I am sure [Blair & Brown] and their respective wives feel hurt at their exclusion — and probably aghast to see Sally Bercow, the self-promoting wife of Speaker Bercow, and a woman who has never done anything memorable for her country, sailing into the Abbey in their place. But although one cannot fail to sympathise with them as private individuals, that is not my main point. What has been done to them is much more than a personal slight. They were our elected representatives who led one of our two great political parties and filled the most important elected office in the land. The Queen has been so adept at remaining impartial above the political fray that it is difficult to believe she vetoed the invitation of these two former leaders out of spite, dislike or political prejudice. Maybe there is some personal animus we don’t know about. But I very much hope it is some idiotic servant who is to blame. But whatever the explanation, this is a decision that will damage the monarchy more than the feelings of Mr Blair and Mr Brown. Once the Crown appears to be taking — and that is the impression, if not the intention — our delicate constitutional arrangements are imperilled.
As to what that “personal animus” might be, the Daily Telegraph’s Damian Thompson joins in the fun with some speculation:
There is, however, a perfectly neat and plausible explanation, and it’s this. Prince William cannot stand Tony Blair, whom he blames for making political capital out of the death of his mother – “the People’s Princess”, as Blair’s spin doctors dubbed her within hours of her death. The Prince has a long memory and a capacity for cold fury. We catch a glimpse of it in the section of Blair’s memoirs relating to the week after Diana’s death: “I had also spoken to William who was not only still grieving but angry. He knew, rationally, why the week between Diana’s death and the funeral had to be as it had been. But he felt acutely the conflict between public position and private emotion.”
That anger is likely to have reawakened by Blair’s decision to record such a private conversation in the book. It is not hard to imagine William saying “I’m not having that man at my wedding” – and getting his way: after all, in nearly 60 years, only one of the Queen’s prime ministers has twisted her arm to persuade her to do something that went against her instincts, and that was Tony Blair virtually demanding that she broadcast to the nation after the death of William’s mother. And can anyone doubt that the Royal family dislikes blabbermouth Cherie more than any other prime ministerial spouse?
My guess is that the Blairs were never on the wedding list, and that this also explains the absence of the Browns. Inviting Brown but not Blair would have brought the feud into the open: the Palace could not even have trotted out its implausible Knights of the Garter story. If I’m right, then one can’t help feeling a bit sorry for Gordon and Sarah, who are being punished for the crimes of their predecessors. But perhaps they saw it coming: one doesn’t have to spend long in royal company to know that forgiveness doesn’t come easily to the Windsors.
The Queen has been around so long (and, given the qualities of her eldest son, may she outdo the longevity of her mother) that she inhabits a peculiar, permanent, and generally appreciated, place in Britain’s subconscious. The rest of her family are, however, more akin to the cast of a long-running soap opera, sometimes in favor, sometimes not, and as this latest controversy reminds us, they never fail to deliver something to talk about.
Well, it beats Jersey Shore