LONDON – Incriminating pictures of Britain’s Prince Harry, which have been making the rounds on social media and the Internet, will not be seen by anyone in Britain under drastic new rules hastily enacted by the nation’s parliament.
In a show of loyalty to the revered royal family, the British government today passed a new “Lese Majeste” law that supersedes freedom of the press and places the queen and her direct offspring above criticism under punishment of imprisonment.
The new law known as Penal Code 112, which states that “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years” was passed by a rare unanimous vote in the House of Commons during a special session convened to protect the royal family from the potential embarrassment of recently leaked photographs showing Prince Harry partying naked in a Las Vegas hotel.
“This is not an issue of free speech,” insisted John Bercow, the house Speaker. “The royal family is the heart of all Brits, the center of our culture and values. For this reason the royal family must be protected no matter what the cost to our so-called liberties.”
Effective immediately, the photos of Prince Harry are illegal to possess, distribute, or duplicate. Enforcement was quick, as heavily armed police stormed into the offices of the London Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, and the Mirror. Computers and other equipment were confiscated and senior staff of the publications were held for questioning.
This week’s issue of the Economist, which had a special section spotlighting the changing role of the monarchy and the touchy question of succession, has been pulled from newsstands. As of tonight, all of Britain’s press are operating under heavy police guard.
Arts, Books, Also Banned
Additionally, existing books such as The Queen Elizabeth II, an unauthorized biography written by Julie Cloud, has been banned and taken off shelves, with all known copies confiscated from libraries and collections. Works of music and art deemed “disrespectful” to the Royal Family have also been banned, including The Smiths 1986 album “The Queen Is Dead.” Former Smiths singer Morissey was seen being taken into custody, and is reportedly being held without access to legal counsel for 48 hours, which is permitted under the new law.
Up to 200 arrests have been made by police already, including comedian Eddie Izzard and punk rocker Johnny Lyden, for having defamed the queen in previous years – a crime under the retroactive reach of the new law, which supersedes the normal principles of ex post facto and authorizes arrest of those who broke the law before it existed.
British police chief Tom Winsor advised all writers and artists in Britain to self-censor as a precaution against breaking the vaguely worded law.
“If you’re not sure, don’t say it,” he suggested. “And don’t ever refer to Her Majesty by her nickname,” he added, referring to the many banned books and artworks that call Elizabeth II “Liz.”
Patrolling the Internet
The government has also set up a new oversight body to monitor electronic media. In just 24 hours, the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology has blocked access to 23,000 websites which defame the Royal Family, including the queen’s Wikipedia page, several YouTube channels, and the homepage of The Simpsons animated sitcom for once having showed an image of Prince Charles with exaggerated bad teeth.
Reaction to the new les majeste law has been mixed, with international institutions and free press watchdogs condemning the move as “barbaric” and “incompatible with a so-called democracy.” Leading newspapers in Europe, the US, and even Asia have written editorials that warn against the “backsliding of a modern nation into obsolete, 16th-century mythologies.”
“It’s frankly inconceivable that any monarchy could take itself this seriously,” said an op-ed in the New York Times. “Such overreaction only invites more mockery.”
However, many conservative ideologues in Britain have welcomed the new laws, claiming that the legal protection for the kingdom’s head of state is long overdue.
“I love the queen so much that I just want to kill anyone who doesn’t,” said Gertrude Maynard-Pillingsorth, 56, a housewife and self-proclaimed royalist. “She is like our guiding mother, and anyone who doesn’t love Mum should get out of Mum’s house.”
Such sentiments were echoed by a few members of the Conservative Party, who are rumored to be building a new royalist-nationalist platform for their next campaign. Although unconfirmed at press time, it is believed that they wish to restore power to the unelected House of Lords, remove independent oversight of the military’s budget, and play a short film honoring the queen before all films shown in cinemas.
“Election can often lead to the selection of bad men by ignorant people,” explained party co-chair Andrew Feldman. “The appointed House of Lords is a body of good men who place the country’s interests above their own. Also, the army should be recognized as the rightful guardian of the sacred pillars of Britain: nation, monarchy, and the Anglican Church.”
Royals Remain Silent
Prince Harry could not be reached for comment, and is believed to be spending most of his time abroad these days.
As the controversy amplifies, all eyes turned toward the person at the center of the storm, the enigmatic Queen Elizabeth II, whose 60-year-plus reign has played a central and hotly debated role in the development of modern Britain. Although the new les majeste law prohibits the press from directly soliciting members of the Royal Family for comments, the queen did issue a statement from Buckingham Palace to assembled members of the British press, who were forced to prostrate before her in accordance of the new law.
Her Majesty spoke for approximately one hour, rambling between unrelated topics such as the weather, the lessons of her favorite childhood fairy tales, and the antics of her four Welsh Corgi dogs.
Meanwhile, according to a recent report by Gartner Media, the naked pictures of Prince Harry have already been downloaded to 97% of computers, tablets, and smartphones in Britain.