Her highness doth protest too much. Their earnestness and good intentions notwithstanding, it is important for the Windsors to realise that Buckingham Palace is, in fact, a glass house. Queen Elizabeth was overheard criticising world leaders during the opening of the Welsh Parliament on Thursday. She is, it seems, “irritated” by world leaders because when it comes to climate change, “they talk, but they don’t do”.
Elizabeth Windsor’s statement is the latest in a series of outbursts from her family regarding climate change. Her grandson William has expressed chagrin at billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos for putting their efforts into space tourism instead of focusing on the environmental crisis on earth. And the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge both preceded the family matriarch in blaming world leaders for their inaction ahead of the COP-26 summit in Glasgow, which starts on October 31. Climate change — and the global catastrophe that seems imminent in its wake — is certainly something that should worry governments into urgent, sweeping policy changes. But the Queen’s “irritation” was triggered more by a lack of etiquette than action: It seems that many world leaders have not yet RSVP’d for the Glasgow summit.
For so-called “royals”, dinner parties, meetings and a long weekend are what passes for official duties. And while billionaires on extra-terrestrial joy rides deserve to be called out, one of the richest unemployed perhaps isn’t the best person to do it. Most of all, though, it is important for the royals to remember that their entire purpose is to be the symbol of an anachronistic institution in the modern world, a feat they achieve through pageantry and masterful inaction. So, before pointing out the inertia of others, they should put their privilege where their mouth is. Donating a part of their inherited wealth — the money from taxpayers and colonisation — to help create “green” jobs might be a good place to start.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on October 16, 2021 under the title ‘Glass House of Windsor’.