Sunday, March 18, 2007

Bottomless excellence

There's a Spitting Image sketch that for some reason has stayed with me over the years. In the real world, the Queen and Prince Philip had toured New Zealand and been mooned by some Maori protestors. In the sketch, the Queen is marvelling at all the bottoms she saw, and thinking that everyone should have one. It goes something like:
  • Philip: But everyone does have one!
  • Queen: I don't have a bottom. I'm the Queen.
  • Philip: But what do you sit on?
  • Queen: Cushions.
  • Philip: But what do you sit on when you go to the loo?
  • Queen: I don't go to the loo. I'm the Queen.
And so on. Anyway, we just got back from watching Helen Mirren's performance in the same role, and I can say she does it perfectly. She has the Queen's voice, her mannerisms, her paint-peeling stare, and above all you can believe this is a woman who doesn't have a bottom.

The excellent film centres on the week between Diana's death and her funeral. I was lucky enough to avoid most of this as I was on holiday in Cornwall, in a house with no TV. We got the gist of it, we read the occasional paper, and when we drove back on funeral day the roads were empty. I remember wishing this kind of thing could happen more often.

The film has laughter and tragedy; it has all the charged emotion of the time; it has the squirming at the first inklings of just how ghastly the funeral is going to be. And it backs up what I felt back then. We have no idea what was going through the heads and hearts of the royals as they spent most of the week up in Balmoral. And how dare anyone suggest otherwise? I mean - how dare anyone lecture another, who has suffered a personal bereavement (when the lecturer has never even met the dead person, or at best parasited off her existence) ... how DARE that person lecture the bereaved one on how she should be acting? It should have been exactly what the first instinct and (apparently) the Spencers said it should be - a private, non-state affair.

But no. It sickened me then and it sickens me now. Boo-bloody-hoo, our fairytale princess has died so come and show us you care. Face it, it was not the British people's finest hour. But, the Queen got the public mood wrong, Blair got it right and the result was Goodbye England's Rose.

(Another Spitting Image sketch I remember has Diana choosing a name for her recently born second child. "I thought of Henry because that's what all my friends are called, yah, right?" Exactly.)

Technically, the Queen was correct in every decision. Diana wasn't a royal, she certainly didn't deserve a state funeral, and the Royal Standard doesn't get flown at half mast for anyone (not even the Queen's father when he died) because that's not what it's for. But enough people shouted loudly enough to get their way anyway. In one respect, the Queen did what she was told by the people, which is good; but in another, it was basically a more-or-less benevolent form of mob rule and that is bad.

The film has a nice dig at the end about the ease with which one can fall from grace in the media, in the form of advice from the battle-chastened Queen to her new Prime Minister who during the affair was voted more popular than Churchill. Of course, Churchill's war had a point to it. And he won.


  1. Bah, I was several time zones away in St Petersburg and didn't escape a single grisly, maudlin moment of the Princess Diana Queen Of Hearts Funeral Frenzy. (Or, if you will, "Sepulchraze". Ho, ho.) Her death, the full week of garment-rending and tooth-gnashing and the funeral were splashed all over RTS - bloody Russians loved her as much as anyone here. And worse still, the first thing the family I was staying with said about it was that the Queen had had her killed, months before I heard the conspiracy theories from anyone in the UK. I was so overcome by their overreaction, I honestly didn't believe I'd come home to the same nonsense. More fool me.

  2. Kind of a tradition out there, isn't it? Rah-rah-Rasputin and all that.

    Ooh, I feel inspired.

    "Rah rah Diana
    Royals had it in for 'er ..."

    That's as far as I've got.

  3. I loved that film. I also never knew that the Queen doesn't have a bottom! You learn something new every day.

  4. diana's funeral was on my birthday and i was young and didnt know who she was so was very disappointed when my horse riding partly was late starting coz the staff wanted to watch the funeral!

    havent seen the queen yet, must watch it!

  5. We were amazed by the media feeding frenzy and by how people gradually convinced themselves to "feel more". I had to smuggle that week's Private Eye into work, such was the strength of transient feeling.

    I still love the Spitting Image Russian Military Parade sketch "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with T"
    "Tank". etc


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