SURREY, UK—What did the Chinaman say to the climate scientist?
“Nothing,” quipped Prince Charles yesterday in an attempt to lighten the mood at a ceremony mourning the passing of Magna Carta eight hundred years ago.
“Because if there’s one thing Communism gets right, it’s that shut up.”
A who’s who of England’s apex caste had gathered along with dignitaries, David Cameron and other plebeian tribunes on the banks of the Thames at Runnymede near Old Windsor. As befits a site dubbed the Death-place of Western Autocracy, the mood was funereal, sometimes openly tearful.
It was here on June 15, 1215 that King John signed away the right of English monarchs to do whatever they deem necessary to save the populace from itself.
“That was a jape,” continued the Prince of Wales, “but like all the best humor, it speaks to a greater, more general truth. To wit, that the instinct to defer to one’s betters reaches its evolutionary ideal in Chinapersons of all kinds, from Siam to Ulan Bator.”
His Royal Highness went on to compare his own subjects, unfavorably, to their celestial cousins.
“One increasingly hears expressed on the Clapham omnibus what might be called the [Simon] Schamaesque view that by late 1214, the baronial class and certain disgruntled clerics had entered an alliance born more of pragmatism than of ideological bla bla bla.
“But what exponents of this [view] tend to forget is,” continued Prince Charles, “nobody cares what they think.
“If I wanted to hear a virus, I’d sneeze,” joked the non-practicing architect and environmentalist (who recently admitted to “inheriting certain misanthropic malthusiasms” from his father Philip, a leading figure in the so-called New Wave of British eugenics).
Charles then paraphrased his close friend, the US actor and director Clint Eastwood.
“Opinions are like anni horribiles: everybody’s had one, but this truism hardly constitutes a licence to traipse around regaling all the world with the minutia thereof!
“Got a point of view, have you? Whatever. T.M.I.,” said the heir-apparent to supreme temporal power over the peoples of Britain, New Zealand and Barbados.
“Questions, qualms, queries? Talk to the Hand of the King.”
HRH then regretted he would need to abbreviate his remarks, as he felt “a bit of a wog” coming on.
“One has a tickling suspicion that one may have inhaled a paparazzo and a class of autograph-seeking schoolchildren this morning, who are now replicating like rabbits in one’s nasopharyngeal mucosa.”
Skipping the last few slides of his talk, Charles said the take-home was that—IHRHHO—the Great Charter was to blame “for everything England has become today: a nation locked in an insoluble ‘climate standoff,’ where every man and his dogs, from villein to Viscount to oil baron, feels entitled to spout objections.
“If I were king,” he vowed hypothetically, “I’d put the whole traitorous bull in a shredder and have [Archbishop Stephen] Langton disinterred, tried, defrocked and executed in Trafalgar Square as its lead author.”
The biodegradable bishop could then be left in a gibbet (“to putrefy and edify,” as Charles put it) until such time as local merchants rose up in nausea or pity, whichever came first. Only then would His Majesty—who was not an unreasonable man—consent to have the skeletal object lesson cut down and replaced with a billboard of pop culture’s anorexic bimbo du jour.
Pointing at a 10-centimetre-thick wad of vellum—one of four surviving exemplifications of the Charter—the rhinorrhoeic Dauphin then asked: “What the hell was [King] John thinking when he put his seal on such a suicidal contract? Then again, there was a bit of incest going round at the time, and it wasn’t unknown for a member of the royal line to go somewhat…”
He whistled while describing a circumtemporal spiral with his index finger.
“…in his dotage.”
Zipping up the hood of a double-breasted biohazard suit, the Prince bade the assembled commoners, media and people of quality “adieu for now, ladies and germs.”
Climate scientists have given the speech top marks. The consensus was summed up by Bob Ward, a 49-year-old London public relations officer, who felt Prince Charles had “finally restored some sanity to the climate conversation.”
But one UK newspaper found the crown prince’s presentation “rather too nuanced and closely argued, if anything,” suggesting he must have had help from mum or dad.