the country who are simply not prepared to accept her as Queen. To put it bluntly, the future of the monarchy is far from assured.
The threat is not just internal. The Queen is Queen not only of the United Kingdom but of 15 other countries (the "realm countries" as they are referred to). The largest are Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica, but they also include Caribbean and Pacific territories. Deliciously, this meant her subjects achieved 48 gold medals at the London Olympic Games – two more than the leader of the former realm country now known as the USA.
The catch is that nearly all of these countries will be reviewing the franchise after her departure - with Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica likely to become republics. This is bound to have a knock-on effect at home, encouraging the vociferous and chippy anti-monarchist lobby.
But these likely future developments pale in comparison to a development that is upon us already – most Brits are heartily fed up with the super rich.
In between State occasions, the Queen and Prince Philip are celebrated plain livers. But super rich is exactly how many other members of the royal family behave these days.
At more than £4,000 quid a night (minimum stay three nights), only the super rich would have the money or the bad taste to stay in the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas where Prince Harry had the top suite. Freeloading super rich are even more irritating: according to one UK broadsheet a royal aide declined to comment on whether or not the prince, who was on a private holiday with friends, paid for the suite himself or accepted the hotel's hospitality.
Alarmingly, the Spanish royal family's popularity seems to be in free-fall. The once respected King Juan Carlos, whose personal intervention saved the country from a military coup in 1981, is regarded now with indifference, if not hostility by many Spaniards. It's partly to do with internal scandals inside the royal family - Juan Carlos has a voracious eye for the ladies and a dodgy son-in-law alleged to have profited financially from his royal connections - but also resentment at their luxury lifestyle while youth unemployment stands at 50 per cent.
Being super rich is not just about money, it's about attitude as well. One thing that really grates is the way that many of them get heavy-handed over their privacy, often backing it up with threats from fancy law firms. Unfortunately the royal family - or at least their courtiers - appear to be aping this habit.
Clarence House screwed up badly by trying to prevent publication of the photos in the UK. The idea that Prince Harry's privacy was somehow invaded while he was holding open house in Vegas is ludicrous.
The prospect of a republic appals. But if the new generation of British royals allow themselves to become identified with the arrogance and extravagance of the global super rich, the House of Windsor is doomed.