Somewhere in Aberdeenshire there is a sad Shetland pony. Named Lance Corporal Cruachan IV, the diminutive equine usually gets one moment in the spotlight a year, an all-too-brief chance to bask in the glow of global media interest during which he occasionally tries to nip the Queen or eat her bouquet.
As the mascot of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, Cruachan IV usually, at this time of year, enjoys his starring role in the Regiment’s ceremonial welcome of Her Majesty to her Balmoral estate, a traditional outing involving bagpipes and lots of big smiles and which marks the official start of the sovereign’s summer holiday.
But this year both Cruachan IV and the Queen have been kept confined to barracks, so to speak.
This week it was reported that for “reasons of comfort” the ceremonial welcome happened in private but this is just the latest sign that the sovereign’s advancing years and ongoing health woes are posing an increasingly blatant impediment on usual schedule.
News that Her Majesty would not be enjoying her yearly face-to-face with Cruachan IV just tops off what has been a bit of a rotten start to her holiday; a holiday that is already shaping up to be something of a dud thanks to the machinations of Downing Street and her wayward family.
It was only at the tail end of the Queen’s summer holidays last year, a scant 12 months ago or thereabouts, that Buckingham Palace was busy touting what a packed autumn schedule of dozens and dozens of events were planned. The message was clear: The Queen is fighting fit and ready to Queen with some seriously impressive vigor and vim! Trips to Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland were planned as things geared up towards her big Jubilee year from her!
That ambitious plan then collided with the reality of a woman fast approaching her centenary and since October 2021 we have had one cancellation after another with the diminutive monarchy increasingly retreating from public view.
We did not see her in Scotland for Cop26, at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day, on Commonwealth Day, Easter, at the State Opening of parliament or at the service of thanksgiving for her reign during her own Platinum Jubilee.
News that Her Majesty would not be facing down the bouquet-chomping Cruachan IV has only confirmed that things are changing, and fast, for the eleven irrepressible monarch.
However, this is the Queen we are talking about, a woman whose family has, in only the last few years, faced accusations of sexual abuse, racism, accepting millions of dollars from a controversial Middle Eastern politician and the brothers of Osama bin Laden and of “total neglect”.
The dark cloud over her vacation is that, in the months to come, Buckingham Palace faces all of these particular fires roaring back to full on blaze status.
It’s hard to think of a worse headline for any brand or business than one that ties them to the family of Bin Laden, but here we are thanks to Prince Charles and his seeming willingness to accept vast amounts of money for his Prince’s Trust charity from any stray billionaire.
In July it was reported that the Prince had accepted $1.7 million from the two of Bin Laden’s siblings, a shocking revelation that came only weeks after it was also reported by the Times he had accepted $1.7 million in cash stuffed in plastic shopping bags from a controversial Qatari politician.
Meanwhile, his former valet turned charity chief Michael Fawcett is still waiting to be questioned by Scotland Yard’s Special Inquiry Team after allegations of a cash-for-honours scheme embroiled Charles’ Clarence House last year.
Interestingly, the Prince of Wales has largely weathered these damaging reports and come out only slightly reputationally dinged, with the shocking claims have not really sparked any sort of public outcry.
The same likely won’t be able to be said when Prince Harry, the neophyte TV and podcast creator who is yet to actually, err, create anything, releases his memoir later this year.
If even a small percentage of the speculation about what he might reveal and what dirt he might dish is correct, this book is shaping up to be the most devastating royal release in 30 years and since Diana, Princess of Wales started whispering in the ear of Andrew Morton.
Given we are talking about Harry – a man who went on global TV screens alongside his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex to accuse The Firm of racism and neglectful treatment at a time when thousands were dying-a-day of Covid and while his 99- year-old grandfather was in hospital – does anyone really think all we are going to get is a feel-good read? Several hundred pages of self-important bleating and the occasional smoothie recipe thrown in?
In Tom Bower’s recently released Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the War Between the Windsors he casts a particularly grim view.
