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HomeKathy GyngellTCW Christmas reads: The uncanny prescience of Mark Steyn

TCW Christmas reads: The uncanny prescience of Mark Steyn


The Prisoner of Windsor by Mark Steyn; Stockade Books (April 2023) 

LAUGHTER is the balm of life, and if you are in need some of that balm I cannot direct you to a funnier book – one that makes you laugh out loud – than Mark Steyn’s novel, The Prisoner of Windsor, which he describes as a sequel to The Prisoner of Zenda, the 1894 Anthony Hope adventure. For readers who haven’t read this novel or seen its 1937 film version, it’s the story of an English gentleman on holiday in Ruritania who is persuaded to act as a political decoy for the country’s drugged and kidnapped monarch. You don’t have to know the original to enjoy or follow Mark’s reverse take on the plot, set not in a fictional kingdom but Charles III’s present-day not-so-United Kingdom.  

The thought that triggered Mark into writing it was whether a present-day Ruritanian (in other words, someone from an Eastern European country ) wouldn’t find life here now as fantastical as Hope’s Rudolf Rassendyll found life there then. Steyn’s conceit for his novel is a Ruritanian immigrant plumber, scion of the abolished House of Elphberg, called upon to stand in, pre Charles’s coronation, for the similarly drugged (for all sorts of nefarious, New World Order, Global Reset, reasons) Prime Minister of England. That’s enough of the plot – I won’t spoil it for you because it has a number of twists and turns and like all good thriller writers Mark keeps you guessing.

The real brilliance of his fantastical tale is the woke parody it’s the vehicle for – the laughs exposing its darker side. We are treated to the combined insanities of Covid-nudged behaviour and the new LGBTQIA+ identity madness orthodoxies, all through the eyes of his migrant plumber (aka Ruritanian King) hero. Steyn thus shows – months before our streets were taken over by Islamists (and their white middle class social justice supporters) crying for Israel’s annihilation – the irrational brutality of the woke mob in action. As you read, you think when did he write it? In the last few days? It is mesmerically ‘up to date’ on our amoral and morally relativist, contradictory and totally hypocritical times. From the Coronation condoms on sale to the Coronation locusts to the Great British Bugger (no, not a typo) and his representations of the ‘diverse groupings’ of Charles’s not so loyal subjects along with the new King’s own eco lunacy, it’s  all too frighteningly believable. Because we are nearly there – the point at which things descend into uncontrollable, irrational viciousness and violence. Maybe we are already. With one gem after another (a ‘suicide belt’ is the latest fashionable cocktail) he captures not just a ‘fin de siècle’ feeling but a sense of ‘fin de civilisation’, symbolised by the recurring policeman from the ‘Royal Parks Childwatch Community Predator Response Unit’s Rainbow Dance Team’.

As Steyn develops his characters, their wokery gets darker. The chaos of the ‘pride before fall’ society is palpable. One of the two heroines, a toff TV presenter cancelled for her politically incorrect lapses, has her leg blown off in a terrorist attack that no one in the multicultural ‘social justice’ world really tries to prevent. Pride and Islamist terror must be made to exist side by side whatever the contortions, as the unwoke PM ‘gone rogue’ stand-in is to discover. His sheer chutzpah and principle make him the number one threat to a Great Reset-style ten-point plan (one flight to Greece per half decade, one long haul every eight years, environmentally responsible breeding and so on). 

Steyn’s prescience is uncanny. The Coronation celebrations with compulsory protesters (Small World, the movement against freedom of movement, Make the Poor Rich, Think Globally, Live Locally,) turn into a chaotic and violent demonstration led by, you’ve guessed it, Anti-Violence Anti-Torture Anti-Racists joined by enraged Reprimitivisation and Human Extinction activists. Only by scaling the Cenotaph do the PM and his supposed wife escape death. 

Steyn is a clever, clever man. He puts his finger on all the idiocies that are indeed laughable but at the same time are the indices of society’s alienation, moral and political collapse. Like the French author Michel Houellebecq, he shows where moral relativism leads: either to the tyranny of New World Order irrationality and inhumanity or, as in Houellebecq’s novel Submission, to the rising repressive force against disorder, Islamist theocracy.

The Prisoner of Windsor will make you think as much as it makes you laugh.

All the various purchase details are here. 

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Kathy Gyngell
Kathy Gyngell
Kathy is Editor of The Conservative Woman. She is @kathygyngelltcw on GETTR and is back on Twitter.

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