Prince Andrew had already had his 60th birthday plans significantly scaled back by the palace. (He wanted a bouncy castle and some horses with their hooves painted in the style of unicorns – no, wait, I’m getting him mixed up with a Kardashian.) But he was certainly expecting a state affair for such a very big anniversary, and was thwarted.
That didn’t stop him holding a regular party last week, at which Charles, Anne and Edward were conspicuous by their absence. For one sibling to be missing could be seen as a personal rift; when none of them show, that is a major humiliation in any kind of family.
There are factors specific to this one family, and also massive unknowables. They must all have valets, so surely they RSVP’d in the negative some time before. In that case, Andrew going ahead was just classic cussedness, seeking to teach them how unimportant they are but succeeding only in making himself the prince of all loneliness.
He may have realised that beforehand and wondered whether to pretend to have a headache and cancel. Such thoughts are enough to make you feel sorry for the man, so bear in mind the risible hubris and vanity of someone who would persist with this knees-up when he is currently the national poster boy for dead-eyed lack of empathy.
But there are lessons here that can be applied even to families without valets. It’s not at all unusual to reach 60 with elements of your family not speaking to one another. That is all perfectly manageable with a cheerful: “It’s my special day, get over it!” After that, anyone who boycotts is most likely a high-conflict personality.
And even then, a birthday of this magnitude is usually akin to a deathbed – no, no, not like that, simply that it is so significant, most feuds will be laid aside. If there is one irrevocable rift, you can often overcome such embarrassment by enjoying very good relations with that person’s adult children, especially if they are (say) about to move to Canada for reasons of their own.
At some point, however, you have to ask yourself what a birthday party is for – it is not really for the cocktails and dancing, which are easily accessible on any good yacht. Birthdays exist so that people can parade their love for you. If you are having to pretend not to mind that they made other plans, the deficiency is probably not in your party planning but in the 60 years leading up to it.