It’s easy to forget that Germany has an aristocracy. They don’t appear in the news much, except when they cheat in exams. Other than that, the “vons” and “zus” of this Teutonic world are largely left in their own airless world, preserved from the world’s hustle by their own irrelevance. They probably live in rotting, dusty mansions like the old woman in Great Expectations – endlessly eating cake and brooding over a lost love and saying questionable things to 12-year-old boys.
Then something happens that they actually can claim to be a part of – an English royal wedding. The rusty hinges on the cupboard doors creak open and Johann the butler is sent in to dig up the finest lace. But what’s this? “We did not receive an invitation,” said Otmar Fugmann, spokesman for the House of Saxe–Coburg and Gotha.
A weak wave of outrage blusters through the room, though it takes a while for that amount of energy to work its way through. Otmar is scared out of his wits when the princess of Schleswig-Holstein gives a slight gasp of concern, while Prince Andreas of Gotha raised a limp hand in protest, slapped it onto his teak coffee table and coughed out a cloud of dust, and died of a heart attack.
But that Crown Prince Ernst August von Hannover is a sly old fox – keeping his cards close to his chest and secretly sniggering at the snubbing that his distant cousins have received. But he was always a firebrand. He can’t wait to get his glad-rags on and boogie with the Sloanes. He’ll be the drunk uncle, molesting the bridesmaids, and shouting untoward comments in German during the best man’s speech.