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Will future generations call them caring Royals?

Byline: Dan O'Neill

IALWAYS knew a brush with royalty could cure stringwarts, halitosis and maybe ingrowing toenails, but that's nothing compared to what it's done for the former Miss Middleton, our future Queen (wanna bet?).

There she was, dismissively derided as Waitie Katie by Fleet Street's finest but now, a duchess no less.

She's the archetypal ugly duckling turned to swooningly radiant swan.

Meanwhile, little sister Pippa has been officially anointed Most Eligible Woman On Earth not only because she waggles a quite becoming backside but, more importantly, because she's the sister of Our Future Queen (again, wanna bet?).

Now the Fleet Street sisterhood have turned Waitie Katie into Caring Kate, that word "caring" used so much I thought it was her first name.

But then, ALL royals are caring, aren't they? That's what the tabloids tell us. But tomorrow night a Channel Four programme, The Queen's Hidden Cousins, promises to emphatically contradict that notion.

It will, I hope, blow the gaff on the treatment of the Queen Mother's relatives Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon, dumped into an institution in 1941 when aged 15 and 22 and, say ancient nurses who worked there, left to rot.

They had a mental age of six which, given the behaviour of some of the Royals over the years, makes me wonder why more of the family didn't join them.

The caring Queen Mum never visited them but there was a precedent for leaving mentally disabled relatives to suffer in silence. Her husband's youngest brother Prince John was an epileptic and also suffered mental health problems.

So he was bunged into a cottage on the Sandringham estate and cared for by a nanny until he died in 1919 aged 13.

During the last years of his tragic life his parents George V and Queen Mary never went to see him and his eldest brother the Prince of Wales wrote to a mistress: "He was more of an animal than anything else. That I should be plunged into mourning for this."

In the words of one commentator, John was "airbrushed out of history". Another royal cover-up.

The moral of this story is: do not believe all you read about the caring Royals. Instead, hang on for 30 years and get the facts.

But for a prime example of how we were - and continue to be - conned by the myth of monarchy, come with me to Cardiff on September 17, 1890. Flags are flying, bands playing, oxen slowly roasting in Mount Stuart Square. All in honour of a visitor who, as far as the townsfolk are concerned, might just have stepped down from Olympus.

Enter Prince Albert Christian Edward, "a pale young man of 26", here to open the bridge across the Taff called Clarence Bridge in recognition of his title, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. They named a pub after the other half - the Avondale.

The Echo described him as "a tall Englishman with top hat, a long frock coat with the top button negligently unfastened and a broad white tie with a glittering diamond pin".

We could see him as the Prince William of his time: grandson of a Queen - Victoria - and son of a man who lived a life of unparalleled luxury. Ring any bells? Like William, Eddy was called upon to do the ribbon-snipping rounds but let's hope the similarities stop there.

The town turned out to cheer this paragon, a rare and exotic visitor, so remote in those distant days was royalty. They gazed in wonder at his carriage pulled by four grey horses manned by red-coated postillions, they shinned up lampposts for a glimpse of this godlike figure and some shelled out 7s 6d for seats on specially-erected platforms.

No-one dreamed, of course, that popular gossip would link Eddy to the Jack the Ripper savagery that terrorised London two years earlier.

Nor that the chattering classes would also speculate that he was suffering from syphilis and claim him to be a bisexual frequenter of male brothels with an IQ on a level with the Queen Mother's cousins.

When he died in January 1892, fortuitously for the future of the monarchy, George Fardo, Cardiff postmaster and poet, showed us how society had formed a particular view of him.

George wrote: "Princely in feature, figure, action form and face; in habits frugal and discreet; modest and diffident; endow'd with every grace, with his devoted Grandsire's attributes replete."

History tells us that George may have been wrong. I wish I was around to see what history makes of the present bunch.

NOW HAVE YOUR SAY Do you agree with Dan? email


* Miss Middleton has gone from Waitie Katie to a duchess thanks to her royal marriage
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 16, 2011
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