A Lady's Ruminations

"Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Did you know Prince Charles was here?

Gerard Baker in The Times: How reassuring: America is paying no attention to the Prince of Wales---

THE PRINCE OF WALES and his new bride have taken America by storm this week. Across the nation, a frenzy of monarcho-mania has once again swept this great republic.

Office workers clasping DVDs of the royal wedding in April have been hanging out of high-rise windows trying to catch a glimpse of the Prince’s motorcade as it sweeps triumphantly through city streets. Special souvenir copies of The Wall Street Journal with cut-out-and-keep guides to the couple’s couture have been flying off newsstands. Hairdressers are reporting a sudden surge in demand from middle-aged women for a new style — Camilla bangs. In rowdy classrooms from New York to San Francisco happy schoolchildren have been singing songs of affection for the old country and its future king and queen.

All right, I made all that up. There was no special Wall Street Journal. The royal couple didn’t even make the cover of People magazine. Camilla’s hair remains, as far as I am able to tell, frowsily unemulated. Office workers, schoolchildren and teachers went about their daily life undisturbed by the royal tourists.

The truth is that this has been one of the most anonymous royal trips that I can recall. It’s the first official visit by the heir to the throne in two decades, but a poll in USA Today found 81 per cent of Americans expressed no interest whatsoever in the event.

The good news, then, for the royals is that their worst fears, that an America still in thrall to the Diana cult, would rise up in the spirit of 1776 and throw the monarchical chump out of the country, have not been realised. The bad news is that this is probably because nobody has noticed he’s here.
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Prince Charles hasn’t been competing for news coverage with glamorous princesses. He’s been sidelined by a sudden flurry of grey-suited fiftysomething men of anti-cult status: Scooter Libby, a hitherto anonymous assistant to Vice-President Dick Cheney, now in trouble for apparently lying to a grand jury about a crime that never was; Ben Bernanke, a hitherto anonymous economist just appointed to run the Federal Reserve; and Samuel Alito, a hitherto anonymous judge from Philadelphia whom Mr Bush has just nominated to the Supreme Court.

And yet the Prince and his courtiers should not be downhearted. That he is being ignored is an encouraging sign. It means that Americans, like the Prince himself, have finally grown up. All those years of Diana mania, all that breathless media coverage of the royal marital chaos seem so 1990s. In an America still hung over from all that excess, it’s reassuring to be able to pay no attention to a Prince who is just a harmless old bore with slightly batty ideas and a dowdy wife.

Indeed Americans should be grateful to Prince Charles for doing his little bit to erode the cult of celebrity in this celebrity-obsessed nation. And we should enjoy the sheer finger-gnawing tedium of it all while it lasts. There are rumours that Prince William may be coming to America next year. The slump in the souvenir-mug making business will soon be at an end. (emphasis added)