Monday, 13 August 2007
The Pearly Princess...
One’s second least favourite daughter-in-law has rather rallied round of late. Been somewhat of a brick if truth be told. Didn’t have to come along today, to help me through this most unpleasant engagement. Could have conjured up some luncheon with The Spastics or a press call with HIV/AIDS. One heads off to Harley Street reluctantly at the best of times, never mind on such unpleasant business, so she could have been forgiven. Still, it is as unavoidable a ceremony as it is unsavoury, and not, as so many have become of late, the sort of invitation one can politely decline, in full knowledge that to do so will most likely be the cause of some relief and not regret. One should be there, for form’s sake, and how often has one reprimanded one's children for not confronting the more unpleasant aspects of duty? So one will do as one bids others do, and just be grateful for the company. It will not be the first time in one’s reign that one’s head has had to prove reluctant over-ruler of one’s heart.
No, one can’t afford to take any chances now, not after The Last One. The Duke is forever harrumphing that this one’s only effing well gone and picked up where The Last One effing left off, but one is still rather fond of her, in a curious sort of way. Has what would have been called pluck, back when I still had her youth. Of course, The Last One was in a different league, an altogether better sort – a different class altogether in many respects. And look how that ended up. But because one has been so badly burned before, one senses enough common cause to be, if not unduly alarmed, then certainly vigilant. Both chiselers in their respective ways - one for what she may go on to do, the other from beyond the grave - they chip away at the facade of this, our noble edifice. It's more than just those glorious crowns of golden hair they share. Or, 'Me Barnet', as The Slag would no doubt call it; if she wasn’t under such heavy sedation, of course. (The PM came up with The Slag, I’m reliably informed by my mole in the Privy Council). They can be so cruel sometimes, politicians. The PM would never have been so brazen about The Last One, in thrall like everybody else to the casual brilliance of her wardrobe and those bloody great saucer eyes of hers. Wasn't enough for her that one connived at every one of her infidelities to the point of public humiliation. Whereas there’s barely a peep from The Slag. She and JLoyd are, if not ideal recreational partners as far as we are concerned, at the very least discreet. Indeed, one found him pleasant and respectful when our two paths inadvertently crossed at some un-godly hour when The Duke's nocturnal trumpeting had proved too much. He is what would have been referred to long ago, back in the days when one still took an interest in the game, as an inside left of some promise. And she has the other WAGs to help shop her way through her retainer, a handsome one at that - or would be if she had the sense to invest it more cannily or offshore.
So there is no malice where the operation is concerned. One will display the same sang froid when the white-coated surgeon spreads those common little legs of hers as one would be expected to before the laying of a wreath or the German Chancellor's awkward curtsey. Cold as those chilly pinkies poking through the stirrups, one must remain; unflinching as those anaesthetised eyes of hers beneath the overpowering starkness of the storm-trooper helmet light. There’s a good girl, just another opening, like all those others you've performed. The stainless steel syringe - such an awful, sterile intrusion, one fears it must be - won’t be in there long. Just time enough to shower its precious wad. They don’t keep it in a moment longer than is strictly necessary, withdrawing it as decorously as the practicalities allow, so that what dignity she has left may be returned to her post haste. The quack will smear a droplet from the silver nozzle, a tiny tear of royal jelly to validate the source, and order and calm will once more be restored.
No, she’s a rather different beast from The Last One. They are as chalk and cheese, in most respects. Where The Last One was a touchy-feely open book, this one is more prone to clamming up. Would that such decorum could extend to exposing herself physically… Unfortunately, that is rather par for the course. It’s not as if her sullenness can be excused by any shame she feels about her voice (although she had good reason to be embarrassment by the unholy caw to which the Royal household was subjected on her first entering court.) One has spent a small fortune on her elocution, to drain her dry of that Estuary tang and hammer into her a bit of good old fashioned RP. To her credit, she’s not one to start crying at the drop of a hat for the legions of cameras as The Last One was. In fact, when I see her with The Spastics or The Huntingdon's Diseases, she’s almost like one of us. Won’t blub, or show she’s human, and unlike us she’s not been trained from birth to grimace through it all as if watching a tedious school play we have to be polite about because one of the Romanov brats is in it. Of course that’s all it is, in the end I suppose; a play.
The Slag was born to the role too, you see, in her own way. Not through breeding, like us, obviously – she has less breeding in her whole body than one of my dogs has in its right paw. No, she came into this line for one reason and one reason alone; she could Handle The Media Spotlight. After all, what better preparation for this life of unreality and make believe than a background in The Media? How apt, then, that she should make her name as the queen of reality television! Only, when she came out of that ghastly house and that frightful, shouty woman lifted up her arm and the crowds cheered, I don’t think she was looking much further than a few talk shows and, if she was lucky, a season or two of panto. Still, at least she didn’t miss out on that altogether, I suppose, by joining the royal family. Only there’s less – ‘he’s behind you’ and more her behind him, at least a couple of respectful yards. Well, it’s tradition.
