I have seen first-hand why the Royals can be viewed as a positive thing - Euan McColm

I’ve not learned much in my 52 years but I do know this: people who have strong opinions about the royal family are best avoided. It’s not been easy to do so in recent days.

Take your standard issue anti-monarchist. He - and it’s usually a he - will explain how the very existence of the Queen is evidence that society is irreparably f***ed. He will tell you how many people you could feed if you sold the crown jewels and he’ll spit venom about the idiots who buy into the whole disgusting charade.

The fervent royalist is no less exhausting, with his nauseating deference. For him, the Queen embodies a rose-tinted version of Britain that doesn’t exist now and never did before. He'll talk in awed tones of Her Majesty’s remarkable gifts, as if waving from a balcony were the acme of human accomplishment.

When it comes to the Royals, I prefer not to take sides. I'm choosy about the company I keep.

The Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Louis, the Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the Trooping the Colour ceremony at Horse Guards Parade, central London, as the Queen celebrates her official birthday, on day one of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire


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This was not always the case. As a lower middle-class teenager in the 1980s, I took the default position of such creatures and proclaimed my staunch republicanism. If I’m honest, my antipathy towards the Royals was based on little more than my love of The Smiths, whose lead singer Morrissey would frequently - and entertainingly - describe the ways in which the very existence of the Windsors was an abomination.

A quick audit of those years confirms that my anti-Royal actions stretched no further than listening to their album “The Queen is Dead” a lot. And that had more to do with the fact I couldn’t get a girlfriend than my antipathy to Her Maj.

This phase of republican fervour was not to last long. I simply didn’t care enough to keep it up.

Not only that, I gained some first-hand experience of how others saw the Royals as a positive thing.


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Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral, London. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA

My maternal grandparents, Jimmy and Lena Goodfellow, had retired to the top floor of a tower block in Clydebank in 1982. It was a pretty grim place, packed with lonely pensioners with little to do.

Being busybodies of the very best kind, Jimmy and Lena set about lobbying the council to be allowed access to empty store-rooms on the ground floor of their block. Then, having secured a small grant, they set about converting the spaces into a drop-in centre for local OAPs.

Soon, dozens of old folks were turning up every day for a cheap lunch or a slice of one of the cakes Jimmy baked each morning. Lena arranged for her hairdresser to visit once a week so that the ladies of the North Drumry high flats could maintain their styles while Jimmy, a canny man, used the profits made from his cake sales to arrange day trips for their customers to the coast or Loch Lomond.


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My grandparents made a huge positive difference to the elderly in their neighbourhood and never asked for a penny for themselves.

First, they won a prize from a local newspaper for their efforts. The cheque allowed them to get a video player for the centre so that visitors could watch movies together.

But their excitement over winning that award was nothing compared to the thrill they got when the postman delivered an invitation to a garden party hosted by the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

That invitation - and others which followed - meant the world to Jimmy and Lena whose respect for the monarch was deep and abiding. These invitations were recognition for their voluntary work and it was an absolute pleasure to see the joy they brought.


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And I’ve been similarly delighted in the years since to see friends receive honours from the Queen in recognition of their work. Last week, a mate of mine, the novelist Ian Rankin, got a knighthood and I could not be happier for him (I’ve tried, but…). Ian’s entertained millions of people with his work, used lots of the money success has brought him to support charities, and encouraged generations of young writers who’ve followed in his footsteps. How lovely that there’s a way to celebrate those great, positive things.

Of course, not everyone will agree. For some, the honours system is little more than a reminder of the existence of a monarchy they deplore.

The Platinum Jubilee celebrations have, unsurprisingly, thrown into focus public division over the very concept of monarchy.

But they have also provided a much-needed moment of national unity.


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When Boris and Carrie Johnson, the party animals who currently occupy 10 Downing Street, arrived at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday for a service in celebration of the Queen’s 70-year reign, some in the crowd cheered but many more booed. How heartening than those folk - people to whom tradition and ceremony matter, people that one would expect to be sympathetic to, or at least respectful of, the Conservative Party - can see through our charlatan of a Prime Minister.

One shouldn’t really take pleasure in the humiliation of others but, in the case of the Johnsons, I am willing to make an exception.

Tory MPs swithering over whether to withdraw their support for the Prime Minister, the host with the most at all the best lockdown-beaking parties, will have heard those boos and wondered whether the time to call an end to Johnson’s wretched reign really has come.

The booing of the Johnsons created a moment of national unity in these divided times. Republicans and royalists found common ground in their utter disdain for our wretched Prime Minister.


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For that alone, I salute you, Ma’am.


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