A sclerotic, disgustingly privileged institution, the reigning House of Windsor needs dragged by the scruff of its neck into restructuring, or abolished altogether. Although no royalist, I've never been a republican either, rather, an indifferent citizen of the realm. Until recently.
The tipping point was the sordid BBC interview last Saturday of Andrew Windsor, aka His Royal Highness, The Duke of York, about his continued association with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. There's nothing sordid about Emily Maitlis of course. She conducted the interview with great skill and acuity, despite her enclosure in a grotesque, gilded cage. Although polite, she was not intimidated. Why such an intelligent woman was chosen by Buckingham Palace's PR to interview this podgy, arrogant man is a mystery. It was a straightforward shooting of ducks in a row.
Windsor made some extraordinary claims that he is too ignorant to recognise as unrepentant, entitled bullshit. He openly admitted he doesn't regret being friends with a paedophile and sex-trafficker because Epstein was 'actually very useful' to him. Windsor stayed at the jailed sex offender's home for four nights to tell Epstein he didn't want to be his mate any more. Aye, right. Oh, and he used his teenage daughter's party in Pizza Express as an alibi for being with a young woman who alleges she was forced to have sex with him. Or what about the 'public displays of affection are not
something I do' claim? Minutes later, social media was full of his, eh, doing public displays of affection – for young women, naturally.
As for his ludicrous claim that he couldn't have spent a sweaty night in a London nightclub because he was not able to sweat at the time, this was nothing but a cack-handed way of reminding us that he was shot at during the Falklands War. It was the only point of the interview where he looked positively cheery. Remember me? Forget all this underage sex nonsense, I'm a war hero! His Falklands adrenaline overdose backfired spectacularly. That he 'had a tendency to be too honourable', finished me off. I was laughing uncontrollably. Whit? My God, he and his PR team must have thought this would fly. What planet are they on? Uranus? As it turns out, Windsor's PR advisor, Jason Stein, resigned over the Duke's decision to agree to the interview with the BBC. Wise career move, Mr Stein.
One issue Maitlis missed was the fact that Epstein was asked to pay Windsor's ex-wife's debts. Worst of all, the interview ended without a shred of remorse for the abused young women. The repugnant Windsor obviously doesn't sweat the small stuff.
Windsor and Johnson
Men like Andrew Windsor and men like Boris Johnson (and there are too many just like them) are a menace to women and common decency. Us older, experienced women caution our younger sisters against their type. As the superb columnist Fidelma Cook wrote in The Herald
last week about Johnson: 'Most women have had a man like that in our lives at some point. He either breaks our hearts or we see him clearly from the start and decide to have fun while it lasts'. She goes on: 'But… most women are unable to guard their hearts, whatever their original intention, and those hearts too end up, if not broken, then badly bruised'.
I thought of Fidelma's words when watching Johnson's bruised ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Arcuri, being interviewed on Sunday. She doesn't strike me as naive. Manipulative, ruthless charmers – women are duped by such men too often. The charmer, you see, tricks you into believing you are the special one (among many special ones, you'll understand). A tearful Arcuri spoke about his callous dumping of her since he became Prime Minister: 'He cast me aside as if I were a gremlin'. What did she expect? The spare room in 10 Downing Street? Her hurt was palpable. She cannot understand why Johnson has 'blocked' and 'ignored' her, even though she has been a 'true friend' and 'kept his secrets'.
Arcuri is on the warpath. It'll be interesting to see how Johnson's PR team will shut her up. Sadly, I guess they won't have to do much in terms of damage control. Johnson (and Windsor) are cheeky chappies whose superficial charms and flirtatious banter impress far beyond young women to include their mates and – no doubt – their mothers. What Johnson's current special one makes of it all, God only knows.
The Crown's shame
It was fitting, I suppose, that I sat down to watch Series three of The Crown
on Netflix. Impressed by the first two series, this lavish drama chronicles the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II from the 1940s to modern times. Historically, the series is interesting, and beautifully shot. It also provides insight into the so-called mystery of the Royal Family. Queen Victoria believed 'the British Royal Family was descended from King David'. Royalists regard the family as part of God's covenant with David because they sit on David's throne. God gave them the honour, and with it came a profound duty and heavy responsibility. It's fascinating watching the series from this perspective, until, that is, the harrowing episode three of the new series about Aberfan.
I was seven years old when this catastrophe struck on 21 October 1966. I remember my mum weeping and my dad in a rage as the disaster unfolded on our black and white TV. The disaster was caused by the collapse of a colliery spoil tip created on a mountain slope above the Welsh village, and directly above a primary school, killing 116 children and 28 adults. Netflix did an excellent job conveying the detail of this horrific disaster, which to my knowledge, has not been re-created on film before now.
The Queen's response was appalling. For a few minutes, I understood where her second son got his callous disregard for ordinary folk. When asked by her lackeys to consider visiting Aberfan, she claimed not to 'do accidents', just visit hospitals. In her audience with Harold Wilson, when he gently requested she visit Aberfan to comfort devastated, bereaved relatives, she said: 'What do you want me to do, put on a show?'. When eventually she had no choice but to visit eight days after the disaster struck, I was left furious that she apparently faked tears.
Now, this is a dramatic reconstruction, to be sure. However, something rings horribly true. The episode concludes: 'According to those close to her, the Queen's delayed response to the disaster remains her biggest regret as sovereign'. Sure enough, according to her former private secretary, the sovereign said that Aberfan was her biggest regret back in 2002.
The Queen is the most loved and admired of all the royals, but this harrowing episode must, surely, leave even the most snivelling of sycophants uneasy. Following her son's extraordinary interview, any spiritual resonance, if any ever existed, will disappear with the death of Elizabeth.
In 1966, the Queen allegedly uttered about her family: 'This time we are the endangered species'. As it turned out, they weren't back then. They are now.