13 December 2010


Last week isn't the first time that useless royals have been caught by the anger of the people while on official business on the streets of London.

Back in January 1817,  the then Prince Regent, later George IV, a syphilitic fat alchoholic wastrel, was sitting in his carriage on his way to open parliament when he came under attack from a crowd of London citizens – and the window of his carriage was shattered by a missile. It was probably a stone or a potato, but it might have been a bullet: the papers chose the last. Media hysteria about even low-level anti-monarchist violence is nothing new.

The Prince Regent, heir to the throne, was almost universally reviled, not least because of the way he had treated Princess Caroline, his bright and sexy wife, whom he had disowned to consort with third-rate tarts. The people of his mad father's kingdom were sick of war and its aftermath – a disastrous economic slump. The context for the mobbing of his carriage was an extraodinary  popular revolt (some would say by the emergent working class) against the incompetence and venality of the largely aristocratic ruling establishment. The people saw the monarchy as a conspiracy of exploitative dunces and parasites.

Ring a bell? The bad news is that the then Tory government used the assault on the Prince Regent as an excuse to clamp down big-time on dissent  – it pushed through the notorious Gag Acts, which suspended habeus corpus  and effectively made it illegal to organise public meetings, political parties or trade unions.

The good news is that the 1817 mob – and the fear of it among the ruling class – forced the pace on reform over the next 20 years. The people didn't get all they wanted, but their agitation for a free press, universal suffrage and religious tolerance was not in vain.

Camilla got poked with a stick? My heart bleeds. She and Charles are lucky that the mob showed the "enormous restraint" attributed to the cops. They could have been strung up, and they should praise the Lord that they weren't. Next time, maybe.

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