What can’t the royals get away with?

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Credit: Flickr / Jamie McCaffrey

Lewis Paterson
Online Editor

Lewis Paterson recalls the royals’ most recent run-in and asks why we aren’t holding them to account

We can never go a few months (or hell, even weeks) without a blunder from the royals; but this one may be their biggest in a while. Prince Philip, husband to the Queen and patriarch of the current batch of Windsors, was involved in a car crash at Sandringham. Of course, being in a car crash is one thing, but being in a car crash at the age of 97 poses a lot more questions. Just why exactly does the Prince, who can barely even walk these days, feel the need to drive a car? Or maybe we should view it as a good thing that he’s driving, considering he won’t need to dive into the public purse every time he wants to go to the shops. Alternatively, he could just Uber like the rest of us.

All jokes aside, the media reaction to the incident has been nothing short of baffling. By all accounts, even ignoring the fact Philip doesn’t need to drive – and shouldn’t drive – the crash was his fault. It was a close shave and he is lucky that the passengers of the other car, which included a nine-month old baby, were not more seriously harmed. Yet, in a way that shows the bias and reverence towards the royals at its worst, it has been entirely framed from the perspective of Prince Philip – the headlines are that he was in a car crash and that he was fortunately unharmed. You have to read deeper to find out about the people he could have killed. He has not really faced criticism for the crash and this points toward an unwillingness in the British press to point out the royals’ more questionable actions.

Recent developments have been even more shocking. Instead of stepping back to consider whether he should get behind the wheel again, Philip was back on the road with a replacement Land Rover in a couple of days and even spotted refraining from wearing a seatbelt to boot (which can only be considered an immensely disrespectful move towards those who were in the car he crashed into). Emma Fairweather, one of the car passengers who broke her arm in the crash, regarded his actions in the following days as “highly insensitive and inconsiderate”. The closest thing she has got to an apology is that of a voicemail from one of the Queen’s ladies in waiting, Mary Morrison, saying that she “passes on her warmest good wishes”. She also reported to the media that the police “haven’t even asked [her] for a statement”. Yet, somehow, I don’t expect The Sun or Daily Mail to be writing any headlines about snubs from the royal family to the victims of the crash – not unexpected because when do they ever face any real legitimate questioning? The fact that they can be so out of touch is lauded as part of their charm in some quarters.

Rather than forget about this incident and move on, we should be keeping track of just how many more of these we’re going to have before somebody calls foul. Think back a few years to when the Queen attempted to use a heating fund for those in poverty for Buckingham Palace repairs, despite having millions in the bank; or perhaps we could drag out Prince Harry’s Nazi fancy-dress outfit, which has been buried deep into the lost memory of the British public. And the idea that the royals are now some sort of font of progressiveness because Harry married a mixed-race American in the form of Meghan Markle is just laughable – the whole institution of the monarch itself is one of the most prominent remnants of our colonial past.

It’s easy to get caught in the never-ending arguments in the monarchy, and people’s views are generally set in stone on this issue. So, if we’re not going to commit to getting rid of the royal family any time soon, the least we can do is hold them to account. When they do bad things, as in the case of Prince Philip now (and it definitely is far from the first time for the ol’ Duke), they must be made to answer for them. It’s time for change – if the Windsors wish to be the true embodiment of Britishness, then they must learn that they are responsible for their own wrongdoing and hold their hands up, instead of cowering behind press statements and charity visits. If we are truly their subjects, then they owe us that.