The more outrageously glorious the performance, the more preposterous its purpose. There at the heart, in the dead centre of all this pomp and circumstance, is the great emptiness, the nothingness, the Wizard of Oz in emperor's clothes. The louder the bells, the more gaping the grand vacuity. What are we celebrating? A singularly undistinguished family's hold on the nation, a mirage of nationhood, a majestic delusion.
How close to religion it is, with all the same feudal imagery, God as Lord and sovereign, sovereign anointed by God, knelt before in a divine hierarchy of power ordained by laws too ineffable to explain. The tyranny of the monarchy lies not in its residual temporal power but in its spiritual power. It subjugates the national imagination, infantilising us with false imaginings and a bogus heritage of our island story. For as long as they rule over us, we are obedient servants, worshipping an ermine-wrapped fantasy of Englishness. (Despite the kilts, the monarchy was never really British.)
Every country needs its founding myths, its binding identity rooted in a valiant story that rarely stands up to historical scrutiny. What matters is the nature of that story, and ours is as pitiful as our embarrassingly shoddy national anthem: no US "land of the free", just "long to reign over us".
But if the very idea of monarchy diminishes us, the living reality is even more humiliating. What are we doing paying homage to the unimpressive personages invested with this awe? They are the apogee of celebrity culture, because there is nothing there but empty celebrity. Ah, say the royalists, it's their very "ordinariness" that is their mystique. But they are not ordinary like next-door neighbours, only ordinary like all the other dull and talentless plutocrats with nothing remarkable about them but their bank balance. That the very rich are mostly very dull, lacking enterprise, initiative or inspiration is small solace.
The long line of royal nonentity is the ultimate lesson in the damage that inherited money and privilege does, the reason why inheritance tax – which the monarchy doesn't pay – is a way not just to collect funds for the Treasury but to stop the stultifying social effects of inherited wealth. How well the royal family illustrate the aristocratic phenomenon where those who have had the very best education and the greatest opportunity for intellectual enrichment emerge with so little to show for it, generation after generation.
Hunting, shooting, horses, nightclubbing, none of the long royal line since time immemorial has exhibited much spark of intellectual curiosity or originality.