IF memory serves, my sister was only a scrap of a person.
That blue day she was an annoyed scrap. We were at the east end of Princes Street because some king – of Norway, I think – had come to Edinburgh, visiting the sometime occupants of the Palace of Holyroodhouse. And my sister, all those decades ago, wasn't happy.
Our Queen had not been queenly. There had been no crown, no glitter of pomp or diamonds, no magic ponies. All my little sister had been granted was a wave from some wee woman in a big car. This was not my sister's idea of royal. My sister – who would probably be the first to say so – felt betrayed.
Pause over that. If you incline towards monarchy, what do you need or expect from a royal house? They can do you pomp, and explain what's meant by circumstance, and tell you a few dodgy historical tales. If you happen to be a royalist, you can dispense fairy stories. But that's not, properly, the story.
This republican accepts that the islands of Britain adore monarchy. Many of you, on this weekend of all weekends, will be content with your regal notions. That's their democratic choice. But still, I crave a favour. May I ask: How come?
It's not facetious. I don't understand. In a country that worries over the textures and procedures of democracy, why celebrate a tribe's inheritance? Why do we not get the fact that inheritance is the beginning of corruption? Why don't we think just a bit harder about wealth, entitlement, and royalty as anaesthesia for the masses?
I see that I'm outvoted. As usual.
In point of fact, I'm not too fussed over definitions of atavism. It's more interesting to ask, as we unfurl the bunting, why seek refuge in monarchy, and why even in the 21st century the democratic instinct is a flickering and fragile thing. How many bunnets remain, for doffing?
Gustave Flaubert once said a very fine thing. Gus said: "Honours dishonour, and titles degrade." In Britain, contrariwise, we prefer a world in which the old dear who once annoyed my sister can make or break careers by handing out brazen toys. The rest of us then pretend to believe that this is in no sense corrupt, or – for a long shot – stupid.
What was my little sister's idea of royal? A kind of magic, I think. That child, like most children, imagined that a queen could possess supernatural virtues. A queen could make things happen; a princess could heal the land. Implicit in HM's Jubilee is the idea that a monarch can put hands on the sick, or fix an economy, or give justice to the people, or just make you feel better.
None of this is true. She can't.
What do you want from a monarch? It's worth wondering, I think, before you immolate an innocent and patriotic sausage this weekend. If the royal house can't do magic, if it cannot set an example, if it cannot guarantee decency in public life, if it cannot be an arbiter of probity, guarantee a constitution, or even keep a PM's PR man out of trouble, you might want to look elsewhere.
Why would you want a monarch? You might want something tribal or symbolic. You might want a national maternal figure, for the suckling of every infant. You might even want a national granny. But you don't have to believe in voodoo.
A part of me rejoices to see a strange, screwed, impoverished country taking comfort from the survival of an aged Hanoverian legatee. Another part of me knows that the phrase "Hanoverian legatee" will only appear in a newspaper that is older, in point of fact, than the House of Hanover. You won't see it printed elsewhere. One of the dignities of this newspaper is that we are older than modern history (and the Windsors). We have earned a certain gall.
How trivial, though, can you get? Try me. Or try me on the facts of history this Jubilee weekend. Then try asking me why those facts might apply to this monarch, and to that Britain. The First Minister of Scotland won't take it on. So let's do some treason, in celebration.
Thus: the monarch we are supposed to celebrate this odd weekend has no claim to the throne of Scotland. She is not, and has never been, my queen. I hereby pull down the entire edifice of the British state. For fun, you understand. For the Jubilee.
It happens to be true, though. On the other hand, I would not wish to endorse one piece of feudal claptrap against another. The key phrase, citoyens, is "claptrap". Why would you want a monarch?
One argument holds that this Elizabeth in some sense guarantees my democracy. No harm to her, but that can't be the case. Parliamentary procedure didn't not happen because of kings; her ancestors did not secure the franchise for my ancestors. When all the fights for democracy were taking place, the House of Hanover was not conspicuous.
So what do we celebrate? The monarch who didn't turn up for my sister? The magical queen who did not, in fact, exist? Would you have a pageant for the spurious idea of parliamentary democracy? Or are you just having a party in memory of feudalism?
Being slightly Irish, and mostly Scottish, I will not take advantage of the oldest newspaper in the English-speaking world just because I can.
It's not in me to spoil anyone's weekend. If you're fond of a queen, of any sort, enjoy the occasion. We republicans intend to sit through these few days with a certain – for the Queen's French isn't up to much – insouciance.
In truth, it's about the dignity of people everywhere. Have a nice street.
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