If you hate articles about the royal family, written by craven lackeys, don’t read this

Patrick Freyne: Royalty takes a lot of interpreting. Luckily, The Irish Times has me

Royal baby: Prince Archie with his parents, Meghan and Harry. Photograph: Shutterstock/Channel 4

Royal baby: Prince Archie with his parents, Meghan and Harry. Photograph: Shutterstock/Channel 4

 

The title of Channel 4’s A Very Royal Baby: from Cradle to Crown (Wednesday) suggests that there has only ever been the one Royal Baby, a mythical panhistorical character who appears in every generation, much like Doctor Who or Micheál Martin. There have, in fact, been 26 royal babies during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, though they might as well be the same baby, as babies are – no offence to any babies reading this – basically interchangeable.

As you know, royalists are off their gourds on royal guff, and everyone gets drunk on babies, so this show is a particularly heady concoction. I wouldn’t drive after watching if I were a Briton, for fear I’d accidentally drive to France and stick a proprietorial flag on it.

In the clips at the start of the show, various people say things like “Royal babies always deliver the drama” and “Royal babies unify the country,” suggesting that royal infants are both messy bitches who live for drama and providers of constitutional cover for separatist agendas.

This is the first Royal Baby who has, one pundit tells us, a chance of becoming both monarch and US president. Though that will require serious campaign financing and a killing spree of others closer in line to the throne

But my favourite line is “Royal babies are just massive,” because it causes me to picture a huge Royal Baby stomping around London like Godzilla, until that sentence finishes with the word “assets”. Yes, the line is actually “Royal babies are just massive, massive assets,” which is disappointing.

The newest Royal Baby, soothsayers claim, will emerge in the United States – or, if you like, the New World or the East Indies (as real pre-1492 royalists call it) – later this year. This new Royal Baby, we are told with a slight hint of distaste, will be “a California girl”. Furthermore, the gender of this baby was announced to the world in an interview with Oprah, the ruler of the Americans, and not by Nicholas Witchell climbing atop the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, rending his garments and then howling at the firmament, as is tradition.

It’s not all bad. This is the first Royal Baby who has, one pundit tells us, a chance of becoming both monarch and US president. Though, in fairness, that will require serious campaign financing (see: Oprah) and a killing spree of others closer in line to the throne (see: royals through history) and probably a montage in which the Royal Baby goes to a mall dressed like a pearly king, saying “Lawks, guvnor,” and leaves it in a baseball cap, varsity jacket and “sneakers”, saying “Gee willikers! I’m a Yankee doodle dandy!”

This is a lot of ambition to project on someone still in utero, but royals are not like you and me. The egg of the Royal Baby is gestated not within a private womb in a private home but within a complex ecosystem of butlers, corgis, photographers and sycophants. Then it’s more or less exhibited in a public hatchery (until the birth of Prince Charles all royal births were literally attended by the home secretary) before being fed upon the most succulent p(h)easant.

It’s understandable if you, a truth-speaking republican, dislike articles about the royals written by craven lackeys of empire. In that case, I advise you to tweet this link out to all your followers, urging them not to read it

The aforementioned courtiers are collectively called “royal watchers”. I, for example, am The Irish Times’ royal watcher and am supernaturally attuned to minor fluctuations in the humours of my aristocratic betters. Occasionally, to less attentive colleagues, I appear to be asleep, but I am in fact in a regal trance, and if you look carefully you can see that my hand is typing articles like this one. It’s understandable if you, a truth-speaking republican, dislike articles about the royals written by craven lackeys of empire. In that case, I advise you to tweet this link out to all of your followers, urging them in the strongest terms not to read it.

The rest of you know that royalty takes a lot of interpreting. If only these magnificent creatures could speak to us more directly with human words. Sadly, they cannot. And this is where “royal watchers” come in. They spend much of this documentary interpreting what different aristocrats possibly mean to say when they do things.

They make some leaps. One suggests that Prince Archie, son of Harry and Meghan, might secretly have as his godmother Oprah or Vanilla Ice or Alf or some other American celebrity. (They might have only mentioned Oprah.) Others say things like Kate’s choice of dress “is a tribute to her late mother-in-law” or “In these Instagram posts, Prince Harry is trying to tell us that Little Timmy has fallen down the old abandoned mine shaft. Where is he, boy? Good Prince Harry! Lead us to him!”

Hours of fun can be garnered from trying to figure out what royals mean to say when they aren’t saying anything. But the main thing I have learned from watching A Very Royal Baby is that, despite the way some of the professional royal watchers get sniffy about minor changes to tradition, the customs change constantly. They change whenever a princeling has a whim. I have clothes that are older than some of the traditions mentioned here. This is because the British have chosen for their national symbol, instead of a pile of shamrocks in a bowl, a very rich family, and very rich families generally do whatever the hell they like.

Some British people are not enamoured with the idea that these high-end grifters sit atop their nation state purely because of who their ancestors conquered. But this is post-Brexit 21st-century Britain we’re talking about, so abolishing the monarchy simply isn’t an option, and I can’t for the life of me think of any other way that things might change. Oh well. That’s that.

On a completely unrelated note, I would like to reveal that I am secretly the hated pretender Perkin Warbeck and an running a small crowd-funding campaign to raise an army. Yes, I have been the ultimate Royal Baby all along. A Very Royal Baby, if you will. Suffice it to say, I am massive.

Intergalactic, featuring some ropey special effects

You know what’s not massive but should be? Intergalactic (Friday, Sky One/Now TV). It features a motley crew of women convicts who commandeer a prison spaceship and then try to outrun a galaxy-wide police state. It’s basically Prisoner: Cell Block Space. It doesn’t seem promising at first, due to some ropey special effects and time-consuming scene setting. But it quickly develops the warm, gritty feel of space-operatic buddy dramas like Firefly or Farscape. It’s zippily scripted, well acted and entertainingly good fun in a slightly old-fashioned way. I can only assume the muted response is down to people expecting it to be something it’s not. Much like a Royal Baby.

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