“I’ll get you a drink, Mum” said my 9 year old lad. This being the rare occasion of an offer, I allowed the boy to make me a brew of my favourite Lancashire meets Yorkshire concoction (Manchester’s Vimto with a splash of lemonade from Huddersfield Aldi.) “And I’m going to choose you a nice mug,” he prattled on. “Yes – this one will do. The one with Hillary Clinton on it.”
“Hilary Clinton?” I remarked. “We definitely don’t have any mugs with Hillary Clinton on them.”
“Yes we do,” he replied. And pointed to my 1981 Royal Wedding mug (bought as a joke last week from a charity shop. Honestly.)
“That’s Princess Diana,” I told him. “And how the heck you can mix her up with Hillary Clinton, is beyond me.”
“Same thing,” he just shrugged at me. “They’re both posh, rich women and I’m not interested in them.”
This response was uncannily like the reaction that I was faced with some 20 years ago in an Edinburgh hotel. I was surrounded by lots of anti-royal hard-leftist Scots, when I heard the news that Princess Di had been killed.
I mean, fair enough – I’m not going to knock my son for having already formulated his own opinions on the great and the so-called good. But as a responsible parent, I did feel it important to point out the fact that Princess Diana was still – even today – a highly respected and admired figure by many. “So, when she was killed,” I said, “oh, it’s …it’s hard to put this into words really. But the shock and the grief by most of the British public was … just overwhelming. She was seen as ‘the people’s princess, you see.”
At this point, my 12 year old daughter entered the kitchen. Sadly, my words didn’t seem to have their desired socio-historical effect on either of the offspring;
9 yr old; So is that why Donald Trump had her killed? ‘Cause everyone liked her? And no one liked him.”
Me: What on earth are you on about? Donald Trump hasn’t killed anyone in the Royal Family.
9 yr old: So… who killed that John F Kennedy, then?
12 yr old: Or was it the one that just retired, what did it? What killed her.
Me: Who? Oh – you mean Prince Philip. Yes, he’s just retired. But no – Trump and John F Kennedy – they’re American. Presidents. Not British royalty. Sheesh.
9 yr old: So who’s Prince Philip?
Me: Oh for…. Are you kidding me? What is WRONG with you kids? I mean, I know you’re not really going to get taught much about the Royals in this family but … don’t school teach you this sort of thing? So… you know who JFK is? Well. Sort of. But not our own Prince Philip … I mean – Prince Philip! He’s married to the Queen!
9 yr old: Is the Queen … Teresa May?
12 yr old: Durrr. No. Teresa May just *thinks* she’s the Queen.
9 yr old: Anyway. Dad hates them all.
12 yr old: Yeah. He says they should all be abolished, the royal family. It makes Grandma really cross.
Me: Well, I’m sure that Dad would change his mind if someone offered him a knighthood. But… (deciding to try and foster my children’s educational debating skills etc.) Well, let’s think about the positive aspects that the monarchy brings to Britain, yeah? Tourism, for example. And lots of people really like Prince Charles … and are looking forward to some change.
9 yr old: Who’s he?
12 yr old: DO YOU NOT KNOW ANYTHING? About anything? You’re unbelievable! Like…. the other day when you went round telling people that you had ‘cancer’ because it sounded like ‘eczema.’
9 yr old: But it does! It ends in ‘ah’.
Me: (to 12 yr old) Well, you can talk. You confused ‘mozzarella’ with ‘marzipan’ the other day.
12 yr old: No… that was ‘parmesan.’ I think. Anyway – that isn’t as bad as him getting Ed Sheeran confused with Bobby Charlton.
Me: Yes. That was just surreal. But anyway. Prince Charles will be our next king. There’s a new TV programme on about it. I must record it.
12 yr old: I like how you always pretend you’re not bothered about the royals, but then you want to watch TV programmes about them! And you won’t let Dad throw out your old thimble in the cabinet… And I’ve seen those letters you got from Buckingham Palace and had Grandad get them framed for you – when you wrote to Charles and Diana some sort of crawly bum-lick ‘I love you and hope you have a happy wedding’ card sort of thing.
Me: I was NINE! NINE when I wrote to Buckingham Palace!
9 yr old: That’s how I old I am! Eeeww.. You were not-cool, Mum.
12 yr old: Definitely. Not cool. Writing to royal people! Tragic.
9 yr old: Anyway. Who’s Prince Charles married to? Is it Hillary Clinton? Or did Trump have her killed? It’s very confusing, all of this.