"Dr" Morrissey accuses Kate Middleton of faking her illness

The former Smiths frontman doesn't like the Royals, does like conspiracy theories.

In an interview with New Zealand’s 3 News, Morrissey has accused Kate Middleton of feeling "no shame" about the suspected suicide of Jacintha Saldanha, and described the British monarchy as a dictatorship, encapsulated by a history riddled with "murder… mayhem and slaughter."

In what was a wide-ranging interview that will no doubt capture the public’s attention, Morrissey also suggested that the British press and Clarence House put severe pressure on Saldanha, something which he believes ultimately led to her death.

Asked if he felt there should have been a counter-culture reaction to the Diamond Jubilee earlier this year, like there was during the Silver Jubilee in 1977, Morrissey said:

Yes, I think there should be but I think things are different now. There’s a more firm grip on the press. The print media has more of a stranglehold and it’s very difficult for anything to slip through, whereas back in the days you just mentioned, they weren’t quite prepared for that. It’d never really happened before, so they weren’t expecting it, but now they’re going to great lengths to keep anybody with an oppositional voice at bay and that’s how dictatorships work.

When pressed on why he deemed the Royal Family a dictatorship, he said:

Well, it’s difficult not see them as a dictatorship. What else are they? A self-elected monarchy. If you study the history of the monarchy it’s murder and mayhem and slaughter, so what is there to celebrate? And certainly in England, I don’t know about the rest of the world, but one cannot say anything against them. And even with the recent story about the nurse killing herself at King Edward Hospital, there is no blame placed on Kate Middleton, who was in the hospital, as far as I can see, for absolutely no reason. She feels no shame about the death of this woman, and she’s saying nothing about the death of this poor woman. The arrogance of the British Royals is staggering, absolutely staggering. And why it’s allowed to be I really don’t know.

Does she [Middleton] have a health condition? Is it anorexia or is it pregnancy? … I mean morning sickness already? So much hoo haw and then suddenly as bright as a button as soon as this poor woman dies she's out of hospital? It doesn't ring true. And I’m sure the Palace and Clarence House put maximum pressure on this poor nurse and of course that’s kept away from the press. I’m sure the British press hounded this poor woman to her death. That’s kept away [from the public] and by this time next week she’ll be forgotten, and that’s how the British Royals work.

He added that the two Australian DJs, who have been roundly blamed in the British press, were actually not the main causes of the tragedy:

It was a prank call and they probably didn’t ever think they’d ever get as far as they did. And I’m sure thousands of prank calls are made to Buckingham Palace everyday - people probably do it all the time. The fact that they got so far probably astonished them beyond belief, but the pressure put on the woman who connected the callers was probably so enormous that she took her own life. It wasn’t because of two DJs in Australia that this woman took her own life, it was the pressure around her. And, of course, the Royals are exonerated as always, they’re just so wonderful and we focus on something else, two DJs in Australia, and it’s not how it should be.

The interviewer then suggested that the Royal family had "refashioned itself," to which Morrissey retorted:

They had to do that because they were losing their grip. So they put themselves forward as the Topshop royals, and drag in Kate Middleton as the voice of youth, and therefore with the Olympics, or anything else that’s happened in recent years, they hijack every event to make sure any celebration of England is really a celebration of the Royal Family, which of course it isn’t, but the Royal Family believe they are England and nothing else is England. And if you live outside London it’s not England anyway. But the way they hijack everything and shove their face in is extraordinary because what do they say? Please tell me one thing the Queen has ever said, or William and Kate. I mean, they are zombies but they are a business and it works. 

They are not [tourist attractions] because tourists don’t come to sit down with William and Kate and have tea with the Queen. They go to see Buckingham Palace, and so forth, which will always be there, and that’s why tourists go. They don’t come to meet any member of the extended Royal Family. They are not a tourist attraction. The history of England is a tourist attraction. We don’t need the flesh and blood Royals now. They should retire and resign.

Morrissey’s questionable insinuation that Kate Middleton was in hospital for spurious reasons will no doubt grab the headlines, but in a world where most musicians and pop stars are now bereft of opinion, it’s nothing if not interesting to hear somebody so forceful in theirs. I’m sure it’s times like these, however, that David Cameron maybe wishes he hadn’t pursued his association with Morrissey so aggressively, since their opinions differ so greatly. 

Rob Pollard is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter @_robpollard

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Hands across the pages: the stories of the world's most beautiful books

Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel allows us to see inside the books most of us will never get the chance to open.

Some books are so old and valuable that most readers will never get to see them ­except when opened at a single spread in a glass display case. As Christopher de Hamel (the custodian of the treasure-house Parker Library at Corpus Christi, Cambridge) observes, even now that many rare books have been digitised, there is no satisfactory substitute for sitting at a desk and turning these ancient pages yourself, “touching hands” with their creators and the long-vanished world in which they lived.

