Writing by Cally Ullman-Smith. Artwork by Berenika Murray.
I'm writing this the day after Burn's Night. I hosted the celebration during which my friend and I, who I grew up with in Gaidhealtachd cooked Haggis whilst fully adorned in Highland attire. Clothes and traditions were once banned during the clearances after the Jacobites defeat in 1746. Clearances is the term used for the part of Cultural Cleansing our home underwent where people were suddenly worth less than sheep. Everything we think of as being quintessentially Scottish would still be frowned upon if not for King George IV's royal visit in 1822, prior to which had not happened for two centuries. In all his portraits he is dressed head to toe in tartan; he loved the stuff, and was introduced to it by his friend Sir Walter-Scott. It didn't just bring Scottish culture back into the mainstream but also made the monarchy more popular here as well. However, during last night's Burn's Supper the monarchy came up in conversation (mostly Prince Harry's book), before my Gaelic friend promptly shot the topic down by saying "It's Burn's Night, we're no talking about the fucking Royals". It seems our current Bonnie King Charlie can wear the kilt and stay in Aberdeenshire all he likes but he's not generating the same esteem as George IV. It also seems that being a modern Scot doesn't fit well with being a royalist either.
It's not just the result of Harry's book but both instances do point to a certain picture: This might be the closing chapter on Britain's Royal Family.
Nonetheless, it must be cathartic to talk at someone whilst they write it down ready for publication and, of course, for the generation of plenty of money. That's the thing about Monarchists: how much they love these people, especially the one on the throne, at one moment and then how quickly they can turn against them. Harry was one of the favourites for years, not even because he was royal but because he was Diana's boy, and now he's (unbelievably) fallen down the rankings as far down as Prince Andrew, who has actually done monstrous things. Harry's book is easy to read, with a surprising number of beautifully descriptive moments whilst simultaneously feeling a little forced. However, I saw one commentator on this book take a different tack from it than the rest, writing that "Harry's book reminds me of my days in therapy". And that's exactly it. Harry is out there enjoying the Californian sun with his beautiful new family and has gone so native he even got himself a shrink. Could you imagine being the therapist to a Royal? Any other day you're dealing with a bipolar vet or a firefighter that can't stop wetting the bed and then it just happens your latest client is the Spare himself.
It's okay to say that now, because he owned it, it's his word. But where do you begin? I've had many arguments with people because I defend Harry. The usual line of attack is "his life wasn't worse than someone born into poverty so why is he so self-pitying?" True. The life of someone in poverty in this glorious country is only getting worse and worse. But now you've come to the light and care so much for the poor, we can abolish the monarchy and use the money to keep them going on feeding those who need feeding. Alas, Harry has been bullied his whole life by the same press that swears to adore the Royals. The same press that killed his mother. I couldn't think what it would be like, to lose the only person in your family you're truly connected to and be completely unable to mourn properly because the people must come first. So put on your child sized tailor made funeral jacket and go walk behind a painfully slow hearse just so a bunch of strangers can stare and "show their respect". Your brother, the future king in front, your father the other future king, who (don't forget) was having sex with someone else while you were being born, behind. I think a moment like that is worthy of self-pity. In fact, I'm amazed he just wrote a book.
Writing a book was clear enough, but I couldn't promise to be as calm. It seems like for Harry this book is the most cathartic way to break off from the family. All I have learnt from this memoir is more of what was already suspected, having a monarchy is just cruel on the people who have to be Royal. Put simply, its a bit fucked up. And how many more Harrys are to come? How will Williams' children cope with a life that as these scandals break only seems to get harder and harder? Prince Louis is already a little fire starter, imagine when he's in love and the tabloids can't leave him alone? So, what does that mean for the future? Essentially, the monarchy either slims down to those directly in line to the throne or implodes.
Either way I dinnae mind, I'm Scottish, we've done the whole royal thing and now the fascination has worn off. Our culture is our own, and has never been so strongly expressed in everyday life. In 1822 the monarchy was able to present itself as a true emblem for Britishness by embracing a maligned culture of their kingdom. If we were to think of this family as an emblem of Britishness, despite the fact it is probably fitting right now, there wouldn't be much self-esteem in the nation. But then again, beside the occasional burst of outrage, the monarchy is increasingly ignored. You just can't argue that Harry didn't lead a harder life than those born into poverty and continue to support those born into extreme wealth and power.
As Burn's put it in 'A mans a man for a' that':
"Ye see yon birkie ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that,
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that,
The man o’ independent mind,
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that."