Whenever the UK Government finds itself in a bit of a political pickle or where a ‘Look! Over there …’ moment is required, it often resorts to wheeling out members of the royal family to provide a bit of distraction or to smooth over troubled waters abroad
The royal household itself may be above politics, but they’re also canny politicians themselves.
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So, news of Princess Beatrice’s engagement couldn’t come at a better time. There’s no doubt the Yorks’ eldest daughter and beau Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi are in love – although some cynics might suggest 10 months’ dating isn’t quite long enough to know, but Bea’s parents were at pains to point out in their congratulatory statement that they had “watched the relationship develop with pride”, with the groom’s parents reminding us they had known Beatrice “for most of her life”.
That said, with the bride-to-be’s father Prince Andrew in all kinds of turmoil following the death of paedophile (and close friend) Jeffrey Epstein, not to mention the car crash that is Brexit hurtling toward a cliff, there’s never a bad time to issue a good news story – and a royal wedding is as cheery and innocuous as you can get.
Fresh from Meghan Markle’s tumultuous addition to the family it was probably hoped the Buck House soap opera would calm down for a while; certainly the shenanigans surrounding her wedding were more attention than the House of Windsor would normally want.
But ‘Edo’ has quite the colourful history for an incoming spouse which will now be dutifully examined before the pair trip down the aisle sometime next year. The 36-year-old not only has a former fiancée, but a toddler son in his life, which at least makes this marriage, no less than the Sussexes, modern.
The royal family isn’t a fan of ‘modern’. They prefer tradition, custom, convention. Couples actually falling in love before getting hitched is a novelty, started with Queen Elizabeth herself. Before that, dynasty, political ties and suitability were far more coveted virtues.
There’s plenty of form in scandal-covering using royal packaging. 2010 saw students rioting in the streets, the EU teetering on financial collapse and fallout over British complicity in the torture of ex-Guantanamo prisoners … so Prince William finally doing the right thing by Waity Katie after a decade together was just the ticket to get everyone looking elsewhere.
His mother Diana found herself engaged in 1981 (there’s little evidence she knew it was coming having only met Charles a handful of times alone), amid a background of riots in Brixton, Thatcherite cuts and a nasty re-shuffle and the controversy surrounding Bobby Sands’ death in Long Kesh.
And in November 2017, on the very day Harry joyfully rolled out Meghan to meet her future public, a ‘secret’ Brexit dossier had just been leaked with damning evidence of post-Brexit destruction. Coincidence, obviously.
With political events getting ever more chaotic, distractions have never been needed more. A secondary royal wedding may not be enough.
One small detail in the official statement may have been missed by all but the very eagle-eyed. It referred to Beatrice’s parents as ‘The Duke and Duchess of York’. They have been divorced well over twenty years now, so Fergie’s title is technically Sarah, Duchess of York rather than ‘The’ (definite article) Duchess of York. If that sounds pedantic, well then, welcome to the annals of styling etiquette.
Why does it matter? Well, there have been rumours circulating that the pair – who term themselves ‘divorced together’ … might actually be considering getting re-married.
Look! Over there …
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