Book Review from the January 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Royals By Kitty Kelly. Warner Books, 1997.
There is a succinct quote in Kelley's new work which she attributes to a reporter writing on "The Firm" after Fergie's arrival on the scene: "Covering the royal family is like riding down a sewer in a glass bottomed boat." Indeed, sewage is all any decent study of the royal family would uncover and if the interested individual wishes to have their royal prejudices confirmed, this is the book to read.
In 500 pages, Kelley traces the royals from the timely name-change in 1917 (from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor) to the aftermath of the Charles-Diana split-up, en route pulling no punches in showing them to be the decrepit and outmoded institution they always have been and lambasting, without compunction, all of the main royal protagonists this century.
Recounting tales from emotional starvation to buggery and other sexual excesses, and questioning much royal parentage, Kelley shows herself to be as indifferent to the feelings of the royals as the latter are to their kin and their subjects. What Kelley exposes is a family no more fit to "rule" than the mentally retarded offspring they have surreptitiously had hidden from public view; a family obsessed with wealth, sex and privilege who will go to any lengths to maintain the same, from secret deals with Hitler to phone-tapping and media prosecutions. A family peopled by the racialist, the arrogant, the conceited, the pompous, the ill-mannered, sad and pathetic.
Humour abounds, from Lady Rothchild's claim that "we need to protect the royals from themselves", to a quote from Bernard Shaw describing them as "ruling by hallucination". And Kelley herself brings a smile to our lips, for instance, when she asserts that (at the time of the Charles-Diana wedding) "Britons needed to believe in the fairy tale to distance themselves from the awful reality of inner-city riots, IRA bombings and widespread unemployment".
Critics of Kelley's book, and they are legion, have suggested much of its content is hearsay and unsubstantiated but if only a fraction of what she claims were to be true then The Firm has a difficult time ahead.
The book is yet to be published this side of the Atlantic - most publishers fearing an expensive law suit - and it has received hardly any reviews. For the anti-royalist, this book is a treasure-trove. For the socialist, just another chapter in our Grand Remonstrance against capitalism. Though The Royals stands as an indictment of monarchy, their end will be no real cause for celebration. "A few less parasites on our backs" means simply that, altering not one iota the fact that we would continue to exist in a republic as wage slaves.