Save our Royals from Australian paws

How can we stop Australian politicians from touching up members of our Royal Family, in the manner of a libidinous BBC Radio disc jockey? If you remember, the former Prime Minister Paul Keating once groped the Queen, without even having first invited her out for a drink. Now the current PM, a man called Tony Abbott, has draped his meaty arm around the Duke of Cambridge, probably while making some over-familiar or even vulgar aside about his wife. “Punched above your weight there, you sly old bugger,” or something similarly grotesque. Obviously the Royals will need to visit the Antipodes from time to time, to let them know that we

The Royal Family beats Australia’s dreary political class hands down

Only a few hours before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge landed in Sydney for the start of their much-hyped royal Australian visit, Barry O’Farrell, the popular Premier of New South Wales, stunned the nation by resigning. His reason? He couldn’t remember having quaffed a bottle of wine. (No ordinary wine, mind you, but a bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange, valued at around GBP 1,700.) In years to come, no doubt among Barry’s many regrets will be the fact that he didn’t get to hob nob on the harbour with the glam royal couple. A timely coincidence, because what links these two events goes to the heart of why Australia’s

Surely we should have called our new flagship HMS Margaret Thatcher?

It’s great news that this summer will see the launch of Britain’s biggest-ever warship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, built on the Clyde and weighing 65,000 tons. This beast will be carrying Merlins, Chinooks, Apache and 250 troops, and also features a ‘Highly Mechanised Weapon Handling System’, which I don’t quite understand the meaning of but definitely makes me aroused. But couldn’t the Powers That Be have come up with a more original name? I love the royal family and everything, but how many things do we have to name after them? Most recently, a year or so ago it was announced that they’d come up with a name for our

Hacks get a royal handbagging from princes over sandbags

Prince Harry’s disdain for the media is well documented; but it was William who got grumpy today, telling Guardian journalist Robert Booth: ‘Why don’t you put your notebook down and give us a hand with the sandbags?’ Booth offered to help: ‘But when your reporter agreed to help, aides stepped in and said it would not be possible due to a lack of the right sort of clothing.’ Typical health and safety mumbo jumbo, etcetera. The royal PR operation is a slick machine these days. Opportunities are rarely missed, which is why the princes were up bright and early this morning to get in on the action. William and Harry,

The Spectator’s Notes: French presidents used to have a touch of the monarch. Not any more

When I interviewed Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the former president of France, for my biography of Margaret Thatcher, I asked him why, when she lunched with him at the Elysée Palace for the first time, he had been served before her: she had been offended. M. Giscard explained that no slight had been intended. It was a matter of protocol — the president is the head of state, the British prime minister only the head of government. ‘You must remember,’ he added, ‘that the president is in the line of sovereigns.’ I recalled these words when reading about President Hollande and his amorous adventures in his helmet. To the British, it is

Regal austerity

These are troubled times for Princess Michael of Kent. Austerity has hit Kensington Palace. ‘We’ve cut back dramatically,’ she tells the Times. ‘I mean we never go out to dinner unless we go to somebody’s house. We never go to restaurants. That’s too extravagant.’ It sounds just ghastly. And, I regret to say, that the princess travels in less style than she used to: ‘I love Easyjet. It’s the only direct route to Biarritz. We always fly tourist-class anyway in Europe.’ Although it may sound like the Baroness Marie Christine Anna Agnes Hedwig Ida is enduring Dickensian privations, she does say: ‘for long-haul, we go club.’ Phew! I was about to call for a

Blue blood on blue blood

The People’s Princess is back in the papers, thanks to the latest film about her life, and one minor royal couldn’t resist re-opening old wounds. According the New York Post, Lady Pamela Hicks, Prince Philip’s cousin, began gently: ‘[Diana] had enormous charisma, she was beautiful, [and] she was very good at empathy with the general crowd.’  But, Lady Pamela said, ‘she had no feeling at all for her husband or his family.’ And there was more: ‘She was really spiteful, really unkind to him — and, my God, he’s a man who needs support and encouragement. [The marriage] absolutely destroyed him. He looked grey and ghost-like. Now of course he’s

Conrad Black’s farewell to the British press

The astonishing level of enthusiasm over the birth of the new prince goes far beyond the pleasure that people naturally feel for an attractive young couple who have had a healthy child. If there is any truth at all to these estimates in the North American media that trinkets and other bric-a-brac, and even increased numbers of tourists, will produce hundreds of millions of pounds for the British economy, the answer lies not just in normal goodwill and the effusions of the most strenuous monarchists. If my memory is accurate,  the last time there was so much public interest in a royal event, albeit of the exactly opposite nature, was


Presents fit for a king?

Forget the unedifying spectacle of today’s appointments to the House of Lords; a much more sought-after list is doing the rounds: that of the presents our political leaders sent wee Prince George and his proud parents. Mr Steerpike detects the hand of Mrs Clegg in the Deputy Prime Minister’s choice of a blanket handmade by Spanish nuns, which he presumably picked up while he was on holiday last week. David Cameron has splashed out on the complete works of Roald Dahl, which he could have picked up for less than twenty pounds online if he was clever on his iPad. Meanwhile, I hear that Ed Miliband has sourced the future

Royal filler

Prince Charles told it like it is when he was hijacked by the royal baby press pack this morning: ‘Absolutely nothing at the moment, we’re waiting’. Others, though, are not so patient. The BBC is excelling itself: this is a royal occasion so it must provide hours of vapid commentary, conveyed in hushed tones. It’s a thankless task, as newsanchor Simon McCoy made clear on air: ‘Plenty more to come from here, none of it news of course, but that won’t stop us… Let’s speculate, because that’s all we can do.’ Over on Sky News, Kay Burley is the real queen of days like this: ‘I asked how many centimetres…but

One is getting impatient

Commenting on the imminent royal baby, Brenda, who is set to become a great-grandmother again, seems overwhelmed with joy: ‘I hope it arrives soon because I’m going on holiday.’  Classic Windsor coldness.

