A seminal comic masterpiece of our time, now published for the first time in Penguin.
THE MONARCHY HAS BEEN DISMANTLED
When a Republican party wins the General Election, their first act in power is to strip the royal family of their assets andtitles and send them to live on a housing estate in the Midlands.
Exchanging Buckingham Palace for a two-bedroomed semi in Hell Close (as the locals dub it), caviar for boiled eggs, servants for a social worker named Trish, the Queen and her family learn what it means to be poor among the great unwashed. But is their breeding sufficient to allow them to rise above their changed circumstance or deep down are they really just like everyone else?
1. Uneasy Lies the Head
The Queen was in bed watching television with Harris. It was election night, 11.20 pm,
Thursday 9 April 1992. Harris yawned, displaying his sharp teeth and liver-coloured
‘Are you bored with the election, my darling?’ asked the Queen, stroking Harris’s back.
Harris barked at the television, where a display of computer graphics (little men in
top hats) was jerking about on the screen. The Queen watched with amused incomprehension
for a while, before realizing that the red, blue and orange computer men represented the
present composition of the House of Commons. A tall man with flailing arms stood in front
of the display and gabbled about the accuracy of opinion polls and the likelihood of a
hung parliament. The Queen reached for the remote control and turned the volume down. She
recalled how, earlier in the day, a secretary had passed her clipping from a Conservative
newspaper, saying, ‘This may amuse you, Ma’am.’
It certainly had amused her. A spirit medium employed by the paper had claimed to have
been in touch with Stalin, Hitler and Genghis Khan, who had all assured the medium that,
given the opportunity, they would have been hot-footing it to the polling stations and
voting Labour. She had shown the clipping to Philip at dinner, but he hadn’t seen the
Harris grumbled in the back of his throat, jumped out of bed and waddled over to the
television set. It was now 11.25pm. Harris barked angrily at the screen as the result for
Basildon was declared. The Queen lay back on her crisp linen pillows and wondered who
would be kissing her hand tomorrow afternoon, nice John Major or perfectly agreeable Neil
Kinnock. She had no particular preference. Both party leaders publicly supported the
monarchy and neither was Mrs Thatcher, whose mad eyes and strangulated voice had quite
unnerved the Queen at their regular Tuesday afternoon meetings. The Queen wondered if the
day would ever dawn when a victorious Prime Minister did not support the monarchy.
The computermen vanished from the screen to be replaced yet again by anxious
politicians being interviewed and Harris lost interest and jumped back onto the bed. After
turning full circle, he settled himself onto the downy softness of the bedcover and lay
down. The Queen reached out and patted him goodnight. She removed her glasses, pressed the
‘off ’ button on the remote control, then lay in the darkness and waited for sleep. Family
worries came crowding into her mind. The Queen whispered the prayer that Crawfie, her
governess, had taught her, over sixty years ago:
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
As she took her last conscious breath before sleep overtook her, the Queen wondered
what would happen to her and her family if a Republican Government were to be elected: it
was the Queen’s nightmare.
2. A Breath of Air
The Queen winced as Jack Barker ground his cigarette out on the silk rug. A faint smell
of burning rose between them. Jack fought the urge to apologize. The Queen stared at Jack
disdainfully. His stomach gurgled. Her picture had hung in his classroom when he was
struggling to learn his nine times table. In his boyhood he used to look to the Queen for
inspiration. Prince Charles bent down and picked up the cigarette stub. He looked for
somewhere to put it, but, finding nowhere suitable, he slipped it into his pocket.
Princess Margaret said, ‘Lilibet I’ve got to have a fag. Please!’
‘May we open the windows, Mr Barker?’ asked the Queen. Her accent cut into Jack like a
crystal. He half expected to bleed.
‘No chance,’ he replied.
‘Am I to have a house of my own, Mr Barker, or must I share with my daughter and son-
in-law?’ The Queen Mother gave Jack her famous smile, but her hands were twisting the full
skirt of her periwinkle dress into a knot.
‘You’ll get a pensioner’s bungalow. It’s your entitlement as an ordinary citizen of
‘A bungalow, good. I couldn’t manage stairs. Will my staff be living in or out?’
