Amid all the discussion of Prince Harry’s deployment to Iraq, I’ve heard of an ‘arrangement’ that the Armed Services make with the Royal household. Apparently, when the Heir and Spare join the Force, it is the Spare who sees active service, while the Heir is kept back at home.
I can see how this might be thought sensible, since even the deployment of the ‘Spare’ is a heightened security risk, and it would be a catasrophic morale crusher if anything happened to Harry in Iraq (just as it would have been if Prince Andrew had come to harm in the Falklands). But if Prince William, and before him, his father Prince Charles, are not going to be subjected to that pressure of ‘proper’ service, what’s the point of joining the army in the first place? It seems to me as if joining up is merely a ruse to win the right to wear a uniform, with lots of sashes and bows, which always looks great in Royal Wedding photos and the other assorted ceremonies which the Head of State must attend.
But if the monarch is the official Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces, a post they inherit on the death of their predecessor, then surely that office means one would be entitled to wear the uniform anyway, without the charade of basic training? Why bother with the training that one is never going to put to use? It looks to me like a rich kid playing at soldiers.
I am reminded of the Queen Mother’s funeral, back in the ’02. I was working in Westminister and went along to the Abbey to see the procession. Pacing behind the horse-drawn carriage and forty bag-pipes, Prince Edward was noticable in his long black civilian coat, while his brothers and sister all wore their uniforms. He looked like the awkward guest, who was not told that the party was fancy dress.
After the ceremony, a sight I shall never forget: Some kind of wake had been organised, back at Buckingham Palace, for the Crowned Heads of Europe. The Queen was chauffered away in her Rolls-Royce, but the distinguished guests were all shepherded onto a waiting coach, as if they were a gaggle of blue-rinse grannies. King Juan Carlos was one of the first to embark, and he made his way to the back of the coach (clearly, he is reckoned to one of the cool kids of the International Aristocracy). He sat down, and gave us a wave. Unfortunately for him, Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden was chatting on the tarmac, so the coach remained stationery. King Juan Carlos waited awkwardly in his seat, fiddling with the brass buttons on his uniform. Every now and then, he would turn to the window and wave again.