In these mealy-mouthed, politically correct days, the word ‘bastard’ packs a more powerful punch than one might suppose – as I discovered not so long ago during a kiddies’ chat show on regional television presided over by a green animatronic Martian (don’t ask). Invited to explain the euphemisms employed in obituaries, I said that ‘he did not suffer fools gladly’ translated as ‘he was a complete bastard’. Shock, horror. The recording was stopped, and high-level conferences held as to whether such an ‘emotive’ word could be transmitted.
Similarly, as Peter Beauclerk-Dewar says in his introduction to this entertaining and instructive round-up of ‘right royal bastards’, the title of the book caused shock waves amid the Royal Archives’ machinery. The security scanning system at Windsor rejected the authors’ e-mail attachment of the text ‘because it violates our acceptable-use