This is your captain speaking! This is an important message. Listen carefully. There is absolutely NO TRUTH in the rumour that this blog has been hi-jacked by mutineers masquerading as “guest bloggers”. My command remains unchallenged. For morale-boosting reassurance, uplifting martial music will now be played.

As for scurrilous suggestions that I have been sleeping at the wheel, or the joy stick or whatever gizmo it is that keeps this show on the road… Or on the runway. Or in the air. Or… Where was I? Ah, yes, in command, that’s it! And I have decided it’s time to cheer you lot up back there with some absolutely spiffing, top-notch in-flight entertainment, starting on a patriotic note – patriotic, that is, if you happen to be a traditionalist Brit who loves the monarchy.

Personally, I don’t, much. But I am as much a sucker for charming royal children as any reader of the flag-waving tabloids or Hello! magazine.

Prince George in shorts… with strange man!

Have you noticed, by the way, that where royal kids are concerned, everyone is allowed to be a paedophile? Britannia  magically waives the rules against fancying kids when it happens to be royal ones. They are public property, so we can all drool over their loveliness without fear of arrest. Celebrity ones too, I suppose, like the Beckham kids, albeit father David took flak recently for kissing his daughter on the lips. Usually the photos speak for themselves, so nothing about the illicit nature of the enthusiasm need be too verbally obvious.

Occasionally, though, one may spot a rare indiscretion, as in the recent commentary by Yahoo Style on the outfits worn by four-year-old Prince George. Whereas the Daily Mail concocted some dubious  blarney for the fact that the little Royal Highness is always dressed in shorts (“it’s a royal tradition”), the unnamed Yahoo fashion writer just blurts out the truth, in car-crash English but we get the point: “…he looks hella cute in them.” The article ends, “Tradition or not, we need no excuse to adore Prince George’s shorts.”

Here! Here!

That “hella” thing is a helluva mess from the word-mangling key-clacker (or I am just showing my age?), but they probably won’t be sacked for it. Unlike Wendy Henry, editor of the Sunday tabloid The People, whose treatment a generation ago of Prince George’s father in his short trousers days was more than indiscreet: these days anything similar might well precipitate investigation over indecent images of a child.

In the issue of 19 November 1989, Henry published a front-page photograph headlined “The Royal Wee”, showing Prince William, then aged seven, dressed in his school uniform –  including shorts – taking a leak. The photo was captioned “Willie’s Sly Pee in the Park”.

The photo was doubtless slyly taken, and it was surely not the only shot stolen by the impertinent paparazzo. The published image did not reveal the princely prong in all its majesty but others on the roll (as it would have been in those pre-digital days) could well have done. Who knows what incriminating evidence a police raid on the picture editor’s office might have yielded?

As far as I am aware, Henry was not investigated by the police, but her act of lèse–majesté was too much for the paper’s owner, Robert Maxwell, a man not noted for an excess of scruples. So, she had to go.

Prince William was in the news again last week, of course, along with brother Harry, in connection with their new documentary for ITV in commemoration of their mother Princess Dianna, marking the 20th anniversary of her death in a car crash in Paris at the age of 36.

The boys and their mum: title photo for the ITV documentary

 

Diana: Our Mother, I found, is a moving tribute to the late princess for a number of reasons. The story of any tragically early death could hardly fail to be affecting, especially when it comes, as this one does, from two sons who so obviously loved their mother deeply. That Diana famously had a rare gift for winning hearts makes it especially touching, in the most literal sense: she would hold hands with AIDS patients, chatting in a physically close, friendly, way at a time when they were being shunned like lepers by others. Likewise her contact with those whose bodies had been shattered by land mines, and others reduced to living rough on the streets, was characterised not just by empathy, but by kindness whose sincerity was made manifest in her body-language, in her closeness and tactility.

The biggest impression the programme made on me, though, came through what it revealed about Diana as a mother. What William and Harry said about her was striking in itself, but the real impact came through family photos of her and the boys together: fabulous, beautiful pictures of them all having a whale of a time. Royal families have an advantage over us peasants in this regard: they can have an official photographer on hand, ready to capture those special moments of rapturous glee, whereas ordinary families – even the happier ones – tend to end up with terrible photos on the mantelpiece, all forced smiles for the camera and static poses. Or used to. I suppose it is better now, in the age of the video camera and the smart phone, but I haven’t seen much evidence of it. Am I wrong? Has a revolution in superb family photography passed me by? Do let me know.

Diana’s philosophy as a parent, it seems, was quite simple: kids should have fun. And be naughty. Just like herself. William said she used to send him rude cards:

“Usually she found something, you know, very embarrassing… a very funny card, and then sort of wrote very nice stuff inside.  But I dared not open it in case the teachers or anyone else in the class had seen it.”

Prince Harry, who was 12 when his mother died, spoke of her willingness to break the rules:

“One of her mottos to me was, you know, ‘you can be as naughty as you want,  just don’t get caught’. She was one of the naughtiest parents.  She would come and watch us play football and, you know, smuggle sweets into our socks.  Our mother was a total kid through and through.”

Know who that reminds me of? Michael Jackson. He was brilliant with kids whose parents had been too tough on them, too ambitious for their success and too demanding, as his own father had been. That’s a big part of why kids like child star Macaulay Culkin loved to hang out with him.

Prince William and Prince Harry on Harry’s first day at Wetherby School in London, September 1989

Just giving kids what they want all the time is in general a terrible idea; but that is exactly what some of them need, some of the time – including, I would think, boys like William and Harry, who might otherwise have been suffocated in the tight, disciplined, joyless embrace of a “proper” upbringing as potential heirs to the throne.

Jackson, incidentally, met Diana backstage after one of his London concerts, with her husband, Prince Charles. He did not see her sons – the evening event was past their bedtime – but it soon became clear he was very keen to meet William, especially, who was then aged six while Harry was three. He subsequently bombarded Diana with phone calls, inviting William to stay at Neverland. That was destined never to happen, so he had to make do with keeping a framed blowup photo of William at his home instead, showing the little prince on his first day at Wetherby School in 1987, wearing, yes, his regulation shorts.

I said above that I would be starting with royal children, but sadly I have to finish with them, too. I had hoped to bring you up to date with some other items but they will have to wait, as I must turn to other things. My intervention today, incidentally, after saying a few months ago that I would be handing over to guest bloggers for the foreseeable future, or simply leaving the site unpiloted, has been done on a whim and should not be taken as indicating a sustained return. Guest bloggers have been doing a great job and another guest piece is among my files, awaiting publication. I hope more will come, so please feel free to send submissions.