Royal Bodies

Updated in time for the queen’s Platinum Jubilee, even more writing about the Firm – ‘as accident-prone as the Kennedys,’ Jonathan Meades writes in his piece from the new issue, ‘but not quite as royal’ – by Alan Bennett, Jenny Diski, Andrew O’Hagan, William Empson, Ferdinand Mount, Hilary Mantel, Tom Nairn, Glen Newey, Christopher Hitchens, Linda Colley, Jonathan Parry, Bee Wilson, E.S. Turner, Caroline Murphy, Paul Foot, Rosemary Hill, Thomas Jones, Gabriele Annan and David Cannadine. 

They recognise the swoon in a fawner’s eye, the brisk music of a colour sergeant’s bark. They are touched by the public’s fondness for plastic union flags in the drizzle. They believe that when it comes to Maundy alms, it’s the thought that counts. They appreciate the fealty of those maimed in the sovereign’s name who dutifully strive to give great forelock even if the stump can’t reach the hairline.

Story: ‘The Uncommon Reader’

Alan Bennett, 8 March 2007

At Windsor it was the evening of the state banquet and as the president of France took his place beside Her Majesty, the royal family formed up behind and the procession slowly moved off and...

Tunnel Vision: Princess Diana

Jenny Diski, 2 August 2007

I had​ supper with a friend on 31 August 1997. He arrived looking wonderstruck. ‘Are we just going to have dinner?’ he said.

‘Why, you think we should sit shiva?’


Utterly Oyster: Fergie-alike

Andrew O’Hagan, 12 August 2021

A good children’s writer makes children feel things without ever quite talking about feelings. They teach children how to read the world for signals of what is important and strange and valuable, but it never feels like a lesson and it always feels like something only children might really understand. Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex (presumably the title helps sales) has written a children’s book which is not for children at all, and possibly not for anyone.

The Queen and I

William Empson and John Haffenden, 26 November 1987

On 27 October 1954 the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the University of Sheffield in order to inaugurate its Jubilee Session. No other reigning sovereign had visited the principal...

Always the Same Dream: Princess Margaret

Ferdinand Mount, 4 January 2018

Only the hardest heart would repress a twitch of sympathy. To live on the receiving end of so much gush and so much abuse, to be simultaneously spoilt rotten and hopelessly infantilised, how well would any of us stand up to it?

Royal Bodies

Hilary Mantel, 21 February 2013

Our current royal family doesn’t have the difficulties in breeding that pandas do, but pandas and royal persons alike are expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment.

Ghosts in the Palace

Tom Nairn, 24 April 1997

The first British election ever without the Monarchy: is this not how it’s likely to be remembered? The Italian phrase for it is better than ours: perdere la bussola, the loss not merely of...

Diary: the Almanach de Gotha

Christopher Hitchens, 2 July 1998

In his memoirs, Claud Cockburn wrote about the occasional charm of things being just the way they’re supposed to be. Thus, the first time he went on the Orient Express he met a tempestuous...

Send them to Eton!

Linda Colley, 19 August 1993

The question is: what is the question? This summer has seen a bumper crop of books all ostensibly addressing the problems of the British monarchy. The blurbs have been in technicolour: ‘the...

Short Cuts: Harry Goes Rogue

Jonathan Parry, 6 February 2020

Can Harry develop a model of self-funded service which milks his status yet does genuine charitable good? It is an interesting question. But if he manages the trick what should we do? Should we continue to pay a licence fee for a ‘nationalised’ royal family, or should they pay their own way? This would be the ultimate victory for the neoliberal state.

Educating Georgie

E.S. Turner, 6 December 1984

According to Barbara Tuchman, quoted on the jacket, there is ‘a startling royal family scandal buried at the heart’ of this biography of Queen Mary. What steaming titbit can her...

Squidging about: Camilla and the sex-motherers

Caroline Murphy, 22 January 2004

Aaron Barschak, who gatecrashed Prince William’s 21st birthday party last year, says the question he is most often asked is: ‘What was Camilla Parker Bowles like?’ He could do...

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences