The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are back in Blighty, and their first official order of business after returning from the taxpayer-funded luxury vacation—oops, I meant their “goodwill tour”—of India and Bhutan was to host the Obamas for a private dinner in their rarely used but freshly renovated (to the tune of $7 million) apartment at Kensington Palace. (Is it weird that I get so bent out of shape about the money needlessly lavished on these two—who have carried out roughly the same number of engagements combined since they married in 2011 as the 90-year-old Queen has in the past year—when I don’t pay taxes in the UK? I guess my outrage is on behalf of my husband, who, while technically their subject, has no clue who any of these people are.)
The Obamas, in photographs circulated throughout the world, were greeted at the Palace by a tiny, berobed despot—also known has HRH Prince George—who appeared bewildered by the oddly accented man who had chosen, insultingly, to squat before him instead of the more customary kneeling, before being made to sit atop an uncomfortable hobby horse he had never before seen, seemingly in order to please this mysterious stranger.
But the real comedy of the evening was revealed by reports that Palace officials, upon realizing a painting in the sitting room where the President and First Lady were to be received, was identified by a plaque bearing the name: The Negro Page. Negro! Naturally, the staff was reportedly frantic to cover it up immediately, lest President Obama, the son of a man whose life was directly and adversely affected by British imperialism, think that royal family, a group established and wholly focused on maintaining the idea that they are hereditarily worthier than other people, might subscribe, however unconsciously, to any kind of racist ideology that holds that some people are hereditarily worthier than other people.
They just covered up the plaque, mind you. Not the painting.
I don’t know what I find funnier: the idea that a couple as erudite, educated, and powerful as the Obamas would be upset by a clearly anachronistic reference in a work of art dating to 1660, or how Will and Kate apparently thought, that while the word might be offensive, it was probably totally cool to have a picture of a little slave boy on the wall while the man to whom it belongs—a man who owes this and everything else he owns to the accident of birth—makes polite chitchat with the twice-elected, Nobel Peace Prize winning, African-American Leader of the Free World.
Either way, it makes me wonder: Should, against all odds, Bernie Sanders win the election, making him the first Jewish President, how will the Palace react when he visits? What will they scramble to hide when they host him?
We know Bernie’s all kinds of fine with guns, so, given the various carcasses of murdered animals the royal family likes to keep around to remind themselves of their superiority over the animal kingdom (forgive me for sounding like Morrissey for the moment, but I really, really love Morrissey), some (e.g. wild boars, warthogs), might be deemed offensive to the Macher-in-Chief’s kosher sensibilities.
And what about a first edition of Oliver Twist, its more virulently anti-Semitic passages approvingly annotated in the spidery hand of Edward VIII (provided, of course, that he could actually read), or a rare original copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, fondly inscribed to George V by his loving favorite cousin, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia? Or maybe some minion or other might want to do a sweep of the house, just to make sure there are no family photographs of Prince Philip’s brothers-in-law in, say, their SS uniforms, laying around? (One would assume those are kept someplace more private, but who can say?)
Of course, given the potential President Sanders’s socialist principles, perhaps courtesy calls for a rather more drastic removal: that of the entire monarchy. Might politeness do what two centuries of Marxist thought could not? It’s hard to say—but we’ll probably never find out.
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