Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

We're all suckers for a Royal Command performance

ALTERNATE CROPPrince William and Kate Middleton exchange rings during their wedding service at Westminster Abbey, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday April 29 2011. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

For anyone born between 1981 and now - namely, me - the current socio-political landscape is bewildering. It's how all the Puritan hipsters and yuppies must have felt when Oliver Cromwell's son did a bunk and Charles II came back.

Their parents remembered the bad-old-good-old days and Charlie's arrival was just a return to the norm, back to the forelock-tugging, "yes, milud" habits of yore, before the men in round helmets banned fun.

And so it is with Kate and Wills: they've rehabilitated the monarchy these past few months, and wrested back the Divine Right. Which leaves a whole generation wondering what century they're living in and why we're suddenly supposed to treat these people - who, before their beatification, I mean, marriage, were just another pair of Boujis-dwelling, hard-bodied toffs - with such open-ended and unquestioning devotion.

The answer seems to be: you just do. With most media outlets gushing forth torrents of unctuous praise - on Friday there were exciting new pictures of "dressed-down Kate" shopping at Waitrose - it has become clear that the past 25 years have simply been a blip on the royal radar, that our national default setting is to play the adoring populace to our benign and noble monarchy.

It feels adolescent and strident to demand a republic. We'd all settled down quite maturely to ignoring the accidents of birth that are the figureheads of our country and getting on with our own lives. But now we are pandering to them in a way not seen since Henry VIII last blew a fuse.

Our grandparents would have understood it; it was what they knew. Our parents just about get it, because their memories stretch back to before Squidgygate. But for a generation, born and raised on royal scandal after royal scandal - the divorces, the dalliances, the embezzling, the racism, the bribery, the toe-sucking and, lately, the questionable friendships - it's all a bit baffling.

We all felt a bit joyous and buoyant, even as we labelled those who turned out on The Mall anachronistic nutters and tourists. But that will be the way of things now: we New Royalists are supposed to coo and be impressed by whatever the newly married couple turn their hand to. We are like Orwell's Winston Smith, surrounded by yes-men who refuse to acknowledge the truth of what went before.

The most blatant example of the New Royalism comes with newscasters simpering in sympathy at the onerous workload of the newly married couple. They have four tasks in the next three months, they bleat, one of which is a horse race. And the delivery is straight-faced and ebullient. We should be rolling on the floor at that, but instead we're lying back and thinking of England.

For the MTV generation, this is difficult to digest. It's a minefield, because nobody knows when anyone is being ironic any more. When did a Union Jack-print pashmina cease to be post-modern? Can somebody let me know, because I keep offending people.

The only thing more dangerous than an omnipotent monarch is a blinkered and impassioned mob. In the current miasma of royal fervour, we have become our own defenders of the faith, policing the Royal family's newly-found authority. And we disenfranchised youths are like so many milky-eyed Miltons harking back to the days when you could call the Queen Mother names without fear of having your head cut off by your next-door neighbour.

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