Jane Austen and Winston Churchill are practically the only credible banknote candidates

Silly season is here. A minor row has broken out over which long-dead figures should appear on the reverse side of Bank of England notes. I can’t be bothered to relate the details because you’ve all got better things to do like water the garden, fix lunch or watch Loose Women. Basically, Sir Mervyn King’s got it in the neck from the Continuity Bien Pensants by seeming to back Winston Churchill and Jane Austen for this dubious accolade. So far, so ludicrous. But there’s one more point worth making. The criteria for this banknote business are that the subject must be enduringly famous and recognisable. This does rather limit the field, particularly

Did the taxpayer contribute to the ‘Royal Wedding of the North’?

Mr Steerpike is a romantic at heart and a conservative, so I like love and marriage. Yet I was irritated by one detail of the nuptials of Lady Melissa Percy and Thomas van Straubenzee (pictured), dubbed the ‘Royal Wedding of the North’ at Alnwick Castle, which took place this weekend. It was quite a bash. Prince Harry was caught between two blondes, when his ex and latest squeeze came face to face. Prince William (who was Best Man to his childhood friend van Straubenzee) was flying solo after the heavily pregnant Duchess of Cambridge decided to stay in London lest she be forced to give birth in a northern NHS

A regal opportunity

The Middleton family’s party website is set for a revamp, I hear. James Middleton was serving his own cupcakes at last night’s Johnnie Walker Blue summer party when he let slip that the website would be stepping up a gear. What timing, methinks. The company has raised eyebrows in the past. Their wedding party kits went on sale at around the same time as the elder Middleton daughter joined The Firm. What will the company offer this time? How about some baby shower party packs or a christening kit? It really is a world of opportunity.

Crime, corruption and sadism? No, the real Sweden is stunning – as I have discovered

I am on my first ever visit to Sweden and enjoying it greatly. My idea of this country had recently become rather confused. I used to picture it as a social democratic paradise, a tolerant, law-abiding welfare state in which everyone was a good and caring citizen. But then came the Wallander television series and the Stieg Larsson books and films in which Sweden was portrayed as a country in which violent crime was rife and corruption, sadism and perversion held sway. The reality, as I have experienced it over the past few days, has neither upheld nor discredited either of these stereotypes. But this is hardly surprising, since I

David Cameron should have read Hilary Mantel’s essay before criticising it

How stupid of David Cameron to join this absurd row over Hilary Mantel’s-speech-turned-LRB-essay on monarchy. I strongly suspect that the Prime Minister was told to do so by aides, who for their part had been reading various journalists on the subject, who for their part hadn’t actually read the essay at all. They just all mouthed off because they wanted a little outrage to fill the day, and LRB’s provocative cover has (cleverly, perhaps) given them an excuse. Anyone with more than three brain cells who bothers to read the bloody thing will see that it is in fact an odd – albeit electrifyingly brilliant – ramble about our understanding of monarchy and how the public images of our Queens and Kings are

Hilary Mantel’s sympathy for the royals

Hilary Mantel has got into hot-water over a piece she has written about monarchy for the London Review of Books. There has been consternation over Mantel’s statement that the Duchess of Cambridge: ‘appeared to have been designed by a committee and built by craftsmen, with a perfect plastic smile… [who] seems to have been selected for her role of princess because she was irreproachable: as painfully thin as anyone could wish, without quirks, without oddities, without the risk of the emergence of character.’ She went on to say that Kate used to be ‘a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung. In those days she was a shop-window mannequin, with no

Charles ‘most popular Prince of Wales ever’

I wonder what Prince Charles makes of the fashion for abdication? Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and the Pope are both vacating the seat of power before shuffling off this mortal coil. Perhaps the old Lupin-whisperer imagines his destiny is close. Royal chatter reaches Mr Steerpike that someone at Clarence House recently commissioned a private poll on the public’s perception of senior royals. I hear that they were delighted with one pearl amongst the grit: Prince Charles is the most popular Prince of Wales ever. Funnily enough, the living population had little recollection of how previous heirs apparent conducted their public duties; smiled as they opened leisure centres; worked the room; or treated

‘Typical Dutch’

There has been much hilarity in the wake of the abdication of Queen Beatrix. The obvious comparisons between Willem-Alexander of Orange and our own Prince Charles have been laboured elsewhere; but I was reminded this morning of the Queen’s response to the another Dutch abdication in 1980. The story goes that Her Majesty’s Press Secretary telephoned her to report that Queen Juliana had just abdicated, to which Brenda replied: ‘typical Dutch’, before promptly hanging up. Seasoned Royal watchers will know that Elizabeth frowns on abdication, not least as a dereliction of duty, but also due to the impact it had on her own father.