Letters / A sense of proportion

I worked for the harbour trust for a while in the 1980s during one of the occasional royal visits to Shetland and spent days frantically cleaning the waterfront beforehand.

I vividly remember being sent round behind a portacabin to pick up trash and laughing at the idea that the Queen was going to pause her tour of the facilities to just pop round behind the cabin to check. It was surreal.

I also remember attending a CND demonstration during a royal visit to Holmsgarth. It wasn’t a great day, and the crowds of admirers and protestors were relatively thin, so I got right up to the barriers and was only a short distance away as the royal couple toured for the plebs.

I remember being struck by how utterly mundane they seemed and by the look of confusion and distain on her face as she looked at the protestors. Imagine a life led like this ferried from place to place in luxury, where everything you see is pristine and manicured to perfection and almost everyone you meet bends at the knee in every way.


We are hearing a lot about the Queen’s wisdom, compassion, leadership, and good works and about how much the Royal family contributes directly and indirectly through the tourism industry.

Let’s also remember that the Queen lived a life of splendour at the public expense, amassing a personal fortune of over £500 million and heading a private enterprise with some £29 billion in assets. Let’s also recognise that Charles will inherit this and, unlike the rest of us, is exempt from inheritance tax.

These people live extraordinary lives of unearned privilege. I don’t think people who live like this have any realistic understanding of what real life is like for ordinary people. On the contrary, I think this is a lifestyle incompatible with the idea of meaningful compassion for the poor.


I don’t think the fact that they dip their toes in good works, gracing elaborate overpriced fundraising events with their presence and turning up occasionally to dole out succour for the poor changes this and makes them compassionate and good.

I think it’s sad that the Queen’s dead, but I don’t think it merits anything like the current frenzy of retrospective adulation and public mourning. She was not a great statesperson. Nor was she a world leader in any remotely meaningful sense.

She was a person born to privilege who lived a life of extraordinary luxury: A figurehead who attracted a lot of tourists and did a modest amount of good but, relative to her power and wealth, hardly enough to merit sainthood.

I say let’s stop cleaning up for them, put an end to the anachronistic royal prerogative entitling the Crown to veto any act of parliament, and pension them off with only a modest stipend. Most of the tourists will still come.

Donald Wilson
San Diego



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