I am not pro monarchy. Firstly, I just think it’s a bit silly. Secondly, it’s anachronistic, flies fervently in the face of equality and secularism, is neither derived from an implicit nor explicit popular mandate from the people, not to mention the fact that it is a tremendous burden placed upon the royals without their consent- often to the detriment of their own well being. Positive arguments for the royal family generally fall under the ‘it brings in tourism, and hence money’ camp. But this claim is unverified at best, as the monarchy is far from a transparent institution- and in any case, I’m not convinced that this money is worth the aforementioned harm the royal family (in its current conception) causes.
Having said all of this, I’m not too fussed about all the media attention they get. Why? Because regardless of whether I see the royal family as an illegitimate institution, I can’t deny that it exists and that a great many people take an interest in it, and as such, royal events will inevitably receive significant amounts of coverage. And if I want to take the Windsors down single handedly, complaining about the insignificance of articles and television pieces about them probably isn’t the way to do it. As such, I’ll put up with the non-stories about Kate Middleton’s baby bump, or the Prince of Wales’s new organic oatmeal highlander macaroons made from golden sheep’s wool (or whatever it is he’s pedaling these days) because there are worse injustices in the world than pointless news items.
But this time it’s gone too far. The media are currently reporting that the Queen has had the shits. Stories have focused on the fact that this is a very common ailment for people of her age, that she hasn’t been to hospital in ten years and that her cancelled trip to Italy was just a precautionary measure because she’s probably not that unwell. Whilst I feel sympathy for anyone who falls ill, the very mundane nature of this content undermines its status as an item worthy of public attention. The whole thing is akin to the puzzling statement ‘This sentence is not true’, only instead of five words buried deep inside an academic journal, the paradox is a headline for all to see, that reads; ‘Big News: The Queen’s Doing Okay!’.
I seriously doubt that the inconsequential nature of the Queen’s bowel movements are of interest to the majority of the population. But I’m willing to admit that some people may be fascinated by this story. In this case though, for these people the monarchy is just a very peculiar type of celebrity. Stories of personal and unremarkable events of the royal’s lives frequent newspaper articles and television programmes just as much, if not more, than stories about their efforts as international ambassadors or champions of charitable causes. Quite often then, the kind of public profiling endured by the royal family can’t be understood as constituting current affairs, but instead is a vacuous kind of celebrity; boring events it would be utterly absurd to report on if they happened to anyone else. Furthermore, vague and speculative coverage like the BBC interviewing a gastroenterologist about the common symptoms of a stomach bug doesn’t actually tell us anything about the Queen’s condition. All it really does is show that the media is clutching at straws, and that this is unwanted attention on part of the royal family who are not willing to divulge much information. The dynamic is all too similar to that which holds between the intrusive paparazzi and celebrity figures.
Ultimately it comes down to this: I’m willing to put up with meaningless news about an institution I find quite disagreeable, but the least we can do is stop kidding ourselves that these stories are actually anything else other than celebrity ogle pieces. With the upmost sincerity I wish Elizabeth Windsor a speedy recovery, but I do hope news of her ability to once again stomach spicy food doesn’t grace the headlines or the ten o’clock news.
N.B This entry has been reposted from my old blog.