I have just speed-read one of the dullest books of the year – Brian Hoey’s Zara Phillips, a biography of Princess Anne's horse-loving daughter. Written in the style of lackey TV voiceovers on royal or state occasions, we are informed that Zara is a “serious tea drinker”. Oh hang on a minute, she likes tea and red wine, separately presumably. But she also likes a pint of beer with her pals down the boozer – and oh my goodness, she may also imbibe a “glass or two of vintage champagne,” for official toasts, unlike her puritan mother the Princess Royal who’s teetotal and goes through the charade of raising a glass of whatever to her pursed lips – “but no one has seen her actually drink the champagne or drain the glass.” It’s a wonder she doesn’t have a spittoon or a bucket nearby for the ejection of the psychotropic liquid – never mind the splashes, dearie, she’s royal!
Another heavy-on-the eyelids aspect of this book is its assumption that no one actually knows anything about the Windsors. Of Diana, Hoey writes: “She died in the most tragic circumstances in an incident that is still clouded in mystery." Really? Was anyone else killed? He then adds: “Eight years later, [Charles] married his mistress and in what was said to be a cynical public relations damage limitation exercise, gave her the use of one of his subsidiary titles, Duchess of Cornwall …” Mummy, who was that? Who was that nasty bitch who broke up the marriage? I can’t find her name! Oh mummmmmeeeeeeee!
The narrative hiccups along in an oops-a-daisy of quote marks to distance the author and the royal family from anything remotely modish or new-fangled – “Zara loves watching ‘soaps’ on television [as opposed to the ‘wireless’], with EastEnders being her current favourite,” we are informed. "Zara is down-to-earth, with a salty sense of humour and a smattering of ‘stable’ language that is common among equestrian folk.” Anthony Burgess would have boldly furnished us with a glossary of the stable, but Hoey moves on faster than a horse's eruction.
If you’ve got a really bad case of constipation as you strain on your throne and leaf through this crud - don’t strain too hard, now – then delight in a lengthy description of one of Philip’s compulsory picnics at Balmoral. It’s quite hard-core - the site must first be made the subject of a recce by servants, sandwiches must have their crusts sliced off, bone china must be preferred to plastic plates, the barbecue must be lit by Philip himself: relish the tantrum he once threw when he forgot to bring matches for culinary ignition – he dispatched a footman a mile back to fetch some. What a cunt.
Zara Phillips by Brian Hoey, Virgin, £18.99 (or 50p in a few weeks’ time at your local bring ‘n’ buy)