I’d never heard her speak. I didn’t know what she did. I thought she was a mysterious cloud of Talcum Powder that followed Prince Charles around. Then she did something interesting. I turned on the television to see her holding a gun. My first thought - "Wow, Clint Eastwood’s grown his hair and made another Dirty Harry" - proved to be more plausible than the reality.
Camilla was hanging out on the set of her favourite TV show, Danish police drama The Killing, with its star Sofie Gråbøl, who gave her a replica of the character Sarah Lund’s famous woolly jumper. Because that’s what the Royal Family do these days. They go to premieres. They dine with movie stars. They train with sporting heroes. The Divine Right of Kings used to assert that a monarchy was subject to no earthly authority. Now, they are a family whose bloodline was selected by God to exist inside a never-ending episode of Jim’ll Fix It.
It was a considerable PR coup for the Royals. They’ve finally realised that in this age of celebrity reverence nobody is interested in who does what for charity. To make us like them they have to give us what we want. And we want glamour. We want to project our hopes and dreams onto the rich and famous as they do exciting things.
We are a nation of people who get up to put the kettle on during the bits of Children in Need set in Africa. We are a nation of people who rush back to the sofa with a boiling hot cup of tea because James Corden is going to take his top off in front of David Beckham. Princess Anne ruffling the hair of a landmine victim is boring. But Prince Harry pretending to race Usain Bolt? Yes, there’s a use of taxpayer’s money we can get behind. Prince Charles pointing at a poorly cow? Rubbish, we can’t relate to that. Give us Prince William fist-bumping Dizzee Rascal.
This is what’s being sold as the ‘cool new face’ of the Royal Family. At least, that’s how it’s described by Royal correspondents, the gaggle of braying wonks whose job it is to follow the Royal Family around looking for signs that Kate Middleton is in fact an angel (she hugs poorly children, she smiles when she’s happy, she will happily wear any old shit she finds in the sales at Primark). Of course in truth the Royal Family will never be cool. You can staple hooves to the feet of a dog, but it will never be a horse. In this case it will look a bit like a horse, but it will still not be a horse.
This PR onslaught looks set to continue as it is, somehow, making a group of people whose lives bear as much resemblance to that of the public’s as Bono’s does to a mallard’s seem that tiny bit more… accessible, even though what they’re actually doing is completely inaccessible for the vast majority of people. I’m personally excited about the inevitable strategic leak of grainy camera phone footage showing Princess Beatrice rummaging around inside Dappy’s pants like she’s apple bobbing.
Anything that needs a PR machine needs a PR machine for a reason. Without it, they cannot relate to the public. Prince Andrew taking part in a Zumba flashmob with the cast of sodding EastEnders should not convince you otherwise.
*David Whitehouse is a journalist and author. More of his work can be found on bydavidwhitehouse.com.