Reading about the ongoing turmoil in the Royal Family and its effects on the nation, I suspect I am a member of the vanishingly small minority who sees us all as trapped in the P.G. Wodehouse novel from Hell.
Here’s how it might go…
Bingo Little has fallen head over heels for an American actress, known to have strong views concerning the equality of the sexes. At the behest of Aunt Dahlia, Jeeves is tasked with ‘contriving a dalliance’ with a well-known premier league footballer, an experience no doubt so ghastly as to put her off English men for good, and send her back to Uncle Sam never to return. But the best laid schemes of mice and aunts tend to go astray. Wooster, irked by Jeeves’ thinly-disguised (if at all) distaste for his new yellow chequered trousers and in a fit of pique, intervenes to arrange the dalliance not with said ankle-clipper, but a chap he knows from his club The Drones, with a reputation for boorish behaviour who by chance is fifth in line to the throne. Yes, young Bertram, what could possibly go wrong?
Everything, as it happens.
It turns out, His Royal H is something of a damaged soul with his penchant for dressing up in black shorts and being somewhat the worse for wear, merely cries for help from a fragile and flittering butterfly in the storm. Meanwhile, our aspiring starlet is, unbeknownst to Wooster, a master of the new arts of psychotherapeutic healing popular with America’s high society. In short, ample opportunity for her to sink her claws in.
And how! The two fall in love and have a lavish wedding at considerable expense to the public purse. Then, the Duchess of S, as she is now known, goes and gets in a huff over stories in the society gossip pages as to whether or not she made the Duchess of C cry, or was it the other way round? Anyways, she’s alleging racial undertones to the entire affair on Oprah, causing Tuppy Morgan to hit the roof. He says he won’t come down until next Tuesday and no amount of steak and kidney pudding can persuade him otherwise.
Returning to America, she’s refused to visit any more agricultural shows or nursing homes in the national interest, taking her ever-adoring not to mention compliant husband with her. He’s gone totally doolally by the way, ditched his old friends, the twins Claude and Eustace, and thinks he’s some sort of guru having found gainful E with a Big Tech company in Silicon Valley advising them on how to release their inner Chakras. What’s more, they’ve set up a charitable foundation devoted purely to the noble and lofty causes of promoting diverse voices, including their own, as well as saving the planet, winning a prestigious Ripple of Hope Award for their endeavours. This is a much-covetted prize given by members of the Democrat Party to other members of the Democrat Party, for those of you who don’t know. They are even threatening to take Aunt Dahlia’s French chef Anatole with them, offering him a considerable advance on his current wages on the condition he prepares only the finest vegan dishes.
The sheer horror of it all!
But that’s not where it stops. If only! Now, barred from using royal titles and referred to simply as His H, the Prince has penned a memoir for publication, full of salacious gossip and scandal, that implicates squarely His Majesty the King, the Queen Consort, especially the Queen Consort, the Prince of Wales and his delightful family, and not to mention the Earl of Emsworth and his prize pig, the Empress of Blandings. To top it all off, Biffy Clarkson has gone and stuck his oar in, saying he wants to see the good Duchess stripped starkers and have you know what thrown at her. Steady on old chap! Steady on!
Quite a conundrum and certainly a pickle, but how would Jeeves resolve this mess? Students of Mr Wodehouse’s oeuvre will note there is something of an edge to the brilliant butler’s methods, and that there are occasions where he is more than willing to deploy some of the darker arts of service. For instance, consider his solution to the problem of Roderick Spode, the 7th Earl of Sidcup’s extreme distaste for Wooster that threatened to spill over into strangulation, and that not even his being brained with an oil painting could happily resolve. It was simply a question of finding Spode’s weak spot, which Mr Wodehouse’s readers will recognise by the name ‘Eulalie’. Judging by the much-admired scholarship of Mr Tom Bower, there would be many ‘Eulalies’ in the good Duchess’s past (not to mention the Duke’s) and all that would be required would be to find the right one, or combination thereof, and then, ahem, reaching some sort of understanding.
But unfortunately, such measures are not befitting members of the Royal Family. Instead, they seem to have hit on a wise and assiduous path which is to weather the storm, keep calm, carry on and dress in matching claret. For the sad truth is that Dukes and Duchesses without any royal functions want for the kind of stately glamour that comes with genuine service to the nation. Consider poor old Harry’s recently turning up at a US Naval Base to show his concern for another country’s military. It’s just not the same and the Sussexes come across as a bit naff trying to do British royalty in America.
That is the secret of the House of Windsor’s success and best weapon against its renegades, who will, like us all age and with it lose their appeal to coincide with their departing looks. Besides, no one really likes do-goody-gooders – they’re just no fun. As Mr and Mrs Simpson found out, leaving the Royal Family is a lonely business, trading a life of service in for one without authentic purpose. Royalty has always enjoyed its flirtation with show business, but they are not the same and perhaps a marriage between the two was never judicious, despite the heart wanting whatever it is the heart wants and Meghan gets.