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Does Prince Philip Cheat at Tiddlywinks?

Reprinted from the Spectator [UK], 18 October 1957, page 508

By Strix

It is almost a tradition in England that very plain women discover, early in life, an affinity with horses; and it is thus natural that her subjects should view with an indulgent if not perhaps a truly sympathetic eye Queen Elizabeth II's obsession with the Turf.  What few of them suspect (save only for the fact that the Duke of Edinburgh cannot read, no Palace secret is more closely guarded) is her morbid passion for publicity.  A well-loved Cabinet Minister was telling me only the other day that the destinies of the Commonwealth and Empire are constantly being jeopardised by the Queen's inability to tear herself away from her press-cutting albums for long enough to affix her signature to some State paper.  Even the janissaries of the Court, in their tweed frock-coats, are disturbed by this.  It is not enough, as the Duke of Bedford reminded the College of Heralds at their recent speech-day, to get your name into the papers, however regularly and with whatever prominence; and the Queen's growing unpopularity with Mr. Kingsley Martin and other important sections of the community ---

But flippancy is creeping in, and it is one of the rules of this boring game that, when denigrating the Royal Family, one must preserve an owl-like solemnity.  One is writing with deep conviction, and if one is middle-aged this conviction is the deeper for having had so long to mature.  The Queen, like her forebears, has been 'in the news' ever since she came to the throne; and when a journalist in regular employment launches an attack on the Monarchy, it is most desirable that his diatribe should bear the hall mark of spontaneity and should appear to be the expression of stalagmitic sentiments which, strive as he will, he can no longer repress.

Otherwise people will say:  "If you feel so strongly on this important matter, why did you not say so before?"  In this context the memoirs of the better class of defecting Communist can be recommended as offering useful guidance.

* * *

But there are pitfalls on all the paths to frame, and on this particular short cut they are few, shallow, and innocuous.  If you write a criticism of a book or a play you are supposed to have some sort of vague qualifications for doing so.  The only qualification you need for criticising the Queen is to be one of her subjects; criticisms by foreigners are rank bad form, cut no ice and don't count.

The Sovereign's subjects are, by convention, loyal, and a certain breach of protocol, if of nothing more fundamental, might seem to be involved if I, as one of them, wrote for gain an offensive article about the Queen, especially if I did it at the behest of a foreigner.  But there is of course nothing incompatible between loyalty -- the truest kind of loyalty at that--and the frank expression of personal opinions about the Sovereign to whom I owe it.

I would make this quite clear to the numerous people (professional sycophants to a man) who would accuse me of a gross and unpardonable breach of taster.  I would explain that it was because of my loyalty that I felt impelled to bring certain facts and opinions to the attention of the world.  Were it not that I revered the Monarchy as an institution and admired the Queen enormously as a person, I should not have found it necessary to point out that she was an inept ruler, a misguided mother and a very moderate linguist.  As for my suggestion that Prince Philip was indifferent to grand opera and had a bad seat on a horse -- well, surely free speech is the very essence of democracy.  And so on.

 

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