Even now and then, representatives from the Socialist Workers’ Party visit my campus to sell their literature and distribute flyers for their upcoming events. I recall buying a copy of the Socialist Worker in 2014 and reading it in the library, coming across a short column that I have never forgotten.
The pseudonymous columnist noted the vast number of gifts that foreign donors had passed on to the young Prince George of Cambridge, the third in line to the British throne. Some gifts were exotic and obscure, including “a decorated kangaroo skin, a possum skin cloak, a boat and a leather flying jacket.” The author wished to submit a gift of their own: “a small guillotine.”
Since reading this, I have not purchased another copy. I could tolerate the subject of the remark. For performing mostly ceremonial roles that haven’t changed in years, the British Royal Family possesses a supreme fortune and estate and takes plenty of its “income” from the British taxpayer. The palaces, the extraordinary wealth, the luxurious state dinners and the fawning foreign dignitaries are all dated elements of a distant past, where the monarchy held substantial political power over their subjects. Their presence stands in contradiction to the liberal, democratic values of our time.
(All this being the case, do Her Majesty and her kin really cause that much damage to society? Is the question of the British monarchy really one of serious importance today? The Paradise Papers provided a rare moment for Her Majesty to make big news; ordinarily, the Windsors make the headlines for announcing engagements and weddings or showing their faces at national events. Not even the Leader of the Opposition would push his lifelong opposition to the monarchy into his party’s agenda. Better to just leave them to it while we sort out the plethora of pressing problems we currently have.)
I could have read on, but ‘The Troublemaker’ had just made a remark about executing a then-eighteen-month-old infant, still learning to walk and talk. It pushed the boundaries too far. The joke would never have featured anywhere else, about any other child; it was George’s being a Prince that somehow made it acceptable to put in print.
We seem to think that we can make any comment we like about the Windsor children in light of their regal heritage. Somehow a joke about killing an infant is excusable if the infant might one day wear a crown. (At least, I presume ’The Troublemaker’ was telling a joke in this instance, though guillotining the royals has been mentioned in the Socialist Worker on other occasions.) ‘The Troublemaker’ may have found it funny to joke about beheading an infant, but the children of the royal family are still children. It’s a horrible joke, whomever the subject, and there is nothing about the child’s royal background that makes a remark about killing him somehow appropriate.
Others have followed ‘The Troublemaker’ in bringing the younger royals into things. A Scottish Episcopal minister has recently encouraged his congregation (via a blog) to pray that Prince George is gay. The minister hoped that having a gay future King might lead to the Church of England taking a more accepting stance on same-sex marriage and relationships. What a bizarre method this minister has for achieving a change of opinion: hoping that a child realises a political objective that benefits the minister and those who shares his views. Rather than hoping the future king is of one sexuality, the minister ought to address why other people of faith pray that children do not grow up to be anything other than heterosexuals.
Praying for Prince George to grow up to be gay treats his life and personality as means to an end. It shows a dearth of concern for anything about his life other than what he could become and how it would suit our own preferences. His health, his personal development, what he might want to do in his life and with whom he’ll spend his time - all of these things, vital to any child’s upbringing - are forgotten. Does any parent quietly hope that their child might one day be this or that, so that the parent looks good to their future friends, or that other people see them and change their minds about something? I would have thought that they have unconditional love toward their children; I would also think that this is the real Christian attitude to take.
I see nothing in a child’s background, his family’s finances, his titles or where he lives that would let us reduce the worth we place on his life. Prince George’s royalty makes it no less wrong to build him into a political agenda nor to joke about his death. Royal children are children too and deserve just as much innocence and privacy as any other child. Argue all you want about whether to keep the monarchy, but leave the children out of it.