Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Free the Royals from the Hell of Monarchy

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Free the Royals from the Hell of Monarchy

Article excerpt

Byline: JOHANN HARI

ONE of London's most embarrassing roles over the centuries has been as the stage-setting for Britain's royal family to parade their births, deaths and psychoses before alternately adoring and spitting crowds. From the scaffold on Whitehall where King Charles I was beheaded to the long steps to Westminster Abbey where Diana Spencer was ceremonially deflowered and sacrificed before an adoring nation, London's icons are ineradicably tainted by monarchy.

The golden gates at the end of the Mall always seem to me like the least and lowest of our tourist attractions, a reminder that underneath the teeming glory around you there is an unmeltable core of hereditary privilege you can never enter.

Strangely, some people have seen the biting, brilliant film The Queen - currently topping the West End box-office charts as a movie that will bolster monarchism. It is the story of the bleak tango between Elizabeth Windsor and Tony Blair in the week following Diana's final curtain in the concrete of Paris. With a perfectly repressed and bitter performance from Helen Mirren, the film explores what happens when a democratic, media-driven culture crashes into a feudal family pickled in protocol and emotional repression.

It uses real footage of Diana week, that beautifully surreal time to be in London, when the Mall was covered with a crunchy carpet of flowers and cards cursing the Windsors, and strangers stood weeping at a bare flagpole.

Julie Burchill called it "a floral revolution". I remember walking up Oxford Street on the Saturday morning of the funeral, every shop closed, central London quiet, and wondering if any other event in my lifetime would bring London to this silence.

But the film - which makes any viewer feel a tender pity for Elizabeth Windsor - is only an advert for monarchy if you buy the tired old line that we republicans hate the Windsors while monarchists slather them with sympathy. In fact, the opposite is true. The film shows how monarchists have tortured poor Elizabeth Windsor and warped her into a woman incapable of expressing the most basic human feelings.

To find a childhood as weird as the one monarchists have forced on Elizabeth, you have to look to Michael Jackson. She made her debut on the cover of Time magazine at the age of three, and her mother taught her to chant as a toddler: "We are not supposed to be normal. We are not supposed to be normal."

The child was taught she was an emissary of God, enacting His will by becoming the monarch. As the film shows, she was deeply disturbed by watching her father reduced to a stammeringshaking wreck when he was forced to assume the throne after his brother did the one sane thing and abdicated.

A life of such deep weirdness, doomed to the deafness that comes from only hearing sycophants, made Elizabeth Windsor into a woman who abused her own children by abandoning them as toddlers and forced to put up with a marriage widely alleged to be hellish. …

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