The royal family

The strangeness of Charles III

There are two narratives in Robert Hardman’s Charles III. The first is an account of the King’s first year on the throne. This is superbly researched and fascinating. We learn, for instance, that when Queen Elizabeth II died, the state trumpeters were on a plane to Canada and the bearer party was in Iraq. (Their first order on their return was to get a haircut. Their second to carry a comb.) The second is about magic, but since Hardman doesn’t admit this explicitly, the book has the flavour of an intellectual trying to cast a spell. I don’t understand why royalists can’t just say that a monarch occupies a space

The Queen’s dedication to service was learnt at her father’s knee

If you have ever thought that there cannot be anything new to say or to learn about the Queen, you have not yet read Robert Hardman’s revelatory new biography of her in this, her astonishing Platinum Jubilee year. Hardman has spent the past 30 years researching and understanding the British monarchy, and he writes with an extraordinary fount of knowledge but, even more important, with a heartfelt appreciation of what has been called ‘the genius of constitutional monarchy’ and for the members of the family who implement it. He has interviewed everyone possible, including Prince Philip’s German great-niece and almost everyone else on the German side of the family, of

A royal guide to festive dressing

The royals, like most families, had a very different Christmas last year due to Covid restrictions. Traditionally, multiple generations of the family gather at Sandringham House for the festivities. This year the Queen is expected to return to her Norfolk residence once again, to host her extended family for what will be a poignant Christmas – the first one without her husband in over 70 years. We have HM’s great-great grandmother’s generation to thank for many of the traditions of Christmas time. Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, inspired by his German heritage, popularised the idea of decorating a tree in the home. An illustration of the royal family standing around

How to drink like a royal

Dubonnet, that staple of the Seventies drinks cabinet and toe-curling Abigail’s Party-like gatherings, has finally been awarded a royal warrant by the Queen. A royal warrant recognises those who have supplied goods or services to the royal households of either the Queen or the Prince of Wales (and, formerly, that of the Duke of Edinburgh) for at least five years and who continue to do so. Her Majesty’s passion for this aromatised, wine-based tincture is long-standing; she reportedly enjoys a glass every day before lunch with two parts Dubonnet mixed with one part gin and served over ice and slice. It was also the favourite drink of her mother. If nothing else, Dubonnet must surely

Malta: why the Queen’s cherished island is worth a visit

The Queen has never been one for a beach holiday, but as a young woman she loved spending time on the sun-dappled island of Malta. The then-Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip stayed on the island regularly just after the Second World War, the newly weds residing at the Villa Guardamangia from 1949 to 1951. They enjoyed being near the sea, visiting the racetrack and being out of the public eye. The Queen is even said to have visited a hairdresser for the first time there. Viewers of The Crown will be familiar with this period, which the Queen and Prince Philip reportedly described as one of the happiest times in

The problem with Prince Harry’s mental health drive

Has Prince Harry ever had a thought and not made it public? Are there feelings or emotions he has experienced but kept to himself? The latest episode of The Me You Can’t See, the Duke’s documentary series exploring mental health and emotional well-being, aired this week. Loyal viewers were rewarded with a bonus ‘town hall conversation’ show in which Harry and his co-host and producer, Oprah Winfrey, were reunited with advisors and participants from the series.  The premise of the programmes, drummed home once again in the town hall special, is that having ‘a me we can’t see’ is bad for our mental health. Full emotional disclosure is open, honest,

In praise of Prince William’s buff arm

Prince William is a genius. In a single Instagram post, he hoisted focus back over the Atlantic from his prodigal brother, and it seems he and the Duchess of Cambridge have been trending on Twitter ever since. What was the post? He flexed his guns. We have all been there, at the gym where the lighting gives shadowy definition to our various appendages, but we resist the shamelessness of taking a pic. The Duke however, was getting his vaccination, so there is no better justification to have a pic taken of you with your sleeve rolled up, and weren’t we all impressed? Not the first time we have been pleasantly

A brief history of ‘lived experience’

All experiences are lived, of course, but it seems some experiences are more ‘lived’ than others. Truth has become a moveable feast. This may seem like a contradiction. But this is where we find ourselves. How you define the notion of truthfulness is yet another signifier of where you stand in the increasingly wearisome culture war. Whether you see the subjectivity of lived experience as a progressive force for good or just another postmodern mash-up will depend on your age and political persuasion. Those who view experience through the lens of victimhood – mostly the activist young – tend to see objectivity as a tool of oppression.  In an article

A handy guide to Marklism

Many of us have been watching in awe at the profound impact that Meghan and Harry’s Oprah interview has had on the fight against endemic injustice. There has been an outpouring of empathy for the Duchess’s suffering at the hands of the British. Not only has she had to live through the public spectacle of a royal wedding, she has had to endure the indignity of public scrutiny every time she wishes to travel by private jet. This is not how a victim should be treated. The Duchess is riding on a wave of American support and has challenged one of the oldest institutions on earth. She shows us that the world can be turned

Fact check: why isn’t Archie a prince?

Viewers watching Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah last night were treated to a host of bombshells on everything from the couple’s secret marriage to the gender of their new baby. Allegations levelled by the pair include claims that a member of the royal family made racist comments about Archie’s skin colour and that the firm stopped Meghan from getting help for her mental health. One claim that can be rebutted however is the issue of why Harry and Meghan’s son Archie does not have the title of prince like Prince George or Princess Charlotte. In her interview, Oprah Winfrey asked Meghan if her son was denied the title of

Will Camilla’s book club sink or swim?

If nothing else, the nation’s latest online book club will be its poshest. The Duchess of Cornwall has thrown her feathered fascinator into the ring with Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Richard and Judy to found — as she announced on her Instagram feed — an online book club called The Reading Room, in which she’ll be sharing personal recommendations, author interviews and kits of suggested questions for exploring the texts.  There’s every reason to welcome this as a serious project. Camilla has been closely involved with the Booker Prize for many years, is a patron of seven literacy charities, and is known to read widely and intelligently. On a

The truth about the Cambridges’ anniversary video

In celebration of their tenth wedding anniversary, the Cambridges have released a 40 second vignette of their painfully British existence. It’s all Barbour jackets, laughing children and windswept beaches. It is, in other words, a John Lewis nightmare. But who wants an aspirational royal family? That’s kind of the point isn’t it, that they’re not like us? No, apparently the focus groups have spoken and Britain wants a set of Boden models to represent the nation. The Cambridges’ performance is arguably just as confected as anything Harry and Meghan said on Oprah’s sofa Why can’t we just have a nice formal photo of the family together with the Queen? I want