PRINCE Charles celebrated his 58th birthday yesterday and although it was remiss of us to fail to send loyal greetings to him any disappointment he may have felt will have been more than compensated for by the rather remarkable birthday gift he received from Britain's armed forces. At one fell swoop Prince Charles was promoted to four star rank in all three services. He is thus at one and the same time an Admiral, a General and and an Air Chief Marshal, having formerly been merely a Vice-admiral, Lieutenant general and Air marshal. It is hard to take this kind of automatic promotion seriously, especially for someone whose active service ended with duty on a coastal minesweeper some thirty years ago, but the royal family likes giving itself and its servants titles and awards, as a casual glance at the twice-yearly Honours Lists shows. The excellent film The Queen, currently showing in Palma, is worth seeing for many reasons but among them is its depiction of the hidebound and stultifying official atmosphere in which the Royal family goes about its business for much of the time. The crux of the film is the Queen's inability to react spontaneously to the death of princess Diana and the pressure put on her to recognise the need to change. She has certainly done so since, but Prince Charles' meaningless promotions suggest that there is still a long way to go to modernise the monarchy.


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