Leveson and Camillagate
I've just been reviewing a few books about the Queen (it being her diamond jubilee and a diamond quantity of books appearing to celebrate); and, as always, I've done way too much reading -- beyond and behind -- to get into the piece. In particular, I've been wondering how come we've all forgotten the Camillagate and the Squidgygate tapes.
Maybe these causes célèbres of the 1990s are now hardly a memory, but it's a bit odd that these bits of royal phone interception (if they were genuine) haven't played their parts in the Leveson Inquiry (unless I've missed it). Maybe that it because the conversations (between Di and J Gilbey, and Charles and Camilla) were apparently taped by amateur hackers -- or alternatively by the security services -- not by professional tabloid journalists (in this game, remember, "amateur" is always a bit of an alibi). Maybe it is all so long ago that most of us have forgotten.
I haven't forgotten.
That's because in the 1990s, I was teaching a Part II course in Cambridge. on "The Roman Emperor: construction and deconstruction of an image" -- for final year students in Classics and History. We did an awful lot of hard reading of ancient texts, But one of the things we also did was reflect on how the modern image of the monarch was (or was not ) the same as the ancient image of the Roman emperor.
The tapes of the (supposed) conversation between Charles and Camilla were particular grist to the mill. That's partly because they reflected that odd mixture of demotic and arcane speech which is often associated with monarchy. On the one hand, Charles (if it was he) was busy talking about being a tampax in Camilla; on the other he was speaking about Camilla beimg the victim of "calumny" -- a word that has not been used in ordinary conversation for at least a 100 years. You can nicely parallel that in the supposed first-person speech of Roman emperors: a mixture of demotic and the frankly arcane.
Anyway, I set a snatch of this in the final exam. The Classics Faculty examiners were fine with this. The History Faculty examiners insisted that the quote be labelled "the alleged conversation of HRH the Prince of Wales and Mrs Andrew Parker-Bowles".
I think it must count as the first 'official' publication of these unofficial tapes ever. Who says that Cambridge exams are behind the times?