Sir: The travails of the royal family outlined by Penny Junor (‘In check’, 18 January) may be public theatre but that does not make the suggestion to ‘slim down’ the monarchy any less dangerous. It might be farce now but it could turn to tragedy.
Remember King Lear, where Goneril and Regan use Lear’s rowdy night in the castle as a pretext to begin robbing him of his knights and independence, leaving him destitute and mad. ‘What need you five and 20, or ten, or five, to follow in a house where twice so many have a command to tend you? What need one?’
An embarrassing time for royals in the media prompts calls to retrench the monarchy, but once you take something you set up the trend of taking more, to the end of leaving the institution wholly at the mercy of a greater number of insincere politicians who see bleating to the press about royal economy as a cynical way of advancing their own careers.
Salford, Greater Manchester
An absent Earl
Sir: Charles Moore laments the limited time the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have spent in their titular county (Notes, 18 January), reporting they have spent fewer than six hours there. Spare a thought then for his Scottish confrères, who will presumably never now welcome the Earl and Countess of Dumbarton to our hallowed shores.
Say boo to Booking.com
Sir: I have occasionally subverted the practices of the monopolistic booking sites outlined by Mary Wakefield in her excellent article on B&Bs (18 January). I simply use the booking conglomerate website to find a B&B for the nights in question, telephone the owner, suggest we compromise on, say, a 5 per cent discount, and pay over the phone. I get a discount, the owner doesn’t have to pay the website’s exorbitant commission, a small business is supported, and a small act of defiance is complete.
Sir: I was highly amused by Toby Young’s article bemoaning the lack of fight in his Remainer enemies (No sacred cows, 18 January). The incredible absence of magnanimity from someone on the winning side was revealing. For most people, membership of the EU was a fringe issue prior to 2016. Once the referendum was called, sides were taken and during the ensuing uncertainty many Remain supporters sought ways to mitigate the damage that they perceived would result from leaving the EU. The December election has brought an end to the uncertainty of the past few years and allows all of us to look to the future. One does not have to agree with decisions already taken to want to make the best of what lies ahead.
Taki on Dickie
Sir: Taki (High Life, 18 January) describes Andrew Lownie’s book The Mountbattens as ‘a 400-page affair that went very quickly’ and says: ‘It left me dumbfounded as to why Dickie Mountbatten has such a lousy reputation.’ Taki has read the biography too quickly. In it, Lownie shows that, while in the Navy, Mountbatten made at least three errors arising from his own desire to shine, at the expense of other sailors’ lives. There is no room here to relate in detail his botched naval actions, but they sufficed, together with his arrogance, to make him unpopular both with officers and those in the ranks. My father, Willy Segrave, who commanded destroyers in the North Atlantic, has the following quote in Lownie’s book: ‘Mountbatten was a most frightful shit and probably a bugger boy.’ Despite my father’s dated and now homophobic phrase, there are enough creepy examples in Lownie’s biography involving, for instance, schoolboys in Ireland to demonstrate that this was almost certainly the case. Taki writes disingenuously that he is ‘puzzled’ by certain insinuations that Mountbatten was gay, since ‘he pulled some beauties till the end’. Taki’s dated and now misogynistic phrase suggests that he read Lownie’s book with one eye shut.
Sir: I am disappointed to learn that I shall not be allowed to watch An Officer and a Spy, directed by Roman Polanski (Arts, 11 January), because of his unpunished criminal activity. Perhaps the censors may pay me a visit to confiscate my Bible: large sections were written by Moses, David and the apostle Paul, who were all guilty of murder but never formally punished.
Sir: Cosmo Landesman should regard his toilet duties at the Crisis at Christmas centre (‘Personal Crisis’, 18 January) as far from insignificant. In Tudor times, being ‘Groom of the stool’ to Henry VIII was a high-status job given to the most trusted courtier. For Gandhi, cleaning the latrines in the ashram was beneath no one and indeed considered an act of worship. I should also add that I take a dim view of anyone who fails to replenish the toilet rolls in my house.
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
Sir: James Forsyth’s assertion that next month’s cabinet reshuffle will be ‘more Midsomer Murders than Valentine’s Day Massacre’ (Politics, 18 January) will do little to calm frightened ministers. Since 1997 there have been 369 murders in the county of Midsomer, whereas only seven Chicagoans were gunned down in the Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Dull, Perth and Kinross/>
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