The scene is Christmas Day around the dining table at Anmer Hall in Norfolk.
A trio of Royal tots are fighting over a pile of plastic things that go ‘ping’. William and Harry have bulging waistlines, Kate and Meghan are digesting their annual spoonful of pudding, and the staff have cleared the table.
The conversation turns to family, and in particular Meghan’s troublesome, estranged father Thomas Markle, who that very morning popped up at the Buckingham Palace roundabout with a giant Care Bear, stage-quality tears and a festive camera crew from Good Morning Britain.
"I am so sorry he has brought such shame upon the illustrious British Royal Family," sobs Meghan, lying prostrate on the floor at Kate’s well-shod feet. "Woe is me, my family is so low-class, it’s not surprising from a man prepared to breed with the descendants of slaves, I am not worthy of yonder honoured Princeling Harry."
Kate sighs. "Don’t be ridiculous. My Uncle Gary offered to sell cocaine to the News of the World, sold his story to Hello! and then admitted punching his fourth wife in the face."
William adds: "Yeah, but my Uncle Edward’s film company was the only media outlet to invade my privacy at university. And have you forgotten It’s A Royal Knockout? He organised a joust at Alton Towers with a pervert."
Harry pipes up: "But what about Uncle Andrew? He had to stop being an official ambassador for British business because he kept being photographed with that American who was a convicted paedophile."
Meghan sniffs and wipes her eyes. "Are you guys serious? Surely if I go to Sandringham for tea, Her Royal Majestyness will have me hung, drawn and quartered because of my terrible, bad-mannered antecedents?"
The three more experienced Royals share a look of amusement. "No," says Kate. "Her oldest son was caught on tape making sexy talk about being a tampon. She’s chilled."
And William adds: "It’s the servants who’ll beat you with an etiquette manual thrice before dawn and twice more at lunch."
It would suit many people to believe that Meghan’s troublesome dad is at the root of a deep sense of unease in the Royal Family about its newest member. It would suit racists, people who pretend they’re not racists, and one Mr Thomas Markle Esquire, the biggest plonker of any parish he chooses to enter.
This morning he told viewers of GMB that he had been shunned by his daughter because of Royal protocol.
"They’re reading all of the things in the tabloids and what people are saying I’m saying and I’ve only done 5 interviews and out of those interviews hundreds of other people come and say I’ve said these things and I haven’t said these things but they’re believing it and I’m being shunned," he said, in much the same tone as a 3-year-old complaining the mess he was discovered up to his knees in was someone else’s fault.
It may be worth pointing out, here, that Thomas’ first interview was with GMB in June. His second and third were with the Mail on Sunday in July and August, the fourth was with the Daily Mail a week ago, and on each occasion he said it was the "last interview".
And they followed a series of staged paparazzi snaps and chats with TMZ.
If he really was a 3-year-old, the nearest responsible adult would at this stage give him a stern talking-to about dishonesty.
As he’s a grandfather aged 74, he is instead spending an extended period on the naughty step.
And from this perch a man of senior years but juvenile intellect is doing everything he can to make his situation worse, while claiming it must be the Queen’s fault. Or British stuffiness. Or, or, or, the cat.
Even the briefest glance at Royal history proves they have more than one relative who causes headaches with wedding planning, tabloid newspapers or bank managers. Fergie’s always going broke, Princess Michael is best ignored and the new Prince Louis is probably destined for the louche life of a playboy.
The Royals don’t care about any of that. The newspapers do, because it’s wonderful stuff, and readers do because it all adds to the gaiety of the nation, especially at Christmas when so many of us are reminded of family members who share our DNA but little else.
What the Royals want is a quiet life. Public controversy rocks the ship of state, as well as making them look stupid, so the first Royal urge with such relatives is to not be seen with them, while ensuring privately that troubled waters are soothed.
That’s why Uncle Gary is still on speakers with the Middletons, and by extension the Royals. It’s why Edward and Andrew kept their heads down for a bit after each scandal, and why Fergie’s debts and living arrangements have been regularised. In the House of Windsor, quiet continuity is the order of the day.
It’s people who cannot stand this absorption of change who stoke the controversies – people who think a monarchy must be rigid to survive, and don’t notice that it needs to be flexible.
So it’s the staff who raise their eyebrows. The courtiers who say "this isn’t done", the constitutional ‘experts’ who claim that the wearing of black nail varnish is punishable with death and that, somewhere, there is a piece of vellum stating with authority that LADIES. WEAR. HATS.
The people who live it, on the other hand, learn to roll.
Is Thomas Markle going to be a good boy next year?
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The Queen knows it is the soap opera her family has become that causes them the most problems, the deepest harm, and makes them more beloved. That her in-laws and offspring are a cipher for how we all feel about our own. Unwelcome as it may be, it roots the Royals more firmly in the lives of their people.
That is quite a feat when they’re a bunch of entitled billionaires with rules on which gold-plated carriage to use for church.
If Meghan has stopped talking to her dad, it’s hardly surprising. But if he’s going to keep talking to journalists he’s going to have to come up with something new to say each time, and it doesn’t seem like he’s inventive enough to keep this going much longer.
On the other hand, if he made a New Year resolution to zip his lip – as every other disgraced Royal and relative has done – he’d be back on the Christmas card list and able to go to the christening. Which, he claims, is all he wants.
Let’s see which road he picks, shall we?
The Royals at Christmas
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