The Sun, the Daily Mirror and The Mail dedicated their whole front covers, not to mention huge chunks of the following news space, to the story that a grown man and his wife were going to stop taking money from his grandmother and move out of her home. The broadsheets seemed equally obsessed; apportioning page after page to royal analysis.
Fair play, then, to The Daily Star, who covered its front cover with a story about eating algae, a guide to ‘all the best gadgets and stuff’ and a bikini-clad woman called Jess who (if the tiled flooring is anything to go by) appears to be undoing one of her pigtails on the way to the loo.
On 9 January, in case you missed it, the House of Commons debated whether or not refugee children deserve to be reunited with their families after fleeing for their life from countries ravaged by war, disease and terrorism. So that’s reassuring. That’s a good sign of where humanity is at in the UK at the moment.
On that day, the UK was also accused of ‘acting like cowboys’ with international security after illegally copying the EU Schengen database.
And 9 January was also the day that the Prime Minister Boris Johnson got a ringing personal endorsement from the far right, racist, climate change denying, probable conspiracy theorist Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary. Great.
These stories, as you’ll no doubt have noticed, received rather less airtime.
However you feel about the royal family (and frankly, I’d feel a lot better if we didn’t pay more than £82.4 million a year to a family that, according to Forbes, was already worth £67billion in 2017; a family that physically inhabits the privilege of inherited wealth over earned income) their titles and addresses seem a little less important than the fact that we are currently log fluming out of the European Union.
However you feel about The Crown (and yes, I love shitfaced Princess Margaret telling limericks about a massive schlong with the US President as much as the next woman) it’s hard not to see this latest royal story as slightly small fry compared to basic continued social and economic survival of our country. And it’s even harder not to see the days worth of earnest, hysterical, political, historical and financial analysis of two people’s living arrangements as a distraction from what is, without doubt, one of the biggest upheavals of our lifetime.
We all know that the UK is due to leave the EU at the end of this month. And yet, as we grind towards the deadline, a sort of Brexit exhaustion combined with the British fascination with a group of millionaires in shiny hats, means that much of the life-altering detail contained in the withdrawal agreement is being largely ignored.
Last night, the Queen gave royal assent to a Brexit deal that, according to the opposition politician Lisa Nandy, may well undermine the working rights of women throughout the UK. She also signed into law a deal that shrugs off Britain’s legal duty to reunite child refugees with their families. She gave assent to a law that, shortly after, caused the SNP leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, to tell MPs that Britain is now facing a “constitutional crisis” because the parliaments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland did not vote in favour of the bill.
Yes, the Queen is involved in this story. But are our front covers going to be consumed with the fact that her government overturned amendments from the House of Lords that would have given EU citizens physical card to show as proof of their right to remain in this country? Will women be talking in changing rooms about the likelihood of Britain being able to draw up a free trade agreement that actually works by Johnson’s self-imposed and entirely artificial deadline of December 2020? Are you likely to be discussing what ‘retained EU law’ actually means as you chop an onion for dinner?
Will these things affect the very day-to-day nature of your life? Your chances of finding work, a home, a hospital bed, a cucumber in the supermarket?
Absolutely they will.
Of course I understand that most media organisations exist, in part at least, to make money; and that profit is wrung from the Megxit towel far easier than the damp flannel of Brexit. But I can’t help but think that we could all benefit from using our attention, our newspapers and our time to make sure the government is looking after the country, while simply letting the Windsors look after themselves.
After all, the British royal family have been looking after themselves pretty well for centuries.