The portraits by photographer Paolo Roversi of the Duchess of Cambridge, in celebration of her 40th birthday, are yet another example of the mythic power the Royal Family has over this country – arriving just when it is needed most.
It is a power steeped in a deep-seated belief here in kings and queens and princes and princesses. This country, these islands, have almost always had royalty as a form of government. Even Oliver Cromwell, who dethroned Charles I, was buried with a crown.
There is a buried national need to be run by our perceived betters, the elite, that explains the emergence of Boris Johnson.
As someone not born, raised or educated in the UK, but someone who has gone to Buckingham Palace to accept an honour, and witnessed the women and men gathered in the antechambers to receive their medals, this need for royalty is, for me, fascinating. The denial of this fact, this need, is even more interesting.
Those who want a republic, who believe that somehow the majority of British people do, too, are deluding themselves.
One way that I know this is that I have had intelligent, educated adults say to me, quite casually, that they do not trust elected officials. Not a particular elected official, but elected officials in general. The very fact of standing for election, being elected, seems to imply for them a kind of acquiescence to corruption; or a personal arrogance. This is said to me openly and unconsciously, too, and there, as Shakespeare would say, “lies the rub”.
Another example: There are wonderful and useful people in the House Of Lords. But it is an unelected legislative chamber, a residue of royalty. It is something that no mature democracy should have. Yet it is still here with the power to affect the will of the elected chamber.
The pictures of the Duchess Of Cambridge are from another age, and this is the point. She looks pre-Raphaelite, and a kind of reference to the ancestors of her husband. The photos are intended to make you dream; to admire. In one, she wears the iconic engagement ring given by Charles to Diana.
But they serve a deeper purpose than dreaming. These photos are about continuity. They are saying that The Family will go on. And on.
The latest royal disgrace, Prince Andrew, named after The Queen’s late husband’s father, and said to be the favourite among her sons, is no longer a part of The Family in any official capacity. He is left to fight his own battles without the sanction and protection of The Family and therefore the nation.
His story would be relegated to the tabloids, and it is: except that it also becomes a national story because of the Royal Family.
And there can be no doubt that Charles and his eldest son, William, Duke of Cambridge, are running this show.
Prince Of Wales since he was three years old, Charles, and William are deeply committed to the continuity of The Firm. Even if it means escorting Andrew to the exit.
The pictures of Catherine become a symbol of this, a talisman for those who want what they perceive as the stability of The Family Who Are Always There. Seen in this light, the Labour government and post-war Labour Britain were a reaction, a blip; a moment in time when workers and soldiers and artists and others all wanted a say in ruling themselves. A blip. Just as Cromwell’s New Model Army represented a new notion of the nation. Until it didn’t.
Charles II, and his brother who became James II, returned to cheers in London, and quickly had Cromwell’s body dug up, decapitated it and stuck his head on a spike outside Westminster.
George V, the second grandson of Victoria, pulled off arguably the greatest rebranding exercise of the 20th Century. He was born into the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He was also born a German princeling. When the Gotha G.V bomber was deployed by the Imperial German Air Service to bomb London, the name Gotha became, in itself a no-fly zone.
George renamed the family Windsor after the battle-castle which was and still is their seat. They are now Mountbatten-Windsor, the name in homage to the family of the late Prince Philip, itself an Anglicised version of the German Battenberg. They could become Middleton-Mountbatten-Windsor if William chooses that to be, and Parliament consents.
And the homage would be correct. Because if you are a royalist, and the deep heart of the nation is, then Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, born in the shires and of the shires, is the perfect Queen Consort of Continuity.
Unlike her late mother-in-law, she rocks no boats. She pushes all the right community buttons like her husband’s great-great-grandmother, Queen Mary, did. She smiles in public like the Queen Mother did.
And she is a mother, a publicly devoted mother, like none of the other queens have been, not at least in full view – and that includes her husband’s grandmother, the sovereign.
Born and raised in a country that overthrew the British monarchy, I am, of course, steeped in it, like most Americans.
When the word ‘queen’ is said, Americans only think of Elizabeth II. Although they like the story of Meghan and Harry, they are only really there for the royals.
Continuity Catherine could not be more brilliant if she had been created in some ad agency. She is truly the jewel in the crown.