There IS still a role for a slimmed-down Royal Family after the Queen

A new television documentary claims to show we have nothing to fear when Prince Charles eventually becomes King.
A film crew has followed the Prince for a year, managing to coax a few nuggets from the testy Royal, including the fact he doesn't plan to 'interfere' so much when he finally ascends to the throne. Really?
Make no mistake, the Royal family (or The Firm as they call themselves) have an army of well-paid advisors and courtiers who realise a prime time television show is a terrific PR opportunity to promote their brand.
As Charles turns 70, it's a chance to reassure those who contribute millions every year towards the running costs of the Royals, via taxes they can't opt out of.
Films about the British Royal family appear on our television screens with monotonous regularity these days - when it comes to shameless propaganda the coverage seems little different from the promotional bilge pumped out in North Korea about their bizarre and secretive President.
Prince Charles will have loathed whole proposition of a birthday fly-on-the-wall film and the resulting intrusion - he's not someone who watches reality television or is familiar with fly on the wall documentaries.
But he will have been ordered to co-operate, to ensure the Royal Brand doesn't suffer any further erosion in popularity - especially as many of us can't see why Charles doesn't just bow out and let William take over.
When it comes to his huge wealth, Prince Charles likes to say he lives the 'simple' life, wearing ancient overcoats and eating only one or two small meals a day - reinforcing the fabulous fairy story of the frugal royals.
His mother is regularly photographed in front of an ancient single bar electric fire, wearing everyday cashmere, and we know she eats her breakfast from a tray of plastic containers.
Charles claims he is 'self-sufficient' and that the income from the Duchy of Cornwall provides him with an income - but the running costs of the entire Royal household and the maintenance of their palaces are heavily subsidised by people living in council flats and heavily mortgaged homes.
Who is paying for Harry and Meghan to move into a bigger apartment in Kensington Palace, now that a baby is on the way?
How did the Crown amass so much property in the first place? They took it from aristocrats and feudal landowners, whose tenants often lived in poverty.
If I sound like a republican, it's because I grew up in half a terraced house with an outside toilet - but my working class parents worshipped the Royal family - they provided a beacon of stability, and a sign that Britain was returning to normal after the horrors of World War 2. Even though my dad was a staunch left-winger, he would not have disbanded the Royals.
Half a century ago, the Queen spent her time waving, smiling, wearing lovely outfits and not saying anything at all note. All media covereage was utterly reverential, with commentators adopting the bended-knee position of simpering servitude.
No wonder I rebelled against the received wisdom that the Royals could do no wrong - in spite of that ludicrous BBC documentary which showed Elizabeth and Philip at Balmoral cooking a barbecue, just like my mum and dad - except theirs was on a vast estate in the Highlands.
The Queen's PR problems started when her eldest son grew up and started writing hundreds of letters to politicians, trying to get his views across. 
He told architects he 'hated' modern buildings, insulting them with his antedeluvian taste in fake classical buildings. Charles (and his sister Anne and brother Andrew) all failed at marriage. Charles couldn't even conduct a divorce without the whole country being exposed to his dirty laundry.
Throughout all of this, the Queen said nothing. That is a tremendous achievement, and ensured that the monarchy has retained it's popularity, along with all the perks.
As she approaches the end of her reign, a crisis looms because most of us have no idea what Charles will be like as King. That's why Prince Charles has used a documentary to tell us he will not be 'meddling' in politics - but he's not offering to give up his material wealth or his army of servants.
There is still a role for a limited Royal family in modern Britain - as a great tourist attraction. They can host foreign dignitaries and promote international relations, lending their support to hundreds of charities and good causes, contributing positively by fundraising.
Harry and William have already realised the Royal family needs to be slimmed down, and Harry's child will not necessarily have a title or an official role.
Thank goodness change is happening, albeit at a snail's pace. Meanwhile, the courtiers and the advisors have one big problem to deal with- the potential disaster of King Charles.
Charles is almost two years younger than me, but he seems weighed down by life. In public, he still seems ill at ease, hand in pocket of expensively crafted suit, perfect pocket hankerchief and immaculate cuff links and tie, all chosen (no doubt) by one of his valets.
I get up in the morning and put on what I wore the night before, eat the same basic breakfast because it requires no thought.
Charles operates in a world of uninmagineable luxury, cossetted and pampered, with special toilet seats, tea bags, and china travelling everywhere he deigns to visit. The documentary reveals he works so hard that he falls asleep at his desk - well, so do most people, it's nothing special. Shift workers driving cabs or buses, or working in Amazon warehouses would know that feeling only too well.
Next week, Prince Charles will be 70, and his sons say they would like him to spend more time with his grandchildren. William says 'when he's there, he's brilliant. But we need him there as much as possible'. Maybe that's code for - 'step aside, dad, and let me take over'.
And who can blame him?

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