All very cute, but our sycophancy is outdated

OPINION: What are the royals, but celebrities?

DAVE ARMSTRONG
Last updated 05:00 14/04/2014
prince william waves
FAIRFAX NZ

CELEBRITY SPOTTING? Prince Williams waves to people in Christchurch.

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OPINION: During royal tours I think that if sycophancy was an Olympic event then New Zealand would be a medal prospect. MPs with stunningly low profiles suddenly tweet their excitement at meeting the royal couple and provide intimate details about what they’re wearing. 

Normally informative ‘‘hard news’’ media outlets bombard us with details about Prince George’s ‘‘kingly qualities’’ and what beautiful clothes Kate is wearing. Did you know that she wears dresses that not only look stunning but allow her to crawl around on the floor with Prince George? How fascinating.  Even Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report, renamed Fawning Report by journalist Finlay Macdonald, breathlessly updates us on royal progress.  

 New Zealand has a proud history of sucking up to the monarchy, and though republicans like myself are ever-hopeful that it will stop, who are we trying to kid?

 Not that I’ve got anything against the royals personally.

 Prince William seems an affable chap, just like his Dad.

 He has a good sense of humour and is not gaffe-prone like his grandfather. Mind you, if you’re a royal in New Zealand, you only have to make a mildly amusing quip and everyone in the room will slap their thighs and fall about laughing like you’re Chris Rock on a good day.

Kiwis also fawn over visiting pop stars and celebrities, but at least those visitors have actually achieved something, however trivial. They have not simply been born into fame and fortune as the royals have. 

Yes, I know how hard the royal family works for charities, but how many New Zealanders actually believe that the Windsors are superior to the rest of us because they have been chosen by God?

 If you read the fine print, that is what the monarchy is really all about.  Most Kiwis don’t rationalise and simply enjoy the pomp and glamour drummed up by the tabloid media, which in the case of a royal visit is the entire media. 

Besides, the English monarchy is relatively benevolent and plays little part in our daily politics, though the treacherous dismissal of the Australian Labor government by the governor-general in 1975 should serve as a warning to all antipodeans with democratic tendencies.

Even that royal butt-kisser extraordinaire, John Key, has said that it is inevitable that New Zealand will become a republic one day, though he is obviously in no hurry with such a popular couple visiting in election year.

 Son of Irish immigrants Jim Bolger made the first courageous call for a republic back in the 1990s. I suspect that call helped him lose his job. Helen Clark was also a closet republican, but didn’t have the courage to act, apart from New Zealandising the archaic honours system. 

Key promptly brought back knighthoods, which satisfied our insatiable colonial appetite for royal sycophancy. He recently said that he thinks New Zealanders have swung back to ‘‘80 per cent opposed’’ to a republic. Yet recent polls show a more even balance and one that surveyed younger people found majority support for a New Zealand head of state.  

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Though Prince William is beloved by New Zealanders for his buzzy-bee antics while a baby, and the pleasant Kate is a stunning clotheshorse, it is Prince George who is the real star of this tour. As his Plunket play date revealed, he is a cutie. 

But take a walk through any poor Wellington suburb and you’ll see equally adorable infants. The difference is that the parents of these kids may be labelled ‘‘bludgers’’ on the ‘‘nanny state’’ if they receive welfare, by the very people who are making such a fuss of bonnie Prince George, whose nanny happens to be paid for by the state.  

I don’t know if George has thespian aspirations like his great-uncle Edward, but perhaps in a few years’ time Sir Peter Jackson, having met the royals while showing them around his Aviation Heritage Centre at Omaka, could consider a remake of that fantastic 1930s movie The Prince and the Pauper, where the two characters switch places. Prince George already has film star looks, and I’m sure there are thousands of cute Kiwi children, currently wondering whether they'll get breakfast tomorrow, who could audition for the other part.

- Wellington

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