Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal Shazam: The Endless American Love Affair With British Monarchy

The monarchy is so extraordinarily useful. When Britain wins a battle she shouts, "God save the Queen;" when she loses, she votes down the prime minister.
One of the Founding Fathers' greatest fears was that the young republic would devolve into a monarchy, and after all, it was a monarch from which the United States had liberated itself in 1776. This explains why there was so much attention paid to defining and limiting the powers of the presidency, but it does not explain why 235 years later Americans nevertheless have such a love affair with the British monarchy.

That love affair and attendant fairy tale frou-frou has been on full display in the run-up to the nuptials tomorrow of William Arthur Phillip Louis (aka Prince of Wales) and Catherine Elizabeth Middleton (aka just plain Kate) with cheesy television specials, even cheesier merchandise, and breathless coverage of the would-be wedding crashers who have been camping out all week at Westminster Abbey. Then there is speculation as to who has not been invited (Britain's last two prime ministers, that's who)
and why thugs like the Crown Prince of Bahrain have been.

Ahem, the American love affair is easily explained.

For one thing, an outsized number of Americans seem unable to get over the fact that they have a president and not a king, although picturing Barack Obama wearing an enormous jewel-encrusted gold crown and an ermine cape while holding a scepter does not easily come to mind. (George Bush is something else altogether).

For another, there has been no bigger celebrity in the last 50 years than Harry's mum, Diana Frances nee Spencer (aka Diana, Princess of Wales, or Lady Di if you felt especially close to her.) A lot of us did feel close because she parlayed a beauty and glamour . . . err, glamor into a train wreck of a life that underlined the human frailties we all share and ended in a literal wreck in a Paris auto tunnel in August 1997.

For yet another, William and Kate are the first frump-free royal couple since . . . well, they're the first. While Lady Di was the personification of all that fairy tale frou-frou, her husband and William's father, Charles (aka Charles Arthur Phillip George, or Prince Charles) has managed the neat trick of morphing from a guy who looked uninteresting even on a polo pony into a New Age stickybeak. After all, it's just not the job of royalty to do stuff like saving rain forests.

William's grandmum, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary (aka Elizabeth II) and her sister Margaret Rose (aka Princess Margaret) are and were the personification of frump, which the latter still managed to pull off with a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other. Elizabeth's husband, Phillip (aka Prince Phillip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich) strikes me as being a secret admirer of Oscar the Grouch (and I suspect a closet reactionary and lover of fart jokes).

William and Kate, on the other hand, are fresh faced younguns who would fit right in at Happy Hour at your local college tappy, have requisite text messaging skills and hopefully the chops to produce a male heir, although there are indications that Brits are a bit less bonkers over these nuptials than when Charles and Di got hitched in 1981 because of all the royal divorces, marital wars and other scandals.

I think there is a fourth reason, as well.

Elizabeth has been a heck of a queen. Despite the fact that she has the fashion sense of my late Aunt Catherine, who invariably dressed like she was on her way to a banquet for retired telephone operators (which she was for 50 years) and even vacuumed her apartment in dress-up clothes, she has been one great monarch since being coronated in 1952, displaying an uncanny knack for seriousness and levity to fit the situation, as well as the nation's mood.

Like when she met Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (aka Lady Gaga), who has not been invited to the wedding but methinks would have a whole lot more fun hanging with William and Kate.


Wander Woman said...

Nice article, but Kate is marrying Wills (aka William) not Harry. : )

Shaun Mullen said...

Fixed. Thank you.

Wander Woman said...

No problem. My "other half" is British and gets apoplectic when we "yanks" can't get it