Jack laughed and looked at his fellow Republicans. Six men and six women, hand-picked
to witness this historic occasion. They laughed along with Jack.
‘You don’t seem to understand. There’ll be no staff, no dressers, no cooks,
secretaries, cleaners, chauffeurs.’
Turning to the Queen he said, ‘You’ll have to nip in now and then, help your mum out.
But she’ll probably be entitled to Meals on Wheels.’
The Queen Mother looked quite pleased to hear this. ‘So I shan’t starve?’
‘Under the People’s Republican Party’s rule, nobody in Britain will starve,’ said Jack.
Prince Charles cleared his throat and said, ‘Er, may one, er, enquire as to where . . .
? That is, the location . . . ?’
‘If you’re asking me where you’re all going, I’m not telling you. All I can say at the
moment is that you’ll all be in the same street, but you’ll have strangers as next-door
neighbours, working-class people. Here’s a list of what you can take with you.’
Jack held out photocopies of each of the lists his wife had compiled only two hours
before. The lists were headed: Essential Items; Furniture; Fittings, suitable for two-
bedroomed council house and pensioner’s bungalow. The Queen Mother’s list was much
shorter, she noticed. Jack held the papers out, but nobody came forward to take them. Jack
didn’t move. He knew that one of them would crack. Eventually Diana got up, she hated
scenes. She took the papers from Jack and gave each member of the Royal Family their list.
There was quiet for a few moments while they read. Jack fiddled with the gun in his
pocket. Only he knew that it wasn’t loaded.
‘Mr Barker, there is no mention of dogs here,’ said the Queen.
‘One per family,’ said Jack.
'Horses?’ asked Charles.
‘Would you keep a horse in a council house garden?’
‘No. Quite. One wasn’t thinking.’
‘Clothes aren’t on the list,’ said Diana, shyly.
‘You won’t be needing much. Just the bare essentials. You won’t be making personal
appearances, will you?’
Princess Anne rose and stood next to her father. ‘Thank God for that! At least
something good has come out of this bloody shambles. Are you all right, Pa?’
Prince Philip was in a state of shock and had been ever since the previous night when
he had turned on the television for Election Night Special at 11.25 and seen the
announcement of the election of Jack Barker, founder and leader of the People’s Republican
Party, as the member for KensingtonWest. Prince Philip had watched incredulously as Barker
had addressed the joyous crowds in the Town Hall. Middle-aged poll tax payers had cheered
alongside young people wearing ragged jeans and nose rings. He had lifted the telephone
and advised his wife to watch the television set. Half an hour later, she rang him back.
‘Philip, please come to my room.’
They had sat up until the early hours as one Republican candidate after another had
been declared elected in front of cheering crowds of British citizenry. Gradually their
children had joined them. At 7.30 am the servants brought them breakfast, but nobody ate.
By 11 am the People’s Republican Party had won 451 seats and John Major, the Conservative
Prime Minister, had reluctantly conceded defeat. Shortly afterwards, Jack Barker announced
that he was Prime Minister. His first job, he said, would be to go to Buckingham Palace
and order the Queen to abdicate.
The thirteen Republicans in a minibus had been waved through the gates of Buckingham
Palace by smiling policemen. The soldiers of the Household Cavalry had removed their
bearskins and waved them in the air. Members of the Queen’s personal staff had shaken them
by the hand. Champagne had been offered, but had been declined.
Until his election as member for Kensington West, Jack Barker had been the leader of a
breakaway section of the Television Technicians’ Union. For the three weeks preceding the
General Election, Jack and his disgruntled members had broadcast subliminal messages to
the watching public: ‘VOTE REPUBLICAN – END THE MONARCHY’.
On the Saturday before polling day, The Times had called for the dismantling of
themonarchy.Ahundred thousand anti-monarchists had walked from Trafalgar Square to
Clarence House, not knowing that the QueenMother was at the races. A violent thunderstorm
had dispersed them before she returned, but she saw the discarded placards from the window
of her limousine.
‘GOD DAMN YOU MA’AM’
An error, she thought, surely they meant ‘God Bless’, didn’t they?
That evening, she noticed that her staff were surly and uncooperative. She’d had to
wait half an hour for a servant to draw her bedroom curtains.
On polling day the British people, brainwashed by the television technicians, had made