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Home > Culture and Society

The baffling appeal of the Royal Family, revisited

3 July 2005

It’s hardly the first time a dumb blonde has been screwed by one of the Kennedys, but this week we learned that Princess Diana (allegedly) slept with John F Kennedy Junior. The ‘revelations’ came from one of Diana’s creepy spiritual advisors, who obviously wasn’t spiritual enough to turn down a few thousand quid from the tabloids.

Womanising seems to have come to the Kennedys as naturally as swimming comes to a fish. JFK shagged around, and seemed to have a pretty low opinion of women, while brother Teddy took it to the next level by inadvertently drowning an attractive secretary after driving off a bridge after a party on Lake Chappaquiddick. It’s interesting that people talk about The Curse of the Kennedys, and not The Curse of Anyone Who Knew the Kennedys.

So has the Curse of the Kennedys struck again, this time to our very own Princess of Slightly Loose Morals? Not really, because the Curse of the Kennedys doesn’t exist. However, true or not, the story does yet again illustrate the UK’s ongoing and inexplicable obsession with the Royals.

There’s plenty of evidence that a sizeable chunk of the population is fascinated by the Royals, in the same way that sheep are fascinated by grass. But much of the appeal of the Royals seems to boil down to the soap opera which was Diana’s life, rather than any real interest in the tedious reality of the monarchy.

Thus it’s entirely likely that much of the interest in the Royals is a media creation. Prince Charles is a deeply distant and unexciting individual, as is the Queen. Neither of them has anything much to say to ordinary people. Princes Andrew and Edward and their entire generation of Royals are well past their sell-by date in terms of public interest, and even the younger Royals tend to be about as surprising and unpredictable as mud. ‘Careers’ in the army, guaranteed places at OK universities, however thick they may be, Sloane Ranger girlfriends… shocking stuff. Then there’s the dreary outrage at Harry, a teenage boy, behaving like a teenage boy. So why do people want to read about them?

The reality is probably that people aren’t terribly discerning about what they read in the papers. If people could take a genuine interest in the fact that Angus Deayton snorted a bit of coke and shagged an attractive kiss-and-tell babe, then reading about the lives of the Royals must be like finding a map telling you where the Holy Grail is.

Quick-witted readers may have noticed that by mentioning the Royal family in the first place, TFT is, in its own small way, tacitly adding to the empty media fixation with the Royals. But not really. What interests us is why people are so happy to lap up such god-awful dull rubbish. You can just about see the appeal of celebrity rags - there’s an interesting car crash quality to the lives of people like Leslie Ash, a mild sense of surprise at each new level of inanity plumbed by Jordan and Peter Andre, or just the base appeal of Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie in their swimwear.

But reading about what sort of hat Camilla is wearing? Or Harry getting blisters on a route march? Or that William’s got a posh girlfriend? Tabloid editors really should save themselves the minimal trouble of getting these ‘scoops’. They may as well just run stories like ‘Thank “hoof”, Ma’am: Queen pats horse shocker.’

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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