During the early decades of my long and eventful life the morals of British society were preserved and stabilized by respect. Children respected adults. Pupils respected teachers. Patients respected doctors. Civilians respected the police. Lower classes respected upper classes. And so on. At the lofty apex of the pyramid of respect was our monarchy, aloof and remote, yet loved and venerated throughout Britain and its empire.
Respect, in its turn, was preserved by formality- no first name terms in those days. No doubt my schoolmasters had a record of my first name, but to them I was always Sushing in class, and they were always Sir to me.
But since the sixties there has been a steady change- some might say decline- in the character of British society, a change paralleled by an increasing exposure of the lives of the royals. Our dear Queen, bless her, took the first step by allowing the BBC to film the Windsor family behind the scenes, allowing what was, for its day, an unprecedented degree of access. Successive generations of royals have indulged in exponentially greater media exposure.
There are some who debate the causal relationship between the debasing of the monarchy and the wider decline of standards in British society. For me, the pre-eminent sociologist and historian of our time, it is clear that the royal family has set, rather than followed, the trend: the more the monarchy has exposed its baser human facets in the media, the lower has become the moral tone throughout every stratum of UK society.
Which leaves me struggling to imagine what cataclysmic decline in moral standards is likely to follow the latest and most abandoned act of royal exposure which came to my ears at my club this morning when I overheard a fellow member saying that there had been a rapid sell-out of tickets to see Kate's bush, which was showing for three nights at the Hammersmith Apollo in August. I say!
Mind you, much as one might lament the Caligulan excesses of our young royals, at least they are giving good value for money. The tickets are priced at £25 for a show that reportedly lasts two hours. I remember in Princess Anne's time it was fifty quid for a quick flash, and fifty quid as a lot of money in those days.