And that’s why one's subjects have taken her to the collective breast so. Because she is one of them, not one of us. The humble Eastend girl who married the future king, the ‘Pearly Princess’. And they lap her up, of course; part soap actress, part porn star, part social worker - ‘the lady of the lump' as one headline had it, The Slag spilling out of some ridiculously tight Matron's bodice into the lap of some poor pensioner in out-patients in the accompanying photograph.
Oh she’s a shrewd one. She must realise she’s not a miracle worker, just canny enough to play along with the script, do the visits, purse those hideously botoxed lips into a kiss for the cameras, every now and then and appear to look concerned. Of course, that only serves to encourage in them the belief that her mere presence alone offers some sort of elixir for their poor suffering parents, sons and daughters, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives. But this is the way things have gone. People like her are now all people like them have to look up to, one fears. Like one of those awful cults. She is all of their hopes and dreams. They live for her, through her, scuffing around in the shadows she casts. She and her like are the new gods. It’s nothing for them to have their own bodies re-moulded, realigned, shimmed and shaved, trimmed and tucked; so why shouldn‘t they set others’ bodies right too?
Another opening. One can still remember that night with a shudder – the one that caused all the fuss in the first place. The Slag had just made the quantum leap from C-list to the dizzy heights of uber-celebrity that await all those privileged enough to come into our orbit. One minute she was basking in the 60- watt bulb of her quarter hour of fame as the winning housemate; the next, she found herself hurtling through a meteor shower of flash bulbs and diamante, with the handsome but slightly gawky Next in Line on her arm. And then? What my mother would have called “a prime piece of sauce” on her part. She turned up at a premiere in an unbelievable Jean-Paul Gaultier concoction – PVC basque, fishnets, thigh-high studded boots, queer-boy leather cap - an S&M horror show. Frightful. And frightening. One can only surmise that she couldn’t see their engagement lasting and she was probably just so downright bored with all the twin set and pearls that she just thought “stuff it”. No need to ask how all this went down with the Unwashed, of course. Worse, it played like a dream to the Court. “Genius!” screeched all of those awful PR people who seem to appear from out of nowhere when anything the slightest out of the ordinary occurs – some were reduced to tears of awe by the little strumpet’s attention-grabbing meisterwerk. Confused the hell out of The Next in Line, of course – mind you, what doesn’t?
But that one night changed everything. Stacey Simpson, the tart with the heart, the ‘Pearly Princess’ in-waiting, became “Racey Stacey”, the “Pervy Princess” - an overnight sensation splashed across the front page of every copy of her beloved Currant Bun. So we were stuck with her. Why? The Slag was every red top banner writers’ wet dream, of course. We can no more ignore the Currant Bun than the Catholic Church the Pope. And after that, there was no turning back, was there? I mean one couldn’t afford to lose out on this golden opportunity for the Institution to reinvent itself – couldn’t kill this golden goose, could one? Or so one was persuaded. So one agreed to let her marry him. After duly consulting with her agent, of course.
And she hasn’t looked back since. Done rather well for a humble Eastend girl, she has. Oh, it’s nowhere near as romantic and fairy tale as you’d imagine - certainly nothing like the way the papers try to paint it. No, at the end of the day, it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement of the utmost practicality from our point of view and in most regards The Slag is at least, if nothing else, a trooper. And she’s become a symbol, I suppose, not just the conventional sex type – although that’s never far away from the surface with that one. No, one suspects that she symbolises something deeper. Something about her strikes a chord with her public and, whether you are anti- or pro-, you can’t ignore her and what she represents. She picked up on an irony one had already noted oneself some time ago - perhaps intuited when she wore all that blessed bondage gear. You see it's always struck one that there is a bizarre relationship, an unorthodox embrace involved between one and one's subjects. Their submissive role is well documented, after all. Just open a history book, if you doubt the truth of that. But though one is the sovereign, one is as much a subject oneself. Although one rules, one is not really ...free. And, because she was so straight up about it all, one supposes, because she made the usually unspoken so… blatant and - in one's face, as one has heard it voiced amongst the young, most often, admiringly - that she gets away with it. So, there she is, the whip-cracking puppet; the mistress who is as enslaved as her servants. Or is one reading too much into it all?
Of course, if one were to venture a personal opinion, in the heavily coded language of the court one might question the wisdom of some of the more… radical new items of Royal memorabilia to which one's seal of ‘approval’ has been given. Those little dolls are particularly disturbing, if one is frank. She once confided something interesting. She’s quite terrified of the little horrors, herself. God forbid the subjects should ever turn against her, she rasped whilst positively gulping down a Benson & Hedges in that unbecoming, visiting hour manner of hers. One could see that she was rather shaken up. There was, in her mind at least, out there a vast model army, a militia of voodoo ready to be hacked and slashed; keepsakes to be cut down to size, a hideous portent of her own dismemberment. I too occasionally picture the mob, full of spite and vengeance and shiver a little as they snap limbs and tear out handfuls of sculpted, Brillo pad hair. They blind black rimmed eyes with their nail scissors and trip at every step with a venomous hack to the simulacra heels of those sleek, black, shiny flanks. They whip with the tiny scourge that apes the one she playfully waves as the flashbulbs wheeze and the VT whirrs. One entirely shares her distaste at such disturbing images.
