September 12

Conversion of a republican

Simon Heffer in the London Daily Telegraph of 6 September, 2006 tells the story of the conversion of Dame Helen Mirren, who plays the Queen in the film of the same name, from virulent republicanism to ultra royalism. In a statement made by Dame Helen in the euphoria of her triumph in Venice, she spoke of her feelings about the woman she had just spent months studying and then portraying. She revealed: "I must say I slowly fell in love with her".

Now I still have strong reservations about "faction", the portrayal of current events in a democratic community as if they were factual, when indeed they are fiction and not based on anything of any evidentiary value. However Hugh Davies, writing in the same paper on 4 September, 2006, says the film has been very well received. Yes as a film. But who, apart from those who were involved, and in particular our Queen, can say whether it was an accurate record of a contemporary event?  You can just imagine how the defamation writs would fly if any Australian or British media, or political figure, including republicans, were the subject of similar treatment.

Simon Heffer observes that there is probably a sizeable constituency of people like Dame Helen, “people for whom scepticism about the monarchy, or downright hostility to it, was for a long time the default position. They gleefully lapped up the latest stories about the alleged humiliations of the Prince of Wales, or the frequent assaults on utterly harmless individuals such as Prince Michael of Kent, attacks launched for no better reason than that His Royal Highness continues to live and breathe. When some newspapers stated that the Royal Family was "dysfunctional", and implied that this was the obvious fault of the head of that family, they all nodded sagely.”

“And then,” he writes “one such person says, hang on a minute, isn’t this a little unfair? Hasn’t the Queen done her arduous and remorseless job now non-stop for nearly 55 years, with no sign of letting up? Hasn’t she kept going in a straight line, despite all the horrors, traumas and provocations? Hasn’t she always refused even to blink at the welter of usually unfair and inevitably vacuous criticism chucked at her for the past 20 years or so? Hasn’t she, in short, turned out to be exactly the sort of person we all wish we could be? ”.

The main reason, these days, why people are drawn to love the Queen,” says Mr. Heffer is that “she is not part of an increasingly contemptible political class. It rarely has a sense of duty before self: it has long been clear to the public that its members are often in it, irrespective of party, for what they can get out of it. And it is, of course, people like that, not like Her present Majesty or even Dame Helen, who would lead us if a republic ever came to pass.”




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