The last English king to claim a divine right to rule had his head chopped off by religious fanatics. Now the young royals don't want the job they are obliged to do. Do they fear a repeat performance in our suddenly shaky world?

It seems weird to warm to the words of Prince Harry, who says being monarch is a job nobody wants today. Royalty's role until now has been to serve stoically, setting aside personal preferences, and if nothing else to be a symbol of constancy and the last serious wearers of hats.

I adored the Queen Mother's lavish headfuls of pastel-coloured fluff, for which millions of ostriches died, sadly oblivious to the honour. The current Queen's taste is sometimes rather dour, but nonetheless her public hatted appearances remind us that not very long ago it was perfectly normal for women to doll themselves up like that to go to church on Sundays.

The Windsor men have to resort to military gear to impress, and those wonderful tailored morning suits that make you think of PG Wodehouse's Jeeves, the clever butler who would have made sure their diamond tie studs sparkled, and the gravy stains were delicately washed off their silk ties.


Cursed with premature balding, how they must wish they could discreetly cover it up under a natty bowler hat - but who wears those nowadays? They can't even shave their remaining hair off like other balding men now do, in the vain belief that we can't see through the strategy. The media would be merciless.

Harry sounds sane, with his claim that he'd do his own shopping if he were king, though I wish he'd added that he'd also do his own washing. I like a man who knows which button on a washing machine to press to make it go. One of life's greater mysteries is how many men manage to drive cars, run motor mowers and speedboats, even programme computers and use electric razors, yet play dumb when faced with a basket of dirty laundry or an oven.

An aristocrat never actually has to press the button on anything himself, which is what we call privilege, but in royalty's case it must be more like living in a well-appointed open prison. Who could envy being born into their Truman Show life? Merely by accident of birth they are media fodder, when they might be happier running delicatessens.

Harry has talked about the torture of having to walk behind his dead mother's coffin to her funeral, knowing that the eyes of millions were watching, all over the world. That was cruel. He's right. And the death of their Mountbatten relatives, killed by an IRA bomb, must make the young royals aware that any lunatic in a world of lunatics could be planning to kill them for the kudos.

We don't choose the families we're born into, and may not even like them. Elder abuse is what we now call the variety of ways in which offspring can make the lives of their vulnerable old parents miserable. Neglect seems benign compared with the behaviour of Colleen Warin, an accountant successfully sued by her parents recently to recover $367,000 she borrowed from them and failed to repay, but she would not be alone in abusing trust within a family.

I'm sure children play private records in their own heads that justify their cause. Their parents are doddery and don't need it, could be one of them, set to a jaunty tune, or maybe they just never liked each other. Put to the test of having power of attorney over their parents' financial affairs, people seem able to steal from them as if they never had a conscience.

And that is one reason why the idea of legalised euthanasia worries me.
It would be to many people's advantage to encourage their doddery parents to agree to put themselves down like old cats at the vet's, so they'd inherit their wealth before it was chewed up by rest home fees.

That will become even more of an anxiety for families now that the granny farming corporates say they'll make the elderly pay for the difference between their workers' previously pathetic pay scale, and their more realistic new one.


Don't fall for the line that nobody would or could do such a thing. The unscrupulous, once that door opens, will believe they have a divine right to off their parents, and persuade themselves that they're doing a kindness.

After all, a frail elderly parent is really no more than an incontinent old cat that has become a nuisance. Or so the argument goes.

Rosemary McLeod is a journalist and author.