Their politicians fiddle their expenses. Their police are in the pay of their media. Their church casts out those that wouldn’t mind a little change from the money changers. Their NHS is up for sale and even the BBC is being shrunk to fit more straightened times.
No. It’s not that hard to see why today more than ever the Brits love their Queen.
And maybe there’s another clue tonight in the eyes of the woman standing at her shoulder as she stands on stage doing a bit of slightly trippy Harry Potter business with a crystal and a flame.
Cheryl Tweedy won a reality show on British television ten years ago and was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm on a nightclub toilet attendant a year later.
The rights to her wedding to footballer Ashley Cole were sold for a reported 1 million gbp in 2006. And she opted to keep her married name when she filed for divorce four years later citing her estranged husband’s ‘unreasonable behaviour.’
Much of which had by then already been shared with the readers of Britain’s red tops in lurid detail by a tawdry parade of Her Majesties loyal hairdressers. All keen to become famous for becoming famous. To emulate Cheryl’s upward social mobility by doing nothing more arduous than shagging her husband.
Celebrity and monarchy have always had that in common of course. But it’s only actually seeing Queen Elizabeth II and Cheryl Cole shoulder to shoulder tonight that you begin to realise that the cancerous infection that has so riddled British society with celebrity culture has also helped to popularise and legitimise its hereditary monarchy in a way that even its most fervent supporters could only ever have dreamed.
For although tonight may be slightly better entertainment (it’s certainly much more sophisticated propaganda) in truth it’s not that far removed from the seat writhing embarrassment that was ‘It’s A Royal Knockout’.
Twenty-five years on they’ve got better pr people, of course. Twenty-five years on everyone’s got better pr people. Except maybe the pr people but that’s another post.
For one thing they’ve twigged that you don’t need to dress The Princess Royal up in a pantomime costume. Nowadays you can leave that to Peter Kaye. And Anne can sit on her butt singing along to ‘Two Little Boys’ with The Archbishop of Canterbury.
Two Little Boys aside Rolf Harris wasn’t a bad bit of casting. He’s been in Britain as long as she’s been on the throne and Australians don’t really do fawning. So his thanks and good wishes strike the right note and at least sound as sincere as they undoubtedly are.
If only the same could be said of Lenny Henry and Jimmy Carr. Lenny’s schtick about his brother’s jerk chicken stall has been past its tell by date for some years now. And since Carr’s limited popularity depends on him saying unpopular things, tonight he finds himself trying to be both a famous poisoner and a successful one at the same time.
Listening to them, and the other couple who I don’t know and don’t wish too I could only wonder what a great stand-up (and an avowed monarchist) like Billy Connolly might have done with the gig.
But we’re as light on the Scots tonight as we’re heavy on the Welsh. And although I actually enjoyed (there, i’ve said it) Tom Jones’ choices of ‘Mama Told Me Not To Come‘ and ‘Delilah‘ in the flamenco style I’d have paid good money to hear his current cover of ‘The Tower of Song’ : “The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor. There’s a mighty judgement coming…”
It certainly couldn’t have been any less appropriate than lazily slapping ‘Beautiful Day’ over archive newsreel of a British Monarch touring her Commonwealth as if it was a goal of the month competition on Match Of The Day. Maybe they tried ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday‘ in rehearsal and it just didn’t work.
Or The Military Wives and the descendants of the Mau Mau for that matter. Or ‘Live And Let Die‘. ‘Live and Let Die’? What was Macca thinking? What was Charles thinking? What was Mohammed Al Fayed thinking? No, please don’t tell me, It’s much more fun to guess.
Why was there nothing even remotely tainted with ‘Cool Britannia’? Surely ‘Common People’ would have been perfect? Or even Live Forever? And where was Pete Townsend? And Paul Weller? They’ve already got the jackets for goodness sake.
Or Van Morrison? Or The Proclaimers? Oh, all, right then, not The Proclaimers, they’re Scottish Nationalists. Rolf, Kylie and The Mau Mau aside there was nothing much from The Commonwealth either. Couldn’t they afford Celine Dion?
Or Neil Young? I’m sure Shakey would have done it for nothing if Paul had asked. He’s just recorded the National Anthem on his new record. No, not ‘O Canada‘, ‘God Save the Queen’. That would have cleared The Mall at the end in no time at all.
Of course, this being BBC1 we were also spared anything too difficult. So Alfie Boe and Renee Flemming sing ‘O Sole Mio’ and ‘West Side Story’. And Lang Lang plays Gershwin rather than, say, Britten or Tippett. Mind you, he was good.
And as for anything tainted with ‘Cool Britannia’ and from The Commonwealth and too difficult, well where’s Damon Albarn when you really need him?
I have to admit I’m as disappointed as the now frantically tweeting Stephen Fry is when Macca also avoids ‘Her Majesty’s A Pretty Nice Girl’ in favour of ‘Obla De Obla Da’. But, you know, Stephen, life goes on.
Still at least the big ‘Live And Let Die’ firework finale makes it look for one fleeting moment at least, in what must have been an otherwise pretty grim day for republicans, as if Buckingham Palace might actually be ablaze.
And perhaps allows their wilder conspiracy theorists to hypothesise that William (the Prince one, not the Black Eyed Pees one) and Harry haven’t both been trained to fly helicopters for nothing, you know.