It’s Her Majesty’s birthday but instead of letting off cannons, honouring knights or playing gin rummy with Madge, her Lady in Waiting, the Queen is on Zoom. The video call is split three ways, linking Windsor, Norfolk and Karori.
“I like the medieval backdrop she’s chosen,” Meghan whispers to Harry, seated together in view of the screen. “The toiling peasants in the field outside, the silverware heaped around the room, the burning bunches of sage leaves to ward off disease.”
“It’s not a backdrop, it’s just Windsor Castle,” says Harry.
“Kate and I are here, Granny,” William says, from the Georgian splendour of his country residence, Anmer Hall. Kate offers a dazzling smile.
“Great, it’s Suck-Up and Slaphead,” hisses Harry.
“Mute your microphone, Harry,” remarks the Queen.
“Let’s get this jolly thing done,” says Prince Philip, irritably. “Where the hell is Charles?”
“He’s on his way over from Karori Park,” Camilla says, settling herself into an armchair with an Aperol Spritz. “He’s doing awfully well with his canine obedience demonstrations, you know. They absolutely throng with onlookers.”
“What sorts of commands is he teaching?” asks the Queen.
“Sit, obviously,” says Camilla. “Stay.”
“Shame you didn’t learn that one, Harry,” remarks William. His brother turns red with annoyance.
“Walkies,” continues Camilla.
“Meghan’s got that one nailed,” adds Wills. Meghan goes pink.
“Not Die for the Queen, I hope,” says Her Majesty, mildly.
“Heavens no,” says Camilla. “He’s changed that to Roll Over For Mummy.”
“He’s been doing that for 70 years,” says Philip. Camilla goes purple.
“Let’s just get orn with it,” Philip continues. “First of all, a cheer for Her Majesty on her 94th birthday. Happy Birthday, Old Boot.”
“I’ll never understand this family,” mutters Meghan.
“Hip hip, hooray!” everyone else says.
“Next on the agenda, this bloody book that’s coming out about the Sussexes.” There’s an icy silence. Harry and Meghan exchange a glance. “Promising an intimate portrait of two rebels, liberated from royal bonds to earn an honest living,” continues Philip, reading from his notes. He looks up. “It’s called Finding Freebies.”
“Finding Freedom,” corrects Harry. “I can assure you, Grandpa, it will be in the best possible taste, like everything we do.”
“Such as handing out sex toys in suburban New Zealand?” says Wills, archly.
“Yoni eggs support the pelvic floor muscle,” snaps Meghan “Now, thanks to us, Karori moms fear nothing when they sneeze.”
“This book sounds terrible,” says Philip, getting cross.
“It’s no worse than the memoir Pippa Middleton published,” retorts Harry. “Does My Bum Look Famous in This?”
“Or Camilla’s coffee table book about her spaniels,” adds Meghan. “Toothless Betty & Incontinent Pip: a love story against all odds.”
“Or anything by Sarah, Duchess of York,” says Harry. “Budgie the Helicopter Sells Access to Andrew.”
“I want it pulped,” insists Philip. “Next on the agenda: the Cambridges.”
“We’ve been frightfully busy,” says Kate, silkily. “Clapping for nurses.”
“How are the children?” asks the Queen.
“Louis is fingerpainting,” says Kate. “Charlotte is learning her shapes. George is with his tutor at the moment, studying the constitutional history of the United Kingdom and the right of primogeniture.”
“Jolly good,” says Philip. “But there’s a problem, I’m afraid.”
“The people of Norfolk are restless,” says the Queen. “They’re a bit cross that a family of rich Londoners have escaped to the country, potentially spreading contagion in a region with little specialist care.”
“Restless?” repeats William.
“Haven’t you seen the burning crucifix on your front lawn?” barks Philip. “The locals want you gone.” He slaps his knee, furiously. “I blame the Beckhams, and that sodding Gordon Ramsay.”
“I agree entirely,” adds Camilla. “Lounging around their country homes on Instagram, in flat caps and Burberry jackets. Posh Spice has never gutted a rabbit in her life, or jugged a hare.”
“So we’re sending you to Karori,” says Philip.
“WHAT?” say Wills, Kate, Harry and Meghan.
“United front, and all that,” says the Queen, with a tight smile. “It would be the most perfect birthday gift I can imagine, seeing my grandsons burying the hatchet.” There’s an uncomfortable pause. “That’s settled, then.”
“Good gracious,” Camilla thinks aloud. “Two Dukes, three Duchesses and a King in Waiting, right here in Karori?”
“What on earth will we do all day?” asks Kate, aghast.
“What do you do all day now?” wonders Meghan.
“Where do I start?” says Camilla. “They’re desperate for volunteers at Karori Normal School’s Kiss & Drop. Someone needs to trim the hanging baskets at Marsden Village; the lobelia has run amok. Bill needs a butcher’s boy to deliver schnitzels to old people. And it says here,” she holds up the community paper, “that Marsden Books is for sale.”
“How promising,” says the Queen. “It does sound as if the neighbourhood is in desperate need of royal support. My only question to William and Harry is: will Karori be big enough for both of you?”
In the next compelling instalment, Wills & Kate arrive and Sir Bill English very probably makes a cameo