30 April 2011
In a week when Prince William married Kate, my mind has been meandering from the non accountable European Central Bank to reflection on the animated chatter about the life of princes. At such moments a few oddities leap to mind. There has been much verbalising in certain quarters that we should somehow be uninterested in the world’s greatest soap opera. That to show an interest in the comings and goings of royalty contaminates our Republic. This is, of course, nonsense. The Americans are a prime example. They severed their links with the British Crown long before we did, but the number of people working for the U.S. networks currently in London probably outnumbers the members of various royal families who attended the wedding.
There has also been a lot of idle chatter, that at least we have a President elected by the people. Well yes, but we should remember that one of our most distinguished Presidents was the first, Dr. Douglas Hyde, a Protestant, a scholar and the man probably most responsible for rescuing the Irish language from oblivion. He was the unanimous choice of the political parties because they wanted to avoid a contentious election and have in the Aras a figure genuinely above politics. Addressing the new President on the 25th June 1938, Eamon De Valera said “ In you we greet the successor of our rightful princes”.
Prince William is by all accounts a fine young man, and I am sure in the future will make a good king. This brings to mind several coronations and one in particular; that of King George IV. My ancestress, the first Marchioness Conyngham, was his last mistress and he stayed at Slane Castle on his State Visit to Ireland in 1821. At his coronation, according to Mrs. Arbuthnot, a friend of the Duke of Wellington, “ The King behaved very indecently, he was continually nodding and winking at Lady Conyngham and sighing and making eyes at her”. The Duke of Wellington was born near Trim in County Meath.
The truth of the matter is that many of us love the pageantry and although some of us are loath to admit it, we find a certain fascination in the theatrical aspects of the Windsor show. Fergie’s ups and downs, the Duke of York’s choice of dodgy friends, the worthy Princess Anne, the green Prince of Wales, who likes to have somebody putting toothpaste on his toothbrush. Then, of course, there was Diana “ the people’s Princess”. Diana was the daughter of an Earl, only twenty and unprepared for public life. Kate is a confident, well educated young woman. I say good luck to them.