He writes: “Most Britons could not understand Harry’s hostility towards his country and family. His disloyalty from him to his grandmother was particularly mystifying.
“No one realized how his hostility had grown during his conversations with John Moehringer, the ghostwriter of his memoirs. To secure vast sales and recoup the huge advance, the publishers had encouraged Harry to criticize his family of him in the most extreme terms possible. Easily persuaded, Harry edged towards betraying his father to him, Camilla, the Cambridges and even the Queen. And then, the deed was done. To earn out the publisher’s advance, nothing and no one had been sacrosanct.”
Or to paraphrase Macbeth, another disgruntled figure from royal circles, something very dangerous this way comes…
At this stage, all indications would point to Harry’s book potentially being the most painful chapter yet in the long and sorry tale of Megxit.
Then, there is another book, or at least the possibility of a book, that should be a very serious cause for concern for Her Majesty. Six months ago her son de ella Prince Andrew settled the civil sex abuse case brought against him by Virginia Giuffre with a payment that at the time was reported to be around $21 million. (The royal has always vehemently denied Ms Giuffre’s claims that he sexually assaulted her on three occasions when she was a teenager.)
this week The Sun reported that figure was allegedly much lower – somewhere between $5.1 and $8.6 million – and that “that was as much money the disgraced Duke could scrape together quickly to halt her civil lawsuit”.
The “cut-price deal”, according to the report, might explain why the mother-of-three Giuffre did not sign a nondisclosure agreement, meaning she is free to write a tell-all of her very own, any time she wants.
That there is even a skerrick of chance that this chapter, the most sordid and horrifying in modern royal history by far, could at any moment explode back into the headlines must be a cause for very serious concern.
All Andrew has ever done to try and manage this situation is given an appalling TV interview, showing an appealing deficiency of compassion or empathy for anyone but himself, put out a couple of statements and write a seven-figure check. If anyone thinks that this is in any case an adequate response and has drawn a definitive line under his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender, or that the public is ready to move on then they are deluding themselves.
The 62-year-old is still, and will likely always be, despised by much of the world and the appetite for seeing him embarrassed or raked over the coals is unlikely to diminish anytime soon. Cue 101 book publishers with dollar-signs in their eyes.
So too has Ms Giuffre shown a steely backbone and unwavering commitment to speaking about the horrors she experienced during her time with Epstein. There is no reason to believe that she will suddenly back down or go quiet now which leaves us with the very real possibility that she might release a book of her own from her at some point.
Even if all of these swirling worries weren’t enough to blight the Queen’s holiday, then there is the fact that she will have to cut her break short thanks to the fact that the UK will get a new Prime Minister next month. On September 6, Boris Johnson will formally resign and the Daily Mail has revealed that Her Majesty will “interrupt” her holiday to pop back to London where she will “invite”, in the quaint nomenclature of royalty, the winner of the Conservative party vote to form a government.
A source told the Email: “Her Majesty does not expect the new prime minister to travel to Scotland, so the plan is that the Queen will travel down to see them.”
So much for a regal break huh?
Balmoral is agreed to be Her Majesty’s favorite home where she used to enjoy long walks and getting out into nature but in recent years her time there has been blighted by a rolling series of crises. In 2019, August saw Harry and Meghan skip the family getaway to flit about Europe in private jets and then the suicide of Epstein. Come 2020, the pandemic was in full swing and she and Philip were cosseted inside HMS Bubble and last year the monarch faced her first summer de ella without her husband of 73-years.
The poor woman must be so tired. Not only is she still working, more than three decades after most people retire, but her family de ella is a source of never ending scandal and strain with things only looking like they are going to ramp up more.
If you ask me, and no one is, what Her Majesty needs right now is not another wet week wobbling over the moors and ruminating on how it all went wrong but needs to rally her lady-in-waiting of more than 60 years Lady Susan Hussey and abscond for a 72-hour all-inclusive gals weekend to Malaga.
Sun, sand, sangria and not having to think about all the brewing Windsor scandals? Now that’s a real holiday.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.