At the end of 2012 I wrote some theatre monologues which may – or may not – have been performed by the Summerseat Players at Ramsbottom’s Theatre Royal that Christmas as directed by someone called Andrea. Internet records don’t seem to know her surname but you’d think they’d have let me know. One of them – titled A Right Royal Christmas – was inspired by Prince Philip’s admittance to hospital the previous year, wondering out loud what the consequences would have been if he or the Queen had died during the Christmas period, and even though Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, died in April 2021, and Queen Elizabeth II died in September, with all the official mourning I think we know all my fears would have come true. The script is below.
A RIGHT ROYAL CHRISTMAS1
Tick-tock, tick-tock…last year I saw the rolling headlines about poor Prince Philip coming in on the BBC News website – chest pains – hospital – heart surgery – blocked coronary artery – and I was worried he might not make it through the night.2 And then I wondered: if he fell of his perch, on Christmas Eve, would the BBC cancel Christmas?
Tick-tock, tick-tock…would they have called Liz back into the editing suite, with a 3pm deadline looming, and leant on her to re-dub her message to the nation? After all the original would’ve been out-of-date and surely of no use to fish nor blancmange.3 There must have been executives in back rooms making contingency plans on every bleep of the Duke of Edinburgh’s heart monitor.
Thankfully he pulled through, of course, the immortal that he seems to be, but yet I imagine that there must be shadowy people who plan for such eventualities – after all it’s well known
that journalists have already written the obituaries of every celebrity still breathing – so what contingency might a festive keeling-over of a major royal bring about?
Are there instructions set down to replace a myriad of festive programming and family films with a black screen and sombre music? Would they? Should they? Could Her Majesty put the kibosh on Wallace & Gromit? Would The Great Escape be called off? Might no-one be off to see The Wizard of Oz? And could Gone with the Wind just be, well…gone?
After all they have to die sometime in the service of the country, one would imagine, and statistically-speaking there’s almost a one-in-fifty chance of it occurring in that holiday week in-between Christmas and New Year. The odds drop to one-in-twelve if you consider such a Royal time bomb going off in the month of December; which is still surely enough to put a dampener on jovial proceedings.
And this drops still further to one-in-six if you consider that there’s two of ‘em teetering on the brink. And they do say that the harsh British winter sees off more than your fair share of pensioners, and as Buckingham Palace must be a nightmare to heat with a three-bar fire, in reality, it’s almost a certainty to happen. One year.
So buy your bumper edition of the Radio Times from the newsagents and circle what you’re looking forward to…but beware, because the Christmas royal time bomb is ticking.4
1 – Was this really the right sort of topic for posh Ramsbottom? Maybe not, but I heard that a call for monologues from one establishment resulted in “a load of rubbish” back, so maybe beggars can’t be choosers. My other monologues submitted were about a Christmas turkey, the encroachment of Christmas into November, Christmas shopping in a certain supermarket, and the adventures of some Christmas puddings. Ten years later I’m still wondering if they were ever performed.
2 – Might not make it through the night: Was this a Rolf Harris reference? You don’t get many of those to the pound these days. I think this was a comedy (Dead Ringers?) catchphrase attributed to Harris when refereeing to an patient on Animal Hospital, but the internet seems awfully quiet on this now. There again Rolf Harris was only sent to jail for assaulting a number of teenage girls in June 2014 so I guess he was still currency in 2012.
3 – No use to fish nor blancmange: You’d think I’d have got this odd phrase from somewhere. What was I reading at the time? However, the internet tells me that no examples of this phrase exist across the whole of the internet so maybe I did coin it and when I post this it’ll become the only one and be a googlewhack.
4 – What did get taken off in the aftermath of the Queen’s death was an episode of Bargain Hunt, which news of the Queen’s death famously interrupted, Stewart Lee’s Tornado stand-up routine, all football matches, Radio Manchester’s Talking Balls, the beeps in Morrisons check-outs, one day of international cricket, Nick Abbot on LBC, and Allan Beswick’s local radio phone-in. It’s what she would have wanted.