Cair Paravel

Boris Johnson’s vision of Albion reminds me of Cair Paravel, the turreted castle and court at the heart of C S Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis’s nod to a chivalrous past that never, of course, existed. Boris, naturally, is High King Peter, ‘head of the world’ at last, rousing his subjects to a frenzy of patriotism with talk of a new era, a new dawn, a new beginning (an old cliché).

Cair Paravel is lovely. Primary colour standards flutter in the breeze. Boys can be Kings, and girls can be Queens. Whether boys can be Queens too, or girls, Kings, is never made clear, but C S Lewis, I suspect, might have given short shrift to Diversity and Inclusion Policy, even if not to gender equality. Queen Susan, after all, is a dab hand with a long bow, though Queen Lucy must rush about the battlefield like a courtly Florence Nightingale with a tiny bottle of Chanel No. 7 that cures even mortal wounds.

Everything in Narnia is noble and nice, and everyone is gracious. The Royals speak with the clarity of a BBC English of the 1950s, with a sprinkling of ‘prithees’, ‘nays’ and ‘verilies’ to make it even nicer. No one squabbles. For spiritual and ethical guidance there’s a talking lion.

Everything is good and wholesome at Cair Paravel, even if just a tiny bit priggish and smug. There are sometimes battles to fight, against envious oiks who want what Narnia has, but don your cuirass, your sallet, your fauld and your spauldron, parry and thrust awhile, and the oiks, natural cowards that they are, will retreat in shame.

Puberty is as yet a distant threat at Cair Paravel. Indeed, nothing sullies the loveliness. No one counts the debits and credits, there are no interfering bureaucrats, no constraining regulations, no spending reviews, no deficits, no cancer, no garlic, no cocaine, no coronavirus. And whilst not everyone is equal (after all, you can only be royal if you went to a good school) everyone seems happy enough, banqueting and quaffing mead together in the great hall of the castle – only enough, mind you, to make them merrie. No one is drunk and boorish at Cair Paravel.

I loved the Chronicles of Narnia until I was about sixteen (far too long, you might say). The muscular Christianity, the moral certainty, the nobility of it all – the clothes, too, and the talking animals. But in reality it has all the verisimilitude of Katharine Hepburn as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, make-believe nonsense that does a disservice to the multi-faceted, complex, competitive world we live in.

The oiks, after all, have their own point of view, their own moral certainties, their own talking animals, their own ‘good schools’. Is there anything as dangerous as righteousness, certainty or nationalism masquerading as patriotism? Better by far to compromise and cooperate, and to pool our sovereignty. We’re all of us oiks after all.

I dream of a time when the flag of the EU will once again flutter above the parapets of Cair Paravel.

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