NEWS ITEM: According to the Guardian News Service, Charles, Prince of Wales, is tightening his belt. The Royal once reputed to have his valet squirt his toothpaste onto his toothbrush for him has even stooped to wearing the same outfits several times. Charles has also cut down on his use of electricity and is apparently doing his part for his country by vacationing at his estate in Scotland rather than in more exotic locales.
SCENE: A dark, damp groundskeeper’s cottage in the Scottish highlands, fuelled by a peat fire and lit by kerosene lamps. Several freshly killed rabbits dangle from hooks on the wall over an old table, on which are splayed an assortment of grimy just-plucked vegetables -- several leeks and three potatoes. A tall 60-year-old man, Charles, dressed in a dusty top hat and rather snug tails, sits on a wooden chair, awkwardly attempting to pare a fourth potato with an old knife. A second Man stands across from him, hands twitching, trying to contain his criticisms of Charles’s technique.
MAN: Your Highness, if I may…
CHARLES: (Fumbling absently with the paring knife) In these less flamboyant times, Jeeves, you may simply call me “Highness.” Or “Duke of Rothesay.” Or “Duke of Cornwall.”
MAN: Yes, er, Highness.
CHARLES: And may I continue to call you Jeeves?
MAN: Certainly, Highness, although in truth, my name is Anthony.
CHARLES: (Greatly surprised) Is it? But haven’t I always called you ‘Jeeves’?
ANTHONY: Yes, Highness, you call all your manservants ‘Jeeves.’ Perhaps you find it simpler to refer to every one of us by the same name.
CHARLES: Not at all, Anthony! I thought it was an amazing coincidence that wherever I went, all of you were named Jeeves! Well, the things one discovers when one gets off one’s polo horse and mucks about, eh?
ANTHONY: Indeed, Highness.
CHARLES: (Indicating the potato) I say, Anthony, how do you get the, er, hair and whatnot off this monstrous carbuncle?
ANTHONY: (Eagerly) Shall I give you a hand, Highness?
CHARLES: Yes -- but don’t do it for me, old man. Just show me how. Soon Camilla and I may be forced to, as it were, ‘fend for ourselves’! ‘Live as the common folk do’! ‘Break daily bread,’ and, er, you know …
ANTHONY: (While deftly paring the potato) Cook, Highness?
CHARLES: Yes, that’s it. Like cavemen and other primitives have for, well, ages, I suppose. I did rather think Camilla might already know how, but she claims she can’t even harden up one of those elliptical things, you know, those damnably brittle white ones --
ANTHONY: An egg, Highness? She can’t boil an egg?
CHARLES: Yes! Shocking, isn’t it? She can wrench a burr from the haunch of a bucking horse with her teeth, but when it comes to, er, whatzit…
ANTHONY: Cook-ing, Highness?
CHARLES: (Brushing dirt ineffectively off a leek and growing irritated) Oh, do stop calling me ‘Highness’! ‘Sir’ is fine.
ANTHONY: Certainly, sir.
CHARLES: At any rate, Anthony, the Duchess of Rothesay and I are, er, ‘downsizing.’ We’re seriously thinking of moving permanently into simpler digs. Like this -- this cottage would work, wouldn’t it?
ANTHONY: Well, sir, yes, of course. Only --
CHARLES: (Curtly) Out with it, Jeeves -- I mean, Anthony!
ANTHONY: Er, only somebody already lives here.
CHARLES: Ah! Really? Who?
ANTHONY: The groundskeeper, sir.
CHARLES: Anthony, this is why I’m the Prince of Wales and you’re a serf, or whatever we call you now. You see, if we downsize, and sell off our mansionhouse here at Birkhall Estate, we’ll have no need for the groundskeeper.
ANTHONY: I suppose not, sir. But what shall Brownleigh do for a living then, sir? His family has served yours for hundreds of years.
CHARLES: You mean his name isn’t Jeeves either? Zounds! Oh, honestly, Anthony, I can’t be thinking about such drivel as Brownleigh’s daily comings and goings. I have my landscape painting to preoccupy me -- should I fill the sky with seven clouds, or just use one? -- that sort of thing. And there’s my abiding interest in illusionism -- I’m a member of the Magic Circle, you know. That requires constant practice, Jeeves.
ANTHONY: Will you be getting rid of all your staff here in Scotland, sir?
CHARLES: Well, we might keep a gardener. I must maintain the organic vegetable garden and that Jeeves is awfully good.
ANTHONY: You mean McAdams, sir. And what will you do for security?
CHARLES: I’m not certain
we’ll need any. If we aren’t unspeakably rich any more, terrorists and
hooligans and Irishmen and the like will lose interest, won’t they?
ANTHONY: I doubt it, sir. I think you’ll still be seen as an important if powerless figurehead.
CHARLES: (Offended) Powerless figurehead? I hardly think --
(A crash is heard outside the window. Charles freezes in fear. Anthony rushes over to the window and looks out.)
CHARLES: What ho, Jeeves!
ANTHONY: I’m afraid I can’t see anything, sir, what with the smoke from the peat.
CHARLES: (Hopefully) Could it be a herd of marauding rabbits?
ANTHONY: Sounded rather larger, sir.
CHARLES: Well, I say, I don’t
like that. D’you think terrorists know about this place?
ANTHONY: Most likely, sir. They probably have Google Maps.
CHARLES: (Petulantly) I did ask Mummy to make sure we weren’t on it.
ANTHONY: She may not have had any say in the matter, sir.
CHARLES: Now, see here, Jeeves, Mummy --
(Another crash comes from outside the other window.)
CHARLES: (Frightened) Heavens! What shall we do?
ANTHONY: I’ll call security, sir.
CHARLES: I’m afraid you can’t. I gave them the week off -- without pay, of course. I thought we’d experiment with, you know, ‘roughing it.’ As you can see, I’m wearing an ensemble from 2007! You haven’t heard a whisper of complaint about it from me, either. Please leak that to the press.
ANTHONY: Sir, I think we’ve had a security breach. I’m not sure how to protect you. And, I must say, since I’m in imminent danger of losing my job after a lifetime of faithful service, I’m not inclined to defend you to the death with that paring knife. Did you dismiss the hounds, as well?
CHARLES: (Elated) Jeeves, thank-you for reminding me! I actually do have an attack beast. It’s dozing in the back room, and due to my heroic efforts to cut back, it hasn’t had a gin and tonic in a fortnight.
ANTHONY: (Alarmed) Sir?
CHARLES: (Confidently) Yes, Jeeves -- release Camilla!