Put not your trust in woke princes
The royal family will need to show courage to survive
‘Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because, as has been said, it is the quality which guarantees all others.’
This is perhaps the best of all Winston Churchill quotes, and from what I understand, he might even have said it, unlike so many others.
Courage is what won the royal family the game of thrones in the first place. Their ancestor Alfred had the courage to take on the Vikings and endure great hardship; their ancestor William had the audacity to cross the most perilous of seas and conquer a kingdom; their ancestor Henry Tudor had the bravery to take the crown, having survived while all those around him fell.
Those rulers who lacked courage generally had unhappy endings, and overt acts of cowardice or submission have rarely ended well. The two most stand-out cases involve ancestors of the Prince of Wales; the first, Ethelred II, who ruled over the turn of the first millennium and responded to renewed Viking attacks by handing over increasingly large sums of silver. The result, as Rudyard Kipling famously recounted, was that he never got rid of the Dane.
Almost as famous was the action of another royal ancestor, Charles I, whose career, as we know, ended rather badly. Charles’s adviser Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, had been deeply unpopular with the king’s many enemies, and in a mistaken belief that it would placate them, Charles agreed to their demands for his execution. Having assured his friend that he ‘should not suffer in his person, honour or fortune’, the king sacrificed his friend to appease his enemies.
Strafford’s reproach came from the Psalm that he was reading on the morning of the news: ‘O put not your trust in Princes, nor in any child of man; for there is no help in them.’
Wise words, and ones that must resonate with Lady Hussey, former lady-in-waiting, Woman of the Bedchamber and Lady of the Household, among the various quaint titles attached to service in the royal family.
That was until last week, when she was brushed aside following one of those frequent non-stories that has become a familiar feature of ‘the discourse’.
Most of you will already have read about the incident: a charity worker called Ngozi Fulani posted about how she had been insulted at a Buckingham Palace party by a woman who had continually asked ‘where do you really come from, where do your people come from’.
She believed the woman was trying to make her feel ‘unwelcome’ in her ‘own space’, and wrote: ‘It was prolonged racism. It was like an interrogation. This wasn't just a few seconds, it was concerted over several minutes. It felt, as three black women, that we were trespassers, that we were not welcome or accepted as British'.
The woman in question was 83-year-old Lady Hussey, the late Queen’s most senior Lady in Waiting and nicknamed Her Majesty's 'Number One Head Girl' by royal staff.
Lady Hussey was ruthlessly removed, and the palace stated that the questioning was ‘unacceptable and deeply regrettable’. A spokesman said: ‘We take this incident extremely seriously and have investigated immediately to establish the full details. In this instance, unacceptable and deeply regrettable comments have been made. We have reached out to Ngozi Fulani on this matter, and are inviting her to discuss all elements of her experience in person if she wishes.
‘In the meantime, the individual concerned would like to express her profound apologies for the hurt caused and has stepped aside from her honorary role with immediate effect. All members of the Household are being reminded of the diversity and inclusivity policies which they are required to uphold at all times.’
Prince William, Lady Hussey’s godson, released a statement saying that ‘racism has no place in our society’, implicitly condemning the old woman. As Sebastian Milbank wrote in the Daily Telegraph: ‘Now Lady Hussey will be robbed of her dignity and her name will be synonymous with racism for the remainder of her old age.’
Put not your trust in princes.
The Strafford analogy was made by Niall Gooch at UnHerd. (rather annoyingly as I was working on this piece, but great minds think alike and fools seldom differ). Niall wrote that while the comparison might be absurd, ‘yet I wonder whether there might be a germ of a lesson there for our new King.’
Lady Hussey is an intimate member of the old elite; one brother is an earl, the other a former Tory cabinet minister, while her late husband was Chairman of the Board of Governors of the BBC. She comes from that section of British society which unwaveringly holds up the House of Windsor, both practically and morally, and no royal dynasty has ever been able to rule without the support of the aristocracy and the acquiescence, at least, of the urban middle class. In return they expect protection.
So, while the royals were ruthless towards Lady Hussey, her treatment also sends a message to the rest of society: if we do this to someone like her, one of us, the same thing can certainly happen to any of you.