Keen ornithologists may have gathered from last year’s publicity that the rarest bird of prey in Scotland is currently the magnificent White Tailed Sea Eagle, which did at one time die out completely. Only thanks to the introduction of some breeding pairs from Norway has it managed to cheat extinction and once again roam the skies above Highland lochs.
Rarer still over the past four years have been sightings of another possibly endangered species, known so far to have a generally good relationship with publicity, although with a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ about the press lending it an easy time about to be lifted, what the future holds is anyone’s guess. As it is, Prince William emerges blinking into the sunlight after four years, out of sight if not out of mind, having been studying at Scotland’s most ancient and eminent university, St Andrews (founded 1413).
Awarded a 2:1 in geography, like the majority of those who study for degrees in Scotland his course earns him the qualification M.A. – Master of Arts – as opposed to the Bachelor of Arts degrees awarded south of the border for a three year course. Mind you, did you know that if you get a B.A. from Oxford or Cambridge you get to upgrade it to an M.A. automatically simply by staying alive for a few more years? It’s a well kept Oxbridge secret that all those graduates floating around McKinseys and Shell and the Treasury styling themselves ‘M.A.Cantab’ etc. could actually have narrowly scraped a Third class degree after three years of drinking and rowing (oars and shagging, but have been great at talking their way through interviews.
Anyhow, the next-but-one heir to the throne, scion of the House of Windsor (founded 1917) has earned his M.A. by the sweat of his brow, with no suggestion either that he used the controversial ‘Harry’ exam technique in which your answers are supplied by someone else, preferably a member of the teaching staff. Now, like a game bird swooping over one of his mother’s Glens, the Pink William can expect a brief honeymoon period from the tabloid editors’ guns before becoming eligible for a full doubled-barrelled stuffing when, inevitably, he slips up in some way. Paparazzi by the thousand are even now trawling the internet selecting the latest enormously powerful photographic hardware, the better to capture images of the new attraction in the park by day or night. Rumour that William might be part of a breeding pair will also fuel interest to fever pitch
But it might take some heat off the Army’s latest royal recruit. I only live a 60-second SAS Apache helicopter dash from Highgrove – but with just two of them they haven’t got quite the ‘pack’ support their father must have had behind him as the eldest of four siblings. The tensions which surround the concept of one child becoming monarch, wildly rich, endlessly praised and celebrated on postage stamps while the other has to open hospices and keep the gob firmly shut for a cut of the moolah…well, look at poor Princess Margaret, sentenced to death by envy early in her life, and not even allowed to marry for love by the cruel social strictures of the 1950s. Or let’s go back a little further, to even before St Andrews was founded, and remember Richard ‘the Lionheart’ and the brother who succeeded him, ‘Bad’ King John. Mediaeval spin pure and simple: historians now believe they were just as barbaric as each other, only Richard had the grace to absent himself from the country for most of his reign.
Enough history. The future King is out and about, and off to New Zealand we hear, to carry out the ‘official duty’ of watching rugby matches and drinking beer. It’ll be interesting to see whether he shares Harry’s talent for carousing, and whether the strain of smiling and shaking hands all day will sooner or later get to him. Sadly, when it does, there’s absolutely no chance whatsoever that we (‘we’ being the entire population of Planet Earth) won’t hear all about it. And that’s a lot tougher to live with than a few weeks at Sandhurst.