Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Harry Goes To War.

So it's official, Prince Harry is off to Iraq.

This can never really have been in doubt. What kind of message would be sent out otherwise - it's OK for the sons (and daughters) of the rest of us to die pointlessly in an illegal war but not for the royal family ?

I haven't got anything personal against Harry. No more so than I have against any other over-privileged, over-bearing and under-talented hooray-henry. At least he hasn't tried to duck out of going, but then again neither have thousands of other servicemen and women who didn't get the choice.

In fact I could almost feel sorry for him. Let's face it, he is utterly expendable. Unless James Hewitt insists on a paternity test, he is still only third in line to the throne. As with Uncle Andrew in the Falklands war, a tragic and heroic end would be fantastic PR for an increasingly unpopular monarchy.

Older brother William however will never see active service. Like his Dad there will be plenty of photo-opportunities of him in various uniforms like a a kind of human Action Man, and on the strength of this he will become the patron of various military units. But he won't be put at any actual risk.

It was not always so when monarchy really meant something. Our Celtic and Saxon fore-bears didn't have purely hereditary kings; the numero uno alpha male would be chosen from amongst the noble warriors on the strength of his leadership in the line of battle. Go and see '300' and watch Leonidas to see how it should be done. Even up to the Wars Of The Roses, it didn't matter who your mum and dad were, if you didn't come up to the mark as a military leader you were pretty quickly dispatched in favour of a relative who did.

The needs of a society in the Third Millennium AD are a little different. And the association of the royals as 'chocolate box soldiers' with the armed forces today, is a metaphor for the ridiculous and anachronistic nature of a monarchy in a modern society.

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