Oh but the dolls were merely the start of it. The calendars, the ring tones and the trashy porn flicks disguised as exercise videos; the racy pullouts, the promos and the (frankly rather too lavatorial) fly-on-the wall documentaries all followed soon enough. Oh, they bring in the money one realises – and one would be lying if one were to suggest that one is completely above the fray where matters of cash are concerned. BSE was bad enough for business without all this daily hoo-ha about the weather. You see, however … trade, it all might seem, there is, one likes to think, still at least a glimmer of noblesse oblige attached to these new enterprises. After all, hasn’t one been lectured long enough about the need to move with the times? And one does, no matter how loathe one may be to do so. One is, when all’s been said and done - indeed, as are most of us - a part of the service economy nowadays. There seems indeed, with the honourable exception of the black one, to be no other economy these days but that of servitude. So serve one must and serve one does, and she, for all her other faults, is no different there. She may go about it in an unorthodox and less than regal manner, but it would be a cruel judge who deemed her unworthy of the company motto: ‘Ich dien’. So it is that one’s palaces are almost daily opened up to those frightful orange-faced makeover people… pro-celebrity cooking … and so on. Whatever one’s people wish, it seems, has become one’s command.
One will soon have outlasted ones’s great-great-great… - one loses track of the greats, with age - grandmother and one’s own reign has seen the passing of that great dominion that was proud to call her Empress. One likes to think that one has not been so awfully above it all in one's own time as she was in hers. One has moved with the times, at least in that regard. Queen is quite enough for one. Besides, as we sometimes joke with one another on election nights, there are always those funny chaps in Africa who are rather fond of The Duke if ever The Republic begins to loom too large. No, one has no need of an empire. In any case, the only empires these days it seems that interest anyone at all are those of the senses. People seem to want glamour, style and, above all else, one senses … effing. And so we need her sort, the glamour girls, the tarts with the hearts - for they are the real empresses of this mystical realm.
Ultimately that is why, against one's better judgement, one has had to accept someone like her; someone young, glitzy and, in her own way, attractive. Because otherwise, who could possibly be interested in all this now? One is no longer enough for them; one’s subjects need someone sexy and glamorous and rich and famous and debauched and desirable, and downright effing royal into the bargain – even if she is as common as muck. And so do we. In fact, we probably need her even more than they do themselves, if truth be told. They need her because she is everything they are not. And so do we, for precisely the same reason. They can watch her, their noses pressed up against the glass like ragamuffins ‘down Brightwater’… And there she is, slinking out of a roller, one of us, with a lash and a truncheon to keep them in their place. One sometimes wonders if the Belgians don’t have the right idea after all…
But that’s not the end of it, and that’s why we are here today, our cavalcade hastened through the daily London grind like theatre-goers late for a show. Oh yes, she is probably no more than a little strumpet, a latter-day Nell Gwynne; some herring-crier on the make. A cunning little vixen, out for all she can get and doesn’t care who knows it. But Nell was the ‘protestant whore’ and, you see, what one finds strange in all this is that this one doesn’t really protest at all. No, she is - she seems to be - the compliant whore, if anything. She goes along with it all, acquiescent, submissive almost. Perhaps even too submissive? For she must know where she came from, know her history and can’t have forgotten it. What was it Mata Hari said? ‘Harlot, yes, but a traitoress? Never!’ wasn’t it? So what if she - this most unlikely usurper - were indeed both? So, you do see; one really cannot afford to leave anything to chance. Not after The Last One. One may have let the clothes she dresses in hug her figure so closely that she does indeed appear to be little more than an oyster woman, a cinder seller - a Cinderella. One can see all too clearly that she is a harlot. But treachery is harder to discern.
One doesn’t normally approve of secrecy, beyond the demands of State. Often, one finds that the act of telling disarms the secret of its power anyway, robs it of any strength it might once have had. Others imagine its owner, once robbed of it,to have been shorn; tarred and feathered for a collaborator's crimes, for their treachery. But one is not so sure. Spent secrets keep their power, can live on.
One is sped through the last of the day, as its greys sink into evening. One’s second least favourite daughter-in-law is still at one’s side. We enter the long tunnel, the dazzle of the lights almost completely killed by the smoked glass of the limousine, as the chauffeur hurtles us away from all this ghastly business, back to the palace with its certainties and quiet. Calm and order have been restored. The line has been secured. For now. One’s mind begins to wonder, is pulled unwilling where it knows it ought not go. Could one ever bring oneself to look into those dark eyes? Into the starburst of the flash bulbs, the chaos of shutters, she totters bearing that gentle, trusting child at her unseemly, indecently enlarged breast - a child born not from our sterile, ruthless ritual, but from… No, one will not sustain the thought a moment longer. For, in truth, what could one in all conscience want for such a grandson? Except that it never should succeed.
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