SEVERAL members of England’s royal family take the ancient arts of shirking and malingering to intrepid levels.

Prince “Air miles” Andy, until recently, was one of the most infamous recent exponents of this. In 2009 he used his mum’s helicopter on a 146-mile trip to official engagements in the same area. Later he borrowed it to fly from Windsor to Kent for a knees-up at an exclusive golf course of which he is the patron. Even the Daily Telegraph, the hard right’s pet propaganda sheet, became unable to stomach Andrew’s troughing. In 2010, the paper reported that his travel bills, paid by the UK Treasury, amounted to £620,000.

Much of Prince Andrew’s expenditure occurred after he had been appointed a trade ambassador for the UK. It’s not known if this appointment was made following a stringent selection procedure in which a number of candidates, having been head-hunted by a reputable recruitment firm, were interviewed.

READ MORE: Call for parliamentary inquiry over royal spending after backlash

I’m not entirely sure what the job specifications are for a UK trade ambassador, but if I was selecting the best man or woman for the job I’d expect to see them delivering a high-quality PowerPoint presentation on how best they might stimulate interest overseas in investing in Britain. This would involve detailed knowledge of our main industries as well as the economic, political and cultural landscape of those countries whose entrepreneurs we are seeking to impress. The job would require a high degree of intellectual capability, charm and sensitivity, not qualities that have ever been associated with Andrew or most members of this family of dullards. If none of this took place in relation to Andrew becoming our trade ambassador then we are entering the realm of corruption.

Andrew’s nephew Prince Harry seems to have made a decent start in attempting to outdo his uncle in terms of sponging off taxpayers.

The BBC’s royal correspondent, Nicholas Witchell only just seemed to keep a contemptuous tone out of his delivery when he reported on the £82 million cost of keeping this family of opportunistic European aristocrats in unspeakable luxury. He told us that royal officials explained the £2.4m cost to reconfigure Harry’s cottage by saying it was five homes stripped out to become one. And that if the Sussexes wanted features beyond the basic level of comfort they paid for them themselves.

The money we spend on keeping these people is an obscenity in itself but to maintain the fiction that they do something to earn their privileges we indulge in self-delusion. Like Andrew being made a trade ambassador, we appoint them to other positions or specially created sinecures for which they have no qualifications or experience.

I always wonder how Britain’s war veterans really feel when they see the toy soldiers of the royal family, their military uniforms dripping with medals, riding in horse-drawn carriages.

The National:

While Scotland remains a part of the UK, it’s futile to get overly wound-up about the royal family and their excesses in a time of austerity. Many people – including significant numbers of ordinary Scots – seem to approve of the vast sums we spend on them. In England multitudes take days off to celebrate royal occasions such as births, weddings and anniversaries. These people convince themselves that, at worst, the UK royals are a benign accoutrement in society who represent stability and continuity; at best they embellish our reputation abroad and stimulate inward investment.

There is something more insidious and profoundly depressing happening here that deserves to be scrutinised and assessed. How can any of our political parties condemn inequality, dishonesty and corruption when we choose to indulge the royal family?

How do you explain to children the way we indulge the royals when you are also trying to extol the virtues of working hard and being honest? This family epitomises unearned privilege and deception unlike any other.

Their “special” jobs and their fake military medals are a rebuke to any ideas of making your own way in life and being responsible for your own actions; of earning your keep and doing so honestly and in a manner that doesn’t involve undercutting your neighbour.

The Windsors and the way that we support them are an inspiration to mafia families; to career criminals and money-laundering entrepreneurs. They can be reasonably compared to a gangster family with their vast, sprawling properties and fabulous wealth, none of it acquired by the same honest means any of the rest of us are expected to produce in exchange for services or items.

For as long as they exist and the UK continues to indulge them we renounce all moral authority to condemn those who acquire riches through deception further down the social scale. Is there any point in getting vexed about tax-avoiding schemes and the Panama Papers when we permit our royal family to live in unimaginable luxury, on our tab and never having earned an honest penny in their gilded lives?

On Royal Handout Day we were given another reminder of how unfairness and inequality are stitched into the social and cultural fabric of this country. The Sutton Trust produced its Elitist Britain 2019 report which showed that Britain’s top people are more than five times likelier to have attended a fee-paying school than the general population. A mere 7% of the population are privately educated, yet they fill almost 40% of the UK’s top positions. The findings mapped the educational backgrounds of leading figures across nine broad areas: politics, business, the media, Whitehall and public bodies, public servants, local government, the creative industries, women and sport.

The trust produced a similar report five years ago and has found that the rate of progress in social mobility proceeds at a glacial pace. It will never be permitted to go any quicker or to make any significant breakthrough because this is what Britain is.

This is a country incapable of standing up straight on its own two feet. Everything Britain purports to value most in society – integrity, industry, honesty and fairness – is a lie.

Dishonestly acquired wealth and unearned privilege are the UK’s most valuable currencies. We reward the mediocre and the indolent who find their apotheosis in the British royal family. The UK was a third-rate nation long before Brexit came along.