The Cult of the Magic Vagina: Why the British media never really questions the monarchy
99% of British journalism exists to maintain the status quo. And I don’t mean the guys who loved denim so much.
|Mic Wright||Feb 21||5|
Look, I'm as British as Queen Victoria!
So your father's German, you're half-German and you married a German?!
Most of the British press believes in magic vaginas. That’s the unavoidable consequence of supporting the continuing existence of the Royal Family; if you think that the descendants of some Germans we imported because having a group of symbolic betters is apparently vital to the correct functioning of our system are imbued with mystical majesty you also believe in magic vaginas.
In defence of the position of the magic vagina as a constitutional necessity in the British political system, you’ll occasionally hear political and royal commentators in the British media mumble that there “isn’t much support for abolishing the monarchy” or raise the prospect of “President Blair” as if that’s the only possible alternative. Republican ideas and arguments never get a fair hearing in the papers, on the news or on TV discussion shows. If someone strongly against the Royals is ever featured they are framed as an outlier, a crank, a begrudger.
One of my strongest political beliefs is that this country will never be a democracy until we kick out the kings and queens. It is the sign of how fundamentally unserious this curséd island really is that we had a Brexit referendum in which the Leave side was allowed to rail against “unelected bureaucrats in Brussels” with no one questioning the continued presence of an unelected head of state who rides to Parliament in a golden carriage.
The Royals have been all over the newspapers like a pissing puppy this week after the Queen detonated a distraction bomb with the announcement that she was stripping the Duke and Duchess of Sussex of various patronages, titles and baubles which are in her gift. As I wrote yesterday, this set Nicholas Witchell, the word ‘obsequiousness’ given human form by a mildly distracted necromancer, off on a rant about Meghan and Harry that stretched BBC ‘impartiality’ guidelines to breaking point and beyond. It’s also triggered the newspapers into throwing around more Royal sources than Prince Edward at a Buckingham Palace banquet.
The front page of The Sunday Times is given over to what amounts to little more than a press release from Prince William’s team. Under the headline William ‘sad and shocked’ at Harry and accompanied by a picture in which William and Kate look serene while Harry and Meghan look pensive and distracted, Roya Nikkhah, the Sunday Times’ Royal Correspondent writes:
The Duke of Cambridge is said to be “really sad and genuinely shocked” by his brother’s behaviour towards the Queen over the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s departure from royal life.
The row is in danger of becoming the most serious rift between two royal brothers since George VI was thrust onto the throne in 1936 by the abdication of his older brother, Edward VIII. Sources close to Prince William said he believed Harry and Meghan had been “insulting and disrespectful” to the Queen and was “very upset by what has happened”.
A source close to the monarch described the response by the Sussexes to Buckingham Palace’s announcement that the couple must give up their royal duties as “petulant and insulting to the Queen”. The source added: “Don’t disrespect your granny, Harry.” A third source warned: “You don’t answer the Queen back — it’s just not done.”
This is the usual chicken shit from Prince William who, without the guts to break ‘protocol’, prefers to make his displeasure known through whispers to the media that he also purports to despise. He is “said to be ‘really sad…’” because that is what he told his press team to tell the world. Similarly, there is so much spin on the phrase “Don’t disrespect your granny, Harry” that it could have been fired at a batsman by a particularly tricky bowler.
There is a very specific reason why a Royal source who would never usually dream of calling the Queen “granny” has done so in that quote — convenience. The Royal machine switches between presenting the Queen as some near-supernatural figure of service and magnanimity and simply a woman who wants the best for her children and grandchildren based on what’s most strategically useful at any given moment. Prince Andrew back in the news? Make Queenie look human. Story about the Royals interfering in how laws are made? Remind everyone of her service, quick!
Inevitably, The Sunday Times also compares the current Royal ‘controversy’ with a more famous one — the constitutional crisis triggered by Edward VIII:
A similar dynamic but with higher stakes played out in 1936, after Edward fell in love with Wallis Simpson, an American divorcée, and agreed to hand over the throne to be free to marry her.
