- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2005

It was France’s King Louis XIV who said: “Apres moi, le deluge [After me, the flood].” The 17th-century monarch was right. A century later came the French Revolution, the beheading of Louis XVI, Robespierre’s Reign of Terror and a dozen years of European wars.

I don’t predict such a regicidal climax for Great Britain. However, in light of the consistently irresponsible (would it be lese majeste to use the adjective “stupid”?) behavior of the offspring of Queen Elizabeth II and probable successors to her throne, one could suggest the Prince of Wales, his mistress and his sons really ought to abdicate and go off to some Pacific island paradise and frolic there. It’s time for an end to what Malcolm Muggeridge called “the Royal soap opera.”

What has fired up this recommendation is the latest misbehavior of the Royals, “ermined twits” in Philip Larkin’s memorable phrase. I refer to Prince Harry’s swastika-banded left sleeve which has raised a storm in Britain. Even an unermined twit like P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster would have known better than to trample on the sensitivities of the British people who suffered through World War II.

What the Harry incident reveals is that the Windsors really instilled no political consciousness or a sense of history in their children and grandchildren. Had Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, been taught by his father, the Prince of Wales, and by his teachers that the swastika was the hated symbol of a regime which almost bombed London into rubble, a regime that wiped out some 6 million Jews and countless Roma people I doubt he would have worn a swastika armband and an Afrika Korps uniform to a costume party.

What did Prince Harry, son of Princess Diana, learn at Eton? What did he learn from his father or from his Buckingham Palace grandparents? Little of importance.

Obviously he did not know that on Jan. 27 his grandmother is holding a 60th anniversary reception at St. James’ Palace for some Auschwitz death camp survivors and some of the British soldiers who liberated them.

Something has gone radically wrong with the British royals. The institution, which did enlist the loyalties of the British public, has behaved over the years in keeping with the description of Walter Bagehot, the 19th century editor and political theorist. In what is still considered one of the basic texts on the unwritten British constitution, Bagehot described the Monarchy as a “dignified part” of the constitution, that it “excite and preserve the reverence of the population in comparison to the “efficient parts” by whom it in fact works and rules.”

Bagehot sets out four roles for the monarchy: as an “intelligible part of the Constitution” for the average citizen, as a symbolic head of Britain, as a means of “strengthening government with force of religion” — and as “head of Britain’s morality.” I doubt Prince Harry ever heard of Bagehot.

“Like all the best families,” Queen Elizabeth II has been quoted as saying, “we have our share of eccentricities, of impetuous and wayward youngsters and of family disagreements.” But no other “best families” have such privileges, so much income (the queen is reputed to be a billionaire) and, unfortunately for this “best” family, such demanding standards of behavior that are regularly flouted by so many of the “best” family members.

While a royalist public may forgive with a shrug the extramarital excursions of a prince or the bared bosom of a Duchess (I think of Fergie) it is not easy to forgive the impulsive inanity of a young man who should have known better than to make light of the sacrifice of 400,000 military and civilian British dead in World War II, killed at the orders of Adolf Hitler, who also wore the swastika on his left arm.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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