“Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this sun of York…” Er – up to a point, Lord Copper. The last time a holder of the dukedom of York was in as much disarray as the present incumbent was on Bosworth Field in 1485. That luckless monarch’s successor two generations later, Henry VIII, was an insane brute with just one redeeming feature: a penchant for cutting off the heads of unsatisfactory advisers such as the odious Thomas Cromwell. That sanction must be regarded wistfully today by the current resident of Royal Lodge, Windsor.
For so long as the royal family continues to employ the kind of people who have been advising its members in recent decades, anti-monarchic advocacy groups such as Republic will find themselves redundant. Now a new zenith of idiocy has been recorded. Who thought it was a good idea to trap the Duke of York, like a rabbit in the headlights, in a chair facing Newsnight’s implacable tricoteuse Emily Maitlis, with unlimited licence to interrogate him?
The answer to that question, according to insistent media reports, is the Duke’s private secretary, Amanda Thirsk, who allegedly propelled him into the hot seat against the advice of his PR mentor Jason Stein, who wisely resigned ahead of the interview. Amanda Thirsk is a former banker, so comes from a profession famed for its persuasive PR; she was also described by a colleague as a “force of nature” – oh, dear.
It is always an intellectual challenge to project oneself into the minds of those entitled persons who, over the past half century, have presided in so many areas over Britain’s supposedly “managed” decline, which now looks more like free-fall. How do their minds work? What is the collective intuition that inspires them invariably to opt for the most stupid course of action?
The Duke of York’s interview is only the most recent instance, but it serves as a useful case history. What is the golden rule for any person of eminence peripherally associated with a potentially compromising individual or event? To deny the matter the oxygen of further comment, of course. To leave story-hungry hacks with no alternative but to pursue other avenues of investigation. To distance oneself entirely from the issue and maintain a prudent silence.
With Epstein dead, by giving this dramatic interview the Duke of York voluntarily moved into the limelight and made himself the media focus of the case. Did that make any kind of sense, outside the madhouse that his private office appears to be?
Of course, the question mark over the Duke’s judgement dates from much further back than his Newsnight interview. It goes back to 1999 when he invited Epstein to Balmoral. Did Epstein belong to the kind of social circle in which it is expected a prince of the blood will mix? Yes, if the prince concerned is Edward VII or Edward VIII, but those are not happy precedents. The suggestion that the Duke valued Epstein’s contacts is astonishing. Since when did the second son of the Queen of England need an American billionaire to enhance his social network?
Their friendship smacks of the obsession of the rich with the ultra-rich. It is not a temptation to which the poor or moderately well-off are exposed, since their social orbits do not converge; but the envy of the rich towards the super-rich is a well-recorded phenomenon. The royal family, however, should be above such materialism and pettiness.