The first time in my recent memory was on the occasion of the wedding of Will and Kate. Two distinguished Australian journalists, Mark Colvin and Emma Alberici, discussed, with all seriousness, the mode of locomotion Kate Middleton would be relying on to get to Westminster Abbey, since, as a ‘commoner’, she wasn’t entitled to go by royal carriage.
And now, with the arrival of another heir to the English throne, I hear, in a lather of great excitement, Fran Kelly on Radio National Breakfast interviewing a ‘veteran’ royal watcher.
I know, I have to suck it up. I was one of only two girls in my boarding school who didn’t watch Charles and Di tie the knot back in 1981. I am a veteran royal unwatcher.
So it would be totally unreasonable of me to expect the ABC to treat the English royal family as descendents of people who happened to be in the right place at the right time.
As no different from you and me, except that they enjoy enormous largesse at British taxpayers’ expense.
But can’t we draw a line somewhere?
In her interview with the ‘veteran’ royal watcher, Fran asked whether there was this same level of excitement when Will and Harry were born. Apparently there wasn’t.
And then: “What does this royal birth mean for Britain?”
And just as I was about to switch off, Fran observed that this is the first time since the early Middle Ages that ‘we’ have had a half-royal-half-commoner baby.
‘We?’ What ‘we’ is that exactly, since ‘we’ would barely have had a notion of ‘England’ – and no conception at all of ‘Australia’ – in the early Middle Ages.
Anyway, now apparently ‘we’ have a ‘half-royal-half-commoner’ baby.
A half-caste? WTF?
I love Fran Kelly. She is brilliant, courageous, and articulate. If there was a Fran Kelly fan club, I could rightly expect to serve as president for a term or two.
But ‘commoner’ is just not a place where she should go.
The Oxford English Dictionary attests the term as far back as 1325, when it had a quite specific usage, tied up with the emergence of local forms of government in the Middle Ages.
But now it means “one of the common people … applied to all below the rank of a peer”.
And the OED thesaurus lists ‘pleb’ as one its synonyms.
Amazing to think that with a host of eligible Duchesses, Marchionesses (note for commoners: ‘Marchioness’ is the female of ‘Marquess’), Countesses, Viscountesses and Baronesses to choose from, Will chose someone without a drop of blue blood.
The Brits are now outshining us in cycling, tennis, cricket and a host of Olympic sports.
But they have always been in a class of their own in the life sport of establishing and maintaining social class divisions.
So let’s not even humour them by picking over the arbitrary boundaries they observe between ‘commoners’ and the … sorry, I don’t know the collective noun for people with such absurd pretensions they retain hereditary titles in the 21st century.
Let’s draw the line. After all, the ABC is funded by us ‘commoners’.
This column was first published by the NTEU here.