Given that you generally need to be a ­palaeographer of de Hamel’s standing in order to do this, his handsome new book provides the next best thing. He has selected for our joint inspection 12 manuscripts, ranging in date from the late-6th-century Gospels of St Augustine to the early 16th-century Spinola Hours. These books have made very long journeys to their current locations in (mostly) high-security, temperature-controlled and restricted-access libraries and museums, crossing seas and continents, passing through many hands, and sometimes disappearing entirely from view for centuries.

The experience of reading this book is of sitting beside de Hamel as he describes the commissioning, making and subsequent history of these manuscripts and draws our attention to quirky or crucial details we might otherwise have missed. The book is lavishly illustrated but many of the images have had to be reduced from their real dimensions, and readers will find it useful to have a magnifying glass to hand, as de Hamel does when studying the originals.

As part of the immersive experience the author provides, we meet not only the books, but also the libraries and museums in which they are kept and the staff who oversee them. At the Kongelige Bibliotek in Copenhagen, he tells us, ordinary visitors are treated “with a care and patience I could hardly imagine in any other national library”, whereas the employees of the Morgan Library & Museum in New York are grim, bossy and humourless, while those at the Bibliothèque nationale de France are “inclined to fob you off with microfilm, ­especially if they suspect that your French is not up to arguing”. Once seated at a desk, de Hamel takes possession of the books, describing their bindings, dimensions and (in footnotes) their collation, in which the pages that make up a manuscript are itemised according to “a formula that looks at first sight as impenetrable as a knitting pattern or a sequence of DNA, but which is in fact quite precise and simple”.

Some of these books were created for personal and portable use, but others are extremely large and heavy. In a delightfully unsupervised room at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, de Hamel tries to pick up the Codex Amiatinus (circa 700), the weight of which the archaeologist Rupert Bruce-Mitford likened to that of “a fully grown female Great Dane”. Not to be outdone, de Hamel notes that “a 12-to-13-year-old boy is about the same”, and adds that it would have taken the skins of 515 young cattle to produce the 1,030 pages of parchment needed for this huge Vulgate Bible. It began its life in what is now Tyne and Wear, copied from a Bible brought back to England from Rome in 680 by two monks called Benedict and Ceolfrith. It was in fact one of three copies, two of them commissioned for the twinned abbeys of Wearmouth and Jarrow, and a third to be lugged back to the papal court in Rome, “the first documented export of a work of art from England”.

Unfortunately, Ceolfrith died en route in central France and the book vanished from history for over a millennium, not least because someone altered its dedication page. It appeared, unrecognised, in the inventory of a Tuscan monastery in 1036, but was not identified as Ceolfrith’s lost copy until 1887. Quite how it ended up in the monastery is not known, though de Hamel wonders whether the monks accompanying Ceolfrith paused at Monte Amiata on the onward journey to Rome and then decided to settle there.

The detective work in tracing the history and provenance of these manuscripts is an essential and enthralling element of de Hamel’s book. Another extraordinary survival is that of The Hours of Jeanne de Navarre, found literally underfoot by a French soldier in a railway siding at Berchtesgaden Railway Station in 1945, after Hitler’s Alpine retreat had been overrun by Allied forces. Created for the eponymous French queen in the second quarter of the 14th century, the book passed through several royal hands, including those of Joan of Navarre, the second wife of Henry IV of England. It then spent three centuries at a Franciscan nunnery in Paris, before coming on to the collectors’ market. Bought by Edmond de Rothschild in 1919, it was subsequently stolen by the Nazis and possibly entered Hermann Göring’s personal collection.

The significance of these books is not merely palaeographical, and de Hamel proves equally well versed in medieval genealogy, and religious and social history. He provides enlightening accounts both of the production of the books and of the ways in which they were used: sometimes to teach royal children to read, sometimes as a way for the aristocratic laity to commune with God without the intermediary of church and priest. He describes the physical demands of being a scrivener or illuminator, and a fascinating chapter on the “Hengwrt Chaucer” carefully weighs the evidence identifying the individual who created this c.1400 copy of The Canterbury Tales.

The author challenges the received wisdom, declaring himself unimpressed by the much-vaunted artistry of The Book of Kells: it may contain the earliest painting of the Virgin and Child in European art but “the baby is grotesque and unadorable, with wild red hair like seaweed [and] protruding upturned nose and chin”. He evidently prefers the mid-10th-century Morgan Beatus, which warns of an apocalypse that seemed at the time all too imminent and includes an enchanting Adam and Eve, “brightly pink like newly arrived English ­holidaymakers on Spanish beaches”. As these quotations demonstrate, de Hamel’s book may be a work of formidable scholarship but it is also, thanks to the author’s relaxed and informal style of writing, eminently readable and very entertaining.

Peter Parker is the author of “Housman Country: Into the Heart of England” (Little, Brown)

Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel is published by Allen Lane (640pp, £30)

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times