My lunch with the queen


None of this would have happened if I had accepted my neighbor’s invitation to dine with a Swiss billionaire banker, or bb. (Sorry, real life.) He’s an old friend, the bb, and atypically Swiss. He drinks, schnoofs and chases women, or Afabs, as the absurd youths of today call them. The booze, alas, is now going to my head and, as the song says, it lingers like a haunting refrain for at least two days. I did some kickboxing early the next day so I chose to watch the 1949 classic, Sands of Iwo Jimaand snub the Swiss bb.

The film was made in 1949 and features the greatest of them all, John Wayne, happily no longer with us to see what his beloved America has become. The film is very patriotic and all that, enthusiastic Marines charging up Mount Suribachi, but it gives absolutely no recognition to the Japanese soldiers who were bombarded from the air and sea for months and died defending a man what they considered to be Japanese sacred ground. I guess in 1949 Pearl Harbor where a few thousand sailors died was still raw, but 130,000 women and children cremated in Tokyo, thanks to Curtis LeMay’s bombing campaign, and 200,000 dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn’t count. The film doesn’t show a flicker of the bravery of Japanese defenders dying for a dirty landscape far from home.

Well, Japan, Hungary and Poland are the only three countries I respect today. The rest are ruled by brutality, as in Africa, or, in the case of a dehumanized Europe and America, by Silicon Valley monsters. I was explaining this while having lunch with Boris – no, not the blond one, but a former Aiglon who had attended this good school with my daughter – when a sneering, hysterically intemperate woman looking like a spurned groupie took umbrage at what I was saying. I had never seen her before and she was either a Brit with an American accent or an American playing the Brit. If I hadn’t stayed home and seen the movie, I wouldn’t have exposed the martial virtues of Bushido and the crackpot wouldn’t have taken offense. I remained calmer than Arctic Ocean seals, which at least flap their flippers to express emotion, but the stranger insisted I was a Neanderthal. I take that as a big compliment, and considering the plague was female, I carried on with my conversation as if nothing had happened.

It’s an amazing thing: a private conversation in a restaurant, sotto voce to boot, can result in the intervention of a crazed southpaw trying to get five seconds of attention. Perhaps it was my choice of Margaret Court, as opposed to the intimidating, self-proclaimed, graceless Serena Williams, as tennis’ greatest that sparked it. Or was it when I said BLM is the biggest financial scam in America? After being escorted off the premises, my friend and I wondered what had happened to this supposedly civilized world of ours when you can’t even express an opinion without a fake stepping in and you call yourself a fascist.

A teacher is imprisoned in Ireland after refusing to use trans pronouns; that Paris of Troy lookalike Ian Hislop, including his quadruple chins, grossly insults Boris Johnson on air; the voguethe editor complains that he cannot hail a taxi because of his skin color; and Chips Channon’s diaries finally prove that every Tory who ever lived was gay. It’s nice to be back in London.

But then the queen dies and the loss puts everything into perspective. I happened to be at Spectator offices when the news broke, so William Moore, Freddy Gray and I began to drown our sorrows. Wine affected me more than Will or Freddy. And it brought back the precious memory of February 1952, at a boarding school in America, when Reverend Gould, at breakfast prayer, announced the death of George VI and the accession of Queen Elizabeth II. And I was there at Spectator offices when the life of this great monarch declined.

Exactly 22 years ago I was invited to Highgrove for a lunch given by the current King to King Constantine of Greece. It was the first time the current queen consort had acted as a hostess, and she greeted me with a knowing smile. (It had to do with a lady I was dating at the time.) Lord Black, our landlord at the time, was chatting with the Queen and waved me over. It was the only time I met Her Majesty. The wine flowed – we were only three tables of eight – then the guests were invited to inspect the garden. I missed it because I was playing badminton cricket nearby. When I arrived late and slightly drunk, the Beaufort players let me have it. “I was having lunch with the queen,” was my excuse. The volume of abuse has increased. But for once, I was telling the truth. And I had been rude to the future king by ignoring his invitation to inspect his garden. But at least I had met the greatest monarch of all time, and that’s something I won’t soon forget.


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