Scottish Daily Newspaper of The Year
It seems we are all talking about the royal family recently, but we aren’t having the right conversations, writes Kirstin Innes.
Happy New Year?
We started ours off with an email from our energy provider, saying that we had accrued a £450 bill just for the month of December. (One or other of our kids was at home with a chest infection or cold for all but three days of the month, so we needed to have the heating on in our small, drafty house during the day, rather than just in the evenings.)
This was not anything we had budgeted for or could afford; this month, a lot of our food will be coming from our village’s community larder, which offers supermarket food waste for free. While we’re very grateful that such a thing exists, and realise we’re nowhere near the worst affected by the cost-of-living crisis, 2023 has not got off to a great start round our way.
The news stories that limped out that day, far from the usual start-of-year whimsy and hope, perpetuated the gloom.
While the nation nursed its traditional hangover, the Financial Times announced that the UK is on the verge of a deeper, longer recession than the other G7 countries. From every part of the country came apocalyptic tales of ambulances backed up outside hospitals for hours, and deaths because of bed shortages, while nurses and rail workers striking for safer conditions were demonised as greedy and dangerous.
Meanwhile, in the circles which consider it crude to discuss money, private healthcare is booming – although the prime minister hesitated over admitting he uses it – and the main topic of conversation this week seems to be Prince Harry’s tell-all memoir, Spare, and his Sunday interview with ITV’s Tom Bradby.
As a weary, low-key republican who tries to keep the whole royal gamily shebang at a bit of a distance – exceptions made for the glossy, soap-opera nonsense of The Crown – I’ve been slightly stunned at the vehemence with which some people seem to be willing to take sides in this latest, um, glossy, soap-opera nonsense.
Whether you are #TeamWillsandKate or #TeamHarryandMeghan in the PR battle of the wealthy couples seems to be of crucial importance to this country right now.
I might not be able to afford to heat my house and am writing this from under a duvet, wearing fingerless gloves, but – without having sought out the information at all – I can tell you that rumours and anecdotes currently circulating include: William and Harry had a fight in which a dog bowl was broken, Meghan and Kate had an altercation over lip gloss, something about a beard, and Queen Consort Camilla, with a number of well-placed journalist friends, has allegedly been the source of a number of leaks about William over the years.
If there’s some truth in that, Queen Camilla’s recent lunch with influential media figures (including those obsessive, frenzied Meghan-haters, Jeremy Clarkson and Piers Morgan) might shed a little light on why – at the time of writing this, at least – The Yorkshire Post seems to be the only online media outlet carrying the story that King Charles will be receiving a (#gifted) brand-new, £3.5 million golden carriage to celebrate his coronation in May.
Apparently the existing, 261-year-old golden carriage – which, honestly, looks more like something that would roll onto the stage to pick up Cinderella at the end of act one in an upmarket panto than anything pertaining to a modern democracy – is a very uncomfortable ride for the royal bahookie, and King Charles couldn’t possibly travel in any of his personal fleet of limousines to something as important as his own coronation.
I’ve also seen precious little analysis of the fact that this “stripped down” coronation will still cost taxpayers £100 million.
Presumably, neither of these facts sit neatly with the public image of a monarch whose inaugural Christmas Day message attempted to find common ground with “those at home, finding ways to pay their bills and keep their families fed and warm” during “this time of great anxiety and hardship”.
That same monarch will, on May 6, be anointed in a thousand-year-old ceremony, and crowned with a fancy gold hat – sorry, the Imperial State Crown – encrusted with 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls, and four rubies.
I just don’t understand. I don’t understand how we can continue justifying the money that we, as taxpayers, spend on this one particular family, who still expect us to bow and curtsey to them for the privilege.
£100 million of public money is an apparently acceptable sum to pay for a ceremony designed to entrench this already mind-blowingly wealthy family further
I don’t understand the arguments made that those many empty palaces, cordoned off to the public, pay their way in tourism only by having an active royal family occasionally stay in them.
I definitely don’t understand why £100 million of public money is an apparently acceptable sum to pay for a ceremony designed to entrench this already mind-blowingly wealthy family further, and perpetuate their need to take more money from us in the future.
We can’t afford these people anymore. But nobody – from the media lunching regularly at Buck House to our billionaire prime minister presiding over the coronation spending – seems at all interested in discussing it.
Kirstin Innes is the author of the novels Scabby Queen and Fishnet, and co-author of non-fiction book Brickwork: A Biography of the Arches
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Scottish Daily Newspaper of The Year