The crime of injuring the monarch, whether physically (which would be treason), or verbally, is a serious one. I wonder whether caricatures fall into this sphere and indeed this very question was debated a deal in the 18th Century when George III and his son were routinely held up by the early political cartoonists as figures of fun.
Defacing banknotes even today I think is a crime based on the principle of Lèse-majesté.
Does this crime ever result in actions- well, yes, there was a Polish case where a man was fined about £6000 for insulting John Paul II during one of his last visits to Poland. The specific words used in the offensive article are these- that John Paul II was “an impotent old man offering a spectacle of horror to the public,” though the article itself was entitled “The Walking Sado-Masochist”. In the article similarities were drawn between the Pope and the dying Leonid Brezhnev. This, in turn, was heavily criticised by the international press and especially “Reporters sans frontières” which argued that freedom of expression was effectively denied to Jerzy Urban and that Poland had agreed to freedom of expression when it joined the EU in 2004. More recently, there was a case where a man farted to express concerns about the Prime Minister lech Kaczyński, one of the twins and the man who was killed on the way to commemorate the Katyn massacre in the plane crash in 2010.
Now, it is one thing to gag the press or to try to cork the wilder expressions of political discontent, but it is quite another when a senior politician is heard mouthing off about his monarch. School-boy gossip, gloating is not really something we should tolerate from a statesman. So in the UK, there is a clear example of Lèse-majesté in the garrulous stupidity of our own Prime minister. I cannot see that an apology can really explain the smug contempt of the word “purred”. Alex Salmond spoke quite clearly about his shock at the way Cameron openly discussed what he had said to the Queen. Salmond is right and Cameron wrong. But it goes further. If Cameron cannot be trusted to respect the Queen, how can he be trusted to respect the Country?
Here is an earlier Cameron cartoon. I think this one is better actually:
Personally, I must confess that this leaves me in a bit of a dilemma: I had intended to stand for some form of Political office with a Conservative ticket in May and had gone through the struggle of selection. I am really not sure this would be right now. I have never liked Cameron – I remember being encouraged by one of his Eton contemporaries in Oxford to cross the street so that we might avoid meeting him – but now I am afraid I think he is a twit and a liability. If Boris were leading, it would be a different matter, but with Cameron there… well, I have to think very seriously! This is not just a gaff; it exposes the way the man thinks and it is not a pretty image I am afraid. Mrs Thatcher (she of the deepest curtsey ever) would be shocked, shocked, shocked.