Encouraged by Royal ‘sources’, the papers continue to try to frame Meghan Markle as the modern Wallis Simpson.
It’s also no coincidence that The Sunday Telegraph has chosen an extract from Chips Channon’s diaries about the constitutional crisis before Edward VIII’s abdication as one of its big features today. Or that its Royal coverage focuses on Prince Charles visiting his father Prince Philip in hospital (“How can Harry cause all this fuss while his grandfather is ill!”) and speculating that “William [will be] a supersub for Harry as ‘face’ of rugby league”.
The same sources who told The Sunday Times about Prince William's sadness’ framed it more violently for The Mail on Sunday which only snaps its jaws for red meat, in a story headlined William's fury at Meghan and Harry's 'insulting, disrespectful and petulant' parting shot at Queen: Prince is 'shocked and sad' as it's revealed that Sussexes filmed with Oprah during drama last week.
The paper manages to squeeze four more pieces out of the story. Sarah Vine rages that it is “laughable for Harry and Meghan to lecture the Queen on duty. She wrote the book,” while someone else who wrote a book — and is desperately trying to flog it — “royal biographer” Hugo Vickers howls “Prince Harry must now offer to step aside from the line of succession.” Two further news stories break down what The Mail on Sunday ‘understands’ happened during the Oprah interview; ‘understands’ being a weasel tabloid word that means “someone told us a few things and we made the rest up”.
The cherry on the top of The Mail on Sunday’s royal cheerleading is splashing on news of Princess Eugenie’s baby and her “moving tribute to Prince Philip”. It’s qwhite obvious why Prince Andrew’s daughter is getting glowing coverage while Meghan continues to be framed as a malevolent force.
The Sun jumps on the report from The Sunday Times, applying its own patented mix of patronising cant and tabloid hysteria for a piece headlined ROYAL RUMBLE ‘Shocked’ William’s fury at Harry & Meghan's ‘insulting and petulant’ response to Queen over Megxit. Predictably The Sun leans heavily on the ‘gran’ quote. Not only is Harry disrespecting the magic vagina owner, but the magic vagina owner is also his gran!
Like Witchell before her, Sarah Vine uses her Mail on Sunday column to ‘translate’ the Sussexes’ statement for us, projecting her own rage into their words:
… we got the usual teenage pout, hair-flick, slammed bedroom door. ‘As evidenced by their work over the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the UK and around the world,’ they said, adding – with a petulant flourish – ‘We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.’
In other words, talk to the hand, old lady, because the face ain’t listening. Such insensitivity and rudeness is astonishing enough on its own. But what really beggars belief is the level of their own delusion…
… we’re supposed to be grateful to them for ‘sharing’, for allowing us to stain their window pane with our greasy proletariat noses.
Hence, presumably, their decision to announce Meghan’s pregnancy via a vanity photoshoot in the garden of said mansion.
As let-them-eat-cake moments go, it makes Marie Antoinette look like a rank amateur. The arrival of baby No 2 is, of course, extremely happy news. It will be lovely for Archie to have a sibling, and after Meghan’s miscarriage last year, it must be a great relief for both of them. But a simply worded statement would have sufficed.
Vine presents a view that’s common among British newspaper columnists who attack the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — they aren’t public servants, they’re just celebrities! What they don’t want to admit is that the rest of the Royal Family are essentially the British Kardashians, only far less interesting, far less willing to earn their own money, and much less bothered about getting the public on side. The Royal Family’s PR machine — the endless promotional whirl designed to maintain belief in the magic vagina — wants us to believe they “really care” but anyone who is remotely paying attention knows that’s not true.
The British newspapers — broadsheets and tabloids alike — defend the Royal Family or take lukewarm potshots like The Guardian (whose most recent set of stories about Royal interference in politics repeated ‘revelations’ it has been printing for decades) because they fundamentally don’t want things to change.
With establishment owners and entire rosters of columnists who live comfortable lives regardless of what ills befall the rest of the country, newspapers have no incentive to even discuss change. The media is also obsessed with symbols and the Royal Family are living symbols of stasis, of the stultifying continuation of an airless status quo.