“Delighted, darling,” and other bloodcurdling statements by Matt Rees

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When the British Prime Minister announced at the cabinet table the engagement of the heir to the heir to the throne this week, he professed himself “delighted.” The government ministers raised a cheer and hammered the tabletop in delight.

This parody of a Colonel Blimp drinking club goes to show that you can take the boys out of Eton, but you can’t take Eton out of the boys. Still “delight” was everywhere as the BBC went into 24-hour blabberfest mode about the “delight of the nation” at the imminent Royal wedding.

There can be no greater testimony to the ability of journalists to “bury the lead.” After all, Royals are getting married all the time – even before the British wedding takes place, the Prince of Monaco is going to marry a beautiful Swedish pro-swimmer (Nice one, Albert.) So that’s not news. Yet how often does the helicopter-pilot child of a bulimic and a superrich bisexual marry the daughter of online-toy salespeople. Surely that’s more interesting than whether she’ll be called “Queen Kate”?

Prince Charles said he was “delighted.” The Queen was “absolutely delighted.” Is this now a word we writers must avoid? Has it descended to the inexpressive cliché level, like “nice”?

Robert Frost wrote that “a poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” One might suggest that Prince William’s parents’ marriage began in delight – David Cameron took the day off from Eton to sleep on the streets so he could get a good view of the pageantry back in 1981, he claims, which may be why he doesn’t mind that his budget cuts will put a lot of other people on the streets – and ended in the nearest thing to wisdom that can today adhere to any public event. Namely, conspiracy theory.

So perhaps there’s something darker to the “delight” experienced among Britain’s upper echelons, its outdated monarchists, and its tabloid headline-writers. Something more literary.

The mid-twentieth century American writer of horror and mystery fiction, Shirley Jackson, said: “I delight in what I fear.” Here’s what’s happening in Britain, then—at least as the crime genre would have to portray it. The Queen fears that Kate will turn out to be another troublesome media darling with dark Diana-esque secrets (conspiracy theory: she’ll end up having her killed, too), so she experiences the frisson of danger and is delighted. Prince Charles fears Kate will give birth to a lovely little baby boy and by the time his mother shuffles off this mortal coil the press will suggest Charles—whom no one likes—misses out on the crown and retires to the countryside so that the new young family, who people are sure to love, can move into Buckingham Palace. His deepest fear and, yet, an easy ride, which would delight him. As for the government ministers, they fear the attention of the press, mired as they are in deeply divisive cuts to every ministry, so some happy-clappy coverage of the Royal Neverland can only be a great diversion for these most craven and worthless of men and women.

For fans of conspiracy, crime and horror, then, the Royal announcement is indeed delightful news. It promises all the cruel, reactionary nastiness of older generations visited on an apparently innocent young couple. Those who know the genre will see where this is going. William will refuse to acknowledge what’s happening and will tell Kate she’s being a silly girl. Kate will face down the dangers alone and in the end the haunted halls of the palace will be drenched in blood.

How delightful.

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