Jacintha Saldanha’s death is a tragedy for her partner, her children, her wider family and friends, but it should also give our society a jolt of reality.This nurse has apparently taken her own life in response to a puerile stunt by two Australian broadcasters who impersonated the Queen, asking for details of the condition of her daughter-in-law in hospital.
Had the private hospital in which she worked had a telephone receptionist on duty, Saldanha would not have found herself in the public eye.
However, the main reason for her plight is the hysterical overreaction by our media and politicians to every detail of the royal family soap opera that mocks Britain’s claim to be a modern democracy.
Pregnant woman has morning sickness is not a headline that would find its way into any newspaper, radio or TV news bulletin, but when it concerns the situation of the putative mother of a future head of state, it emphasises that women who join the Windsor outfit are seen essentially as brood mares to extend the dynasty.
Her brief stay in hospital became the green light for news reporters to set up camp outside in a pretence that something newsworthy was afoot.
BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell was given licence to expound at length and in ignorance on the woman’s condition, even speculating that the expression on her husband’s face might indicate an improvement.
The media insists that it is giving the public what it wants, but it is arguable that its highly strung blanket coverage works to foster demand.
Royals complain constantly about breaches of their privacy but their assiduous courting of the media to cover one non-event after another suggests a symbiotic relationship.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the great moderniser, made much last week of a new rule permitting the first-born child of the Queen’s eldest grandson to accede to the monarchy, irrespective of gender.
This was a great step forward for equality, he said, because the former rule was “old-fashioned.”
Not that such a description could be applied, of course, to the ongoing practice of hereditary succession for head of state in the 21st century when the vast majority of the world’s population have moved beyond such anachronistic practices.
Even states elsewhere in Europe that retain so-called constitutional monarchies seem able to live their daily lives without politicians being unable to debate serious issues in the absence of registering forelock-tugging sympathies to whichever royal is out of sorts.
The death of Jacintha Saldanha ought to have given the authorities in Britain pause for thought over their responsibility for this calamity.
But the Metropolitan Police have wasted no time in making contact with Australia, indicating that they wish to speak to people on the radio station. Why?
British police have no jurisdiction in Australia and the only legal issue is whether the reporters violated a local law banning broadcast of material acquired by a listening device.
Nothing that police do will bring Saldanha back to her grieving family. Nor is it fair to conclude that it was the actions of the two reporters that drove her to take her own life.
The fault lies with the hysteria generated by politicians and media for their own reasons about a bizarre institution that ought to be superseded without delay by a democratic republic.