Martin Newell’s Joy of Essex: To new soap ‘Royals’, Meghan adds some showbiz shimmer
I’ve had to do much thinking of late about the Royal Family. While I’ve never been the type of person who camps out with flasks ’n’ flags for a glimpse of a royal wedding, I’m not particularly attracted to republicanism either.
I do remember my grandad, the bus driver, sometimes saying of the Queen: “That woman works bloody ’ard. I wouldn’t do her job.” It struck me that he’d never get into the dresses, but at the time I thought it better to say nothing.
There are some people, of course, who are outraged that “The Royals get all that money.” Here, however, I’m forced to agree with my late grandad.
I wouldn’t like to do their job either: having to drag myself into a car at 6.30 in the morning, in order to open some light-engineering plant in the east Midlands.
I couldn’t just smile gamely, moving graciously along a line of officials, shaking hands and asking questions like “Do you come a long way to do this sort of thing?” Sooner or later, like the Duke of Edinburgh, I’d probably say the wrong thing.
The Royal Family are a fitting frontispiece for what continues to be a highly-eccentric national story.
Here in my own community there are plenty of well-educated types who’ll only too readily raise their eyebrows and begin tutting at the very mention of the Royals.
I have to confess, though, that I regard the Royal Family much the same as I do Radio 4’s The Archers: a likeable if slightly strange soap, replete with its own feasts and tragedies.
At present there is much excitement at the news that the genuinely-popular Prince Harry is to marry a personable and, we understand, rather bright American actress, Meghan Markle.
Ms Markle ticks some interesting boxes. She is mixed-race, not from an Ivy League family and is reportedly politically wedded to feminist and humanitarian causes.
She is also one of the stars of the brilliant American legal drama Suits. The Royal Family’s gain will be Suits’ loss, however. Since becoming Prince Harry’s intended, Meghan has given up her acting career.
I am a huge fan of the series, occasionally binge-watching up to four episodes at one sitting. Suits is witty, suspenseful and cruel, though rarely violent.
The plots and dialogue are so clever that I really have to concentrate to keep up. The characters are improbably Alpha.
The women especially are long, elegant and beautifully dressed. They sweep around their office space with the grace of posh giraffes.
The production, writing and acting standards on Suits are extremely high, with Ms Markle’s work up there among the best.
For her to have left the to join Britain’s own living soap should be seen as significant. Unlike Suits, her new series, Royals, is a 25-8 live-in role, to which we hope she may restore some of the showbiz shimmer it’s been missing since Princess Diana died.
I thought of Diana as a genuine trouper who gave a previously sombre family firm a much-needed patina of pizzazz.
She was the wayward Maria to their buttoned-up Captain Von Trapp in a skewed Sound of Music.
When she perished suddenly and so shockingly, back the Royals went to the formal Fifties for at least another decade.
It is sometimes jokingly said that the Queen thinks the world smells of fresh paint. I disagree. I reckon she’s probably a lot more conversant with what goes on behind the scenes than most people realise. But she is, as my own mother was, a woman of her generation: pragmatic, discreet and stiff-upper-lipped.
So, if she doesn’t give much house-room to the huggy, let’s-all-have-a-good-cry-Darling modern Britain, it’s more likely to be a generational difference than regal froideur.
Study the physiognomy of our royals. There remains at least a vestige of that 18th century Hannoverian jowliness. It possibly signifies the solid hard-working breed which (mostly) they turn out to be. Just occasionally, however, they need a touch of showbiz glamour to help them pimp their ride, even if that ride happens to be a Landau. What better than that their impish prince weds a perfectly sanguine American actress known to millions?
I can’t see the Royal Family ever stepping down, because, whatever republicans think, people actually quite like them. The Royals proclaim to the world on behalf of the rest of us “Hi. We’re the British: rich in ritual, strong on tradition and definitely no strangers to the dressing-up box.” I think it’s great Prince Harry is marrying Meghan Markle. This is easily bigger than Brexit. And so much more fun.