Not our Olivia Colman, not her too. She, who the supercilious High Tory Charles Moore disdains for her ‘distinctly working class face’, she, who plays everyday lives with such luminosity and intensity, she, who is never pompous or dour, always warm, now confesses that she has become ‘completely obsessed with the Queen…become a lefty Monarchist’. And all because she plays Elizabeth 1 in the blockbuster Netflicks series The Crown and while preparing for the part, got to go into the palaces and even meet Her Maj, inherently pompous, increasingly dour, cold and unabashedly entitled. This is method acting gone demented.
We’ve seen it before. Many, many times. Helen Mirren played the Queen in a movie and decided that though she didn’t care for the other royals, she had become a ‘queenist’. Mirren’s dad was a Russian immigrant taxi driver, she herself cares deeply about the immoral arms trade and about innocent child victims of conflicts. Call me dumb, but I can’t understand how you can fight for such causes and still develop a crush on an unelected head of state who expects to be paid millions of pounds from the public purse and has never spoken out for the dispossessed of this or any other nation, who accepts gifts from murderous leaders. (I know she is old and that she embodies key historical transformations over the decades. For that she deserves some respect. But not unconditional worship.)
Why do such super-talented, self-made women submit abjectly, unthinkingly to the icon of inherited privilege? It could be all those class-ridden fairy tales they were subjected to in childhood, those tiaras! those gowns! . And, also, exceedingly effective manipulation by state operators, the upper classes, and our obsequies royalist media.
Lifelong socialists are just as malleable, too many easily co-opted and tamed by the establishment. I remember that excruciating moment in 2010, when the legendary actress Vanessa Redgrave, the fiery prophetess of the far left, prostrated herself before Prince William, a young man who had achieved nothing and probably had never even dressed himself. Give them access, medals, make them knights and dames and these comrades fast drop all scepticism, resistance and revolutionary zeal. As one such turncoat, (CBE) previously a member of the Socialist Worker’s Party, said to me after collecting his medal at the palace: ‘I’m just so over my republicanism. Grew out of it, as one does.’ This one never has.
OK time to come clean. I, a lifelong socialist, also accepted an honour, went to the palace, met the Queen, who said something chatty about hearing me on Woman’s Hour. No, it wasn’t a moment I will always remember. I look back and consider that to be one of the most shameful choices I have ever made in my life. It was a betrayal of my beliefs. So why? You may rightly ask. Because it made my mum happy and I thought ( briefly and wrongly) that it affirmed me in some glorious way. I returned the medal when we went to war in Iraq- but that does not restore honour to my dishonourable surrender to an unjustifiable monarchical system.
The Crown on screen and our ghastly royals are addictive, compelling. Through them, inequality and unfairness are institutionalised, making ours a sham democracy. Darling luvvies like Colman need to wise up. Lefty monarchism is an oxymoron. You can’t be both. Obvious innit?
i Newspaper, October 2019