So if you haven't been following along, Prince Harry - third in line to the throne - joined the Army. This after a storied career of carousing and controversy - including, unforgettably, when he went to a fancy dress party (that's costume party to you North Americans) in the uniform of the German Afrika Corps, complete with swastika arm band.
Anyway, Harry probably had to do something useful with himself, so he did what male royals often do, and took himself off to Sandhurst for military training. He came out as a lieutenant in the Blues and Royals a cavalry regiment, consisting of the Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons, part of the Household Cavalry, and with traditions going back to the 1600s. Harry is now a tank commander trained to lead a 12-man team in four armoured reconnaissance vehicles.
In February it was announced that Prince Harry would "possibly" go along with his regiment in a scheduled rotation to Iraq. Harry was said to be thrilled. He was quoted as saying that he wouldn't have "dragged my sorry arse through Sandhurst" if he thought he wouldn't be allowed to serve in combat.
Now, I'm no royalist, I'm a republican to the extent that I have any right to political opinions in the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, I'm still an American, and the idea that any person is higher than any other person by virtue of birth is anathema to my principles. (Egalitarianism being one of those conspicuously American ideals that Americans are always trying, conspicuously, to live up to.) And monarchy the notion that one family gets to rule over everyone else, just because still has a bit of a tart taste, even 231 years on. Sic semper tyrannis and all that.
But of course I have no right to come into this country and denounce the monarchy any more than emigrants to the U.S. have a right to come in and say, "You know, this consensual republican democracy thing is kind of crap, really. You should try religious rule." Nations have certain values; and if you don't like it, as they say, you can lump it. Also, I personally know a number of Britons who are very attached to the monarchy, even if I don't understand why. I don't have to understand. Anyway, my point being that though I keep my opinions to myself I don't normally care too much for (or, certainly, care much about) the Royals. However.
On April 30, it was announced by Gen Sir Richard Dannatt that Prince Harry would be deployed to Iraq with his regiment to serve active duty though this decision would be kept under review.
This got my attention. It occurred to me that this tradition of military service is one rather cool thing about the monarchy and, in fact, I discovered, about the aristocracy. Turns out that, historically, while the landed classes typically hung out in their manors, overseeing their lands, and doing a lot of hunting to hounds and drinking sherry and whatnot . . . in time of war it was the upper classes (including the titled) who left their estates and formed the officer corps. And they led from the front. Again, by abandoning a life of dissolution, and going in and doing the hard work of training, and volunteering to go to the front, Harry reminded me of this. He would be the first member of the royal family to serve in combat since his uncle, Prince Andrew, was a helicopter pilot in the Falklands War. And I thought, and think, this is enormously admirable.
Anyway, yesterday it was announced that Harry was not going over after all. Apparently there were specific threats against him, and it was concluded that, because he would be such an irresistable target, he actually might be a danger to his unit, and the men serving under and around him. Fair enough. Harry is said to be extremely disappointed; but, despite that, he's still committed to his Army career.
In solidarity, his squad mates are all wearing orange wigs and the "I'm Harry" t-shirts they'd already had printed up, with big targets on them. ("I'm Spartacus!" "No, I'm Spartacus!") In addition to supporting their brother in arms, this is also an enormous (and enormously spirited and good-humoured and indomitable) UP YOURS to the market-bombing, head-hacking shitheads who threatened him.
And I just want to say:
Another reason why I really love this country. (The mother country.)
In unrelated news, I was talking to Danielle yesterday, and she told me that at work this guy broke his foot on his first day on the job as a forklift driver, and as the HR person Danielle had to deal with the fallout, and but she found herself getting hit with all this unfamiliar forklift terminology, and so she decided to put herself through the next forklift driver training course, which was yesterday. Quelle cool. At any rate, she was telling me about this hilarious and horrifying instruction video they showed, in German with English subtitles, and she was trying, but understandably not all that successfully, to convey its hilarity and horror. Luckily she subsequently dug it up on YouTube:
Oh. My. God. I actually almost turned this off at the halfway point, and am awfully glad I didn't. Trust me here. Watch this one to the end. I can hardly believe Germans are capable of such a thing.