Those of you in the UK (I’m out of the country right now), and especially anyone in London and the south east, has today had - I stop short of saying “enjoyed” - the pleasure of wall-to-wall Royal Wedding coverage. The allegedly popular press has been awash with coverage, the ceremony has been screened live, with the kind of build-up surpassed only by this evening’s F A Cup final. Few have been spared the full Meghan and Harry.
And that’s OK if Royalty, Sleb spotting, flag waving and a little escapism is your bag. We have a hereditary monarchy, and as long as that monarchy remains relevant to, and popular with, most people, then that is how it will stay. But we should remember that there is another side to the town of Windsor, the London area, the south east, and indeed the rest of Sceptre’d Isle. And that was not on view today.
It was not on view to all those homeless people who were cleared from Windsor’s streets in order that those streets were nice and tidy for the Royal procession. It was not on view to all those families with nowhere else to live than overcrowded, badly maintained, damp and vermin-infested rooms with dodgy electrics and rotting windows.
It was not on view to all those mourning another victim of London’s street crime, with the Met under increasing strain after yet another round of budget cuts and job losses. It was not on view to all those NHS workers who did not get the option of time off, or a break in yet another all-day shift. It was not on view to all the midwives, first responders, doctors, surgeons, maintenance staff, managers and support teams.
It was not on view to all the firefighters battling to cope with their own budget cuts and job losses. It was not on view to social workers almost drowning under increasing case loads, and hanging over them the ever-present fear of missing a domestic abuse case, a potential suicide, a battered child, and as a result ending up being pilloried by overbearing, judgmental and of course obscenely overpaid newspaper editors.
It was not on view to those who long ago made their own decision to join the minority - but note it well, an increasing minority - for whom the monarchy is no longer relevant. And perhaps they have a point: the Exchequer can find the money to refurbish Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, other Royal residences, and indeed the Palace of Westminster, yet there, night after night, we see the homeless there on our streets.
In the early 1930s, Spike Milligan, whose family had arrived in London from British India - his father had been made redundant by the Army - looked at the detachment of Royalty and said something along the lines of “God save the Prince of Wales and Mrs Simpson - and heaven help the rest of us”. One hates to be a party pooper to Harry and Meghan, the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but there is another and perhaps more relevant world out there, with a lot less joy, and no small amount of problems.
Enjoy the pomp, circumstance and stardust. But don’t forget the poor souls who are never going to get as much as a sniff of it.