In season 3 of The Crown, Prince Philip airs a theory about the Windsors. For every "dull, dutiful" one there is, he says, "the dazzling, brilliant, dangerous, other".
For every George VI, then, you get and Edward VIII, who parties with divorcees then abdicates. For every Elizabeth I, who does her duty for decades even as her family falls apart, there is a Princess Margaret, gin cocktail in hand and toyboy in tow. Olivia Coleman as the Queen presses her lips firmly shut on the idea. She doesn't approve of dazzling, dangerous, or other.
You might say the same of any family, and you might very well say The Crown is a work of fiction based on half a century of headlines, even though it has about the same budget as the actual Royals get in the Sovereign Grant.
But it's an idea which explains why, in the 21st century in a country that decapitated a king in favour of democracy, there's still a Royal Family at all: it is because of the soap opera our well-dressed prisoners provide us with.
We have been impressed and appalled in equal measure at the Queen's bottom lip, which did not tremble for funerals, weddings, castle infernos or constitutional upheaval. It wobbled only for the demise of the Royal Yacht Britannia.
We took sides, not only with the Roundheads or Cavaliers in the mid-17th century but with Diana or Charles at the end of the 20th, then the Spencers or Windsors at the funeral of England's Rose who had, previously, been considered a little too prickly for many of us.
We saw Prince Edward go from useless youngest to dependable uncle, and Prince Andrew start off a war hero, mutate into a playboy, then descend to the point that he needed the Woking branch of Pizza Express to provide an alibi.
To Britain, the Royal Family is a Greek play, one which switches from comedy to tragedy, with a strong moral thread which makes it a fairytale in the truest sense - one where bad decisions lead to gruesome consequences. Even better, once a year we get to go through their accounts.
Whatever you think of the people locked in this institution, they do a marvellous job of keeping us entertained. The fact we require it, and pay £1.23 each to keep them dancing to our tune, says more about us than it does them.
It may also tell us a lot that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been criticised for spending almost £250,000 on something that wasn't their idea. Their official tour, last year, to Botswana, South Africa, Angola, and Malawi, was requested by the government, and a huge chunk of the cost was for flights for their official security, civil servants, and courtiers.
The government spent the money, on a government trip, aimed at promoting government policy, and a lot of government servants went on it.
The problem, of course, was that Meghan and Harry smashed all that work to pieces with a few words to Tom Bradby about their misery, thereby exposing the family's freshest wounds to the world. Every government pound, every bit of diplomatic goodwill and publicity, went down the pan. Who remembers Harry walking in the minefield, now?
When his mother did the same, she was roundly criticised for being political - getting involved, said MPs, in global diplomacy and arms sales. Sound familiar?
Her son was wise to marry an actress. She already knows when to stiffen her lip, or let lashes lower over tear-filled eyes. That soap opera is a vent - we can argue about them, vent, move the pieces around the board. It gives us a sense of superiority, and equality, to see they are as flawed as us.
Of course Netflix gave Harry and Meghan $100million - their ability to attract an audience is proven beyond all doubt. Britain could have got them for less, and they would have leavened enormously the boredom of Kate and William's breeding programme. The Royals' best hope is that all the heirs are dull as ditchwater, and the younger siblings ratings dynamite.
It is the ability of those dangerous Windsors to attract criticism that means, when the Sovereign Grant was published, no-one notices things like the fact Queen Victoria still costs us £1m a year.
She's been dead since 1901. But we could get Serco to botch 620 Covid tests for the amount we've spent keeping the rain out of her copper-plated mausloeum for the past 12 months, or 38 nurses, or 500,000 face masks.
That's FOUR TIMES what it cost to send Harry and Meghan to Africa, for a woman who did nothing in return. For a million quid, I'd expect them to make the corpse sit up and juggle.
And then there's Andrew. Ah, Andrew.
For reasons entirely unfathomable, we spent almost £16,000 on a private jet to send the man whose official title is now HRH The Queen's Disgraced Second Son to watch the golf.
A Royal source has defended his trip, saying: "In this particular case, we concluded that actually, the use of charter was the only way to get him to complete his engagements to fit in with his other programmes."
Actually, the Court Circular says that his other programmes at the time tended towards the social. On July 17, he had lunch with the Chinese science minister, met with Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, and spent the evening with the founder of The International Festival of Brilliant Minds. God knows what he wanted with the Duke of Bork, but there's no accounting for taste.
On the 18th, he watched the Open at Portrush in Northern Ireland. He watched it again on the 19th, and was still watching it on the 20th. After that he took 6 days off, and then did two solid days of work, watching the cricket at Lord's and the racing at Ascot. After another 3-day break, he watched the Royal Regatta at Dartmouth.
It does not seem to have occurred to anyone that Handsy Andy could have taken a scheduled flight first thing in the morning, or perhaps lost an hour or two from his 36 (THIRTY SIX) hours of golf time, or that, y'know, golf and cricket and racing and yachts aren't really what most of us would consider work, to the extent it must be paid for by the taxpayer.
It likewise didn't occur that furloughing staff from the Royal Collection Trust, then boasting publicly you didn't claim the £2m cost back, is sort of negated by the revelation that £2m was knocked off the trust's costs to make up for it.
And then there's £1.4m for a two-year refurbishment of the Old Stables at Kensington Palace. Not for horses - but for the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, who 'downsized' from a 21-room palace apartment Harry and Meghan didn't move into anyway.
The Sussexes faced loud demands to pay back the cash for their own home makeover, having quit the Royals. Gloucester, the Queen's cousin, is a 'full-time working Royal' with plenty of patronages and meetings, but you'd struggle to pick him out of a line-up.
And despite getting a guaranteed taxpayer bailout every year, in good times and bad, this year's accounts show the Queen is preparing to make job cuts. It quotes a "high risk" of lowered income and "reduction in property maintenance", offset by "cost management and efficiency programmes".
Sounds like sackings, to me. Which is a bit ripe, from a woman who gets a guaranteed take-home of more than £80m a year.
But the publication of her accounts is a good time to take stock. So admit it: we love the melodrama, we'd all happily pay £1.23 more for the Harry and Meghan spin-off, and it's just a damn shame the Royals won't let Netflix livestream from inside the palaces. Perhaps they think Olivia Coleman needs the work.
It is harder, though, to see the benefits of £2m furlough discounts, a dead queen on the take for another mill, and a prince who is neither use nor ornament demanding private jets because he can't borrow the paedophile plane any more. Perhaps that's because there aren't any.
The tourists don't come for Prince Perv. He may cost less than Harry and Meghan, but his continued elevation carries a heavier price for the monarchy.