Republican News · Thursday 4 September 1997

[An Phoblacht]

Normal service will not be resumed

The death of Diana Spencer (all stations, all week) threw the TV schedules into chaos as all the British media and most of the Irish media joined in the saturation coverage of the Accident, the Aftermath, the Papparazi, the Drunken Driver, the Mourning, the Implications for the Royal Family etc, etc ad nauseam.

Nauseating was the only word for so much of what was presented. The hypocrisy of Official Britain at its worst was on display. Here was a woman the Windsors - `the Company' as Diana herself called them - had put beyond the Pale because she openly criticised her two-timing husband Charles Windsor. Now they have rushed to redeem themselves and the institution of monarchy in the public eye with their staging of a `unique funeral'.

Equally hypocritical were the black-draped obsequies on TV and in the tabloids, as they lamented how Diana was `hounded' by the photographers for years. Photographers and camera crews working for them, they omitted to mention. If there was an element of guilt in this it was not allowed to intrude too much. She had provided them with some of their best `copy' during her lifetime and now she is doing the same in death.

RTE was quite pathetic, feeling they had to ape the BBC and ITV with special progammes and news bulletins totally dominated by the death. World news was switched off for the duration.

While Diana's role regarding land mines was praised, Labour Foreign Minister Robin Cook was returning from Indonesia where he tapped the regime lightly on the wrist over human rights, shook the bloody hand of Suharto (the butcher of East Timor), and maintained multi-million pound British arms sales to him, including war planes.

It is difficult to write on this main media story of the week without appearing callous but in times like these it is necessary for some of us at least to point up realities. All reason, it seems, has been suspended. All critical faculties have been paralysed. But the unpleasant facts remain. For example Diana's driver was drunk and speeding. That, on the face of it, makes him culpable, whether or not they were being pursued by photographers.

The accusations about the photographers are fraught with contradictions. The fact is that Diana courted publicity. She lived in the public eye by her own choice. One thing she had in common with the hated Windsors was a desire to be covered by the media but only in the most favourable light, and at the times and places of her choosing. There is a special reason why this is an impossible and intolerable demand. That special reason is the very nature of royalty and aristocracy. These people only have the titles they hold because they happened to be born (or married) into the right family. With royalty the family itself is the public institution. If it is a particualrly dysfunctional family it cannot escape exposure of that fact. They cannot have it both ways.

It was never true that Diana sought to sink into obscurity once, by divorcing Charles, she had severed her connections with the Company. The proof of that is her anger over not being allowed to retain the title `Her Royal Highness'. That such a thing should be an issue at the end of the 20th century shows the atrophy that afflicts the British body politic.

The Windsors chose the role of public monarchy back in the 1930s. The TV age ended the bogus `mystique' of the institution but it remained as the powerful central pillar of the establishment, figurehead of the aristocracy, of those `born to rule', of the officer class in the military and navy, the propaganda image of Britain and her dwindling empire.

It could have been different. They could have shed their vast wealth and their bloated status with its pompous and archaic titles (such as `Her Royal Highness'). They could have become a constitutional monarchy, maintaining a symbolic role but equal to fellow citizens, not `sovereigns' over `subjects'. That Scandanavian model of monarchy was dismissed with typical British class distinction as they recoiled in horror at the thought of a ``cloth cap King''. And of course the hidden tradition of republicanism in England, Scotland and Wales was not given any place in political dialogue.

Few in Britain now seriously believe that the monarchy has any political role to play, even in symbolic terms. Public respect for the institution has been declining steadily over the past few years. Its decline has devalued its traditional role for the Establishment. Yet virtually no-one on the political scene in Britain, including those on the left of the Labour Party, has the courage to stand up and say that the whole institution and all its works and pomps should be abolished. That's because it would be like calling for the abolition of Eastenders. British Royalty had become a vast soap opera, funded to the tune of many millions by the taxpayer. Now the most popular character in that soap opera has died. All programmes have been cancelled. Normal service will not be resumed. The tragic death of two very wealthy people and their driver in a Paris subway could well signal the end of the British monarchy.


Contents Page for this Issue
Reply to: Republican News