Sorry, old chaps, for making light of Megxit and branding Britain’s royal family as useless

South China Morning Post 發布於 2020年01月18日13:01 • Yonden Lhatoo yonden.lhatoo@scmp.com
  • Yonden Lhatoo is taken aback by the depth of feeling Hong Kong’s British residents have for the House of Windsor and offers an apology – of sorts – for offending them
British royalists in Hong Kong were not amused by last week’s column on Megxit, the queen and the monarchy. Photo: EPA-EFE

Dear me, I was expecting plenty of pearl-clutching indignation among the far-flung diaspora of her majesty's loyal subjects in this former British colony when I dared to criticise the royal family in my last column, but the ferocity of the feedback was something else.

I had questioned the newsworthiness of Megxit " that trendily named but completely unnecessary conniption over the escape of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle from the confines of palace life " and, by extension, cast doubt on the justification for maintaining a monarchy in this day and age.

Enter Peter Mann, certified royal family groupie and chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society's Hong Kong branch, in whom I seem to have unleashed the worst of what remains of the Raj. One would think I must have mocked Mann's own mum, judging by the venomously personal tone he strikes in his apoplectic letter to the editor.

"Yonden, who refers to his own low birth, albeit at high altitude in the former British hill station of Darjeeling, is a notorious stirrer and Brit-baiter, so I will give him the satisfaction of the indignant reply he expects," he wrote. "It is not surprising that the denizen of a Marxist hotspot that seeks divorce from West Bengal by chopping people up in the name of 'Gorkhaland' should have a negative view of the British royal family."

Whether the House of Windsor is an outdated institution that places an unnecessary burden on the taxpayer, or the glue that holds the United Kingdom together, is a matter of opinion. Photo: EPA-EFE

While Mann's knowledge of Himalayan politics is obviously sparse " my old hometown is anything but a Marxist hotspot and the Gurkhas have long resisted West Bengal's communist party rule which actually ended back in 2011 " I confess I'm equally ignorant about the role of the Royal Commonwealth Society in this special administrative region of China. Apart from organising the occasional cricket game and reminiscing fondly over a cuppa about the good old days when the natives knew their place and did not speak out of turn, I would imagine.

To be fair, some other offended royalists were more measured in their outrage and raised points worth debating.

"Mr Lhatoo cites the cost of the royal family as being US$468 million per year. As he acknowledges, this figure comes from Republic, an avowedly anti-monarchy group," Andrew Kinlock of Central wrote. "This is a distortion up there with the advert on a bus during the Brexit campaign claiming that the EU cost the UK GBP350 million a week. In fact, the royal family pays much of this cost itself. According to the 2018/19 Sovereign Grant accounts, the actual cost to the British taxpayer was GBP67 million " that's GBP1 per head per year. I would pay that."

The decision by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to step back from their royal duties divided opinion at home and abroad, as did the news coverage that followed. Photo: AFP

Brian Carroll of South Horizons wrote: "You may choose not to refer to her as Your Majesty, should you ever meet. That is your prerogative, churlish as that may be … The monarchy continues to be the glue that holds the country together, it has done so through wars, turmoil and strife for a thousand years. That situation will continue. The loyal, indigenous population wills it."

Alan Loynd from Lai Chi Kok was a tad gentler in his admonishment: "Harry and Meghan get most of their income from Prince Charles, who pays his sons out of the revenue from the Duchy of Cornwall. He inherited the Duchy of Cornwall in much the same way that I inherited a small cottage from my father when he died. Nobody begrudges me my cottage, so why be jealous of a family whose members inherited rather more cottages?"

Coveter of cottages or not, I apologise for causing such distress among her majesty's devoted servants who continue to fly her flag high in this city more than two decades after the end of colonial rule.

Sorry, old chaps. Rule, Britannia, and all that. Cheerio, toodle-oo, pip pip and, oh yes, God save the queen. No offence intended in not capitalising the all-important "q" " just this newspaper's house style " so no need to choke on your cornflakes.

Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post

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