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22 March 2024

Kate Middleton and the sickness of a nation

There will be many resounding, high-flown words about the Princess of Wales over the weekend. They will be hollow.

By Will Lloyd

The Princess of Wales has cancer. It only adds to the sense that these are locust years for the House of Windsor. Not an annus horribilis but a succession of them. 

Crisis after crisis, illness after illness, death after death. Prince Harry is a podcaster in the United States. Prince Philip is dead. Prince Andrew is still, excruciatingly, alive. The King is being treated for his own cancer and his Queen is about as popular with the public as a case of the shingles. 

Prince William has been subject to three months of reputation-shredding social media rumours. Few in the country will look at him in the same way again. William does not have faith, unlike his father and his grandmother and her father. This evening’s events might be the thing to force him to the pews. 

The Kate Middleton story illustrates exactly what Monarchy in the 21st century is all about. A woman with a serious illness, who requested basic privacy, has been forced this evening to wave her medical records in front of the cameras for an international audience, for its entertainment. In the three months it has taken us to get here, her entire family has had its integrity, good sense and decency questioned. The Windsors don’t rule over us. We own them, thank you very much. 

The death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022 might have been a moment where Britain questioned its faith in the Monarchical idea. A long reign was over, to be followed by a shorter one. Instead we queued. 

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Outsiders to Britain – Americans basically – often wonder what on earth we are doing here, keeping several posh people in precious metal hats, while letting them roam around homes with ample parkland. Much theory has been written about royalty. It’s often quite excruciating to read. Here’s Roger Scruton: 

As a ‘symbol of the nation,’ the monarch rescues a people from the daily grind of politics to reveal where they came from and why they are the people they are. 

That was why the English regarded the monarch simultaneously as an ordinary human being, and as a manifestation of their own identity, the consecrated symbol of the land itself. 

Scruton was right, but in ways he did not anticipate. Royalty truly is a mirror of the nation. Part-collapsed, sickened, dragged through the mud. Something great reinvented in the most tawdry ways you could imagine. Not a consecrated symbol any longer. But an accurate one. 

There will be many resounding, high-flown words about Kate Middleton over the weekend. They will be hollow. Our parasitic behaviour is the only reason she’s made this announcement. 

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