Andrew, greed and the decline of the Windsors
There is something rather sad about the affair of Prince Andrew and his ex-wife. It is pathetic because it is the result of the inevitable decline of the House of Windsor, and because there is no real malice in any of the major figures in this melodrama.
There is petty greed, and a foolish belief that Royal status somehow entitles its holders to live in upholstered comfort.
Probably it is this belief that has made the Duke and Duchess of York so hopelessly gullible when they fall into the company of plausible businessmen.
Many of us have been offered goods for sale at suspiciously low prices. But in general, we grasp that the best thing to do is to smile politely and refuse to get involved.
Scandal: Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson who have been engulfed in a scandal surrounding their relationship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein
This basic wisdom seems to have eluded some minor Royal figures. Brought up in a pre-1914 dream of footmen, silver picnic-boxes and deference, or introduced to that world at an impressionable age, they are unfitted for brusque, cold, unsympathetic normality.
They shudder when they find themselves exposed to a world where bills are presented and must be paid, and where very large sums of money are needed to reproduce anything resembling the cosy conditions of Royal privilege.
It is no surprise that they are tempted when racy bankers and foreign potentates offer easy ways out.
But even so they ought to know better. The Queen herself long ago recognised that the Monarchy needed to become less grand if it was to survive at all. Alas, she does not seem to have communicated this good sense to many of the next generation. It is time she did, as forcefully as she can.
The Throne and its occupant do need to be surrounded and protected by a certain amount of grandeur, or they will lose respect and standing. So does the direct heir. But there is no need for minor Royals to have the same privileges.
They must understand that they will have to earn a living, and that smiling offers of help can swiftly turn into angry frowns and demands for payment in cash or, worse, in kind.
Auditing the auditorsIf we need a body to monitor public spending and keep it low – and we do – shouldn’t it set an example of puritan probity when it comes to its own chief?
Living in London is costly, which is why so many people spend large sums on long-distance commuting. But they pay for it themselves.
Eugene Sullivan, chief executive of the Audit Commission, should write himself a stiff letter, pointing out that public servants should never forget that their salaries and perks come from the pockets of the poor.
As they claim their expenses, they should imagine that they are submitting them to a struggling young family barely able to afford payments on a house and a car.
A less than shining lightWilliam Blake rightly said: ‘He who would do good to another must do it in minute particulars: General good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite and flatterer.’
Could he have foreseen the behaviour of the recycled Communist apparatchik Andris Piebalgs, who has decreed the EU’s infuriating lightbulb regulations, supposedly for the general good – but whose own lights are left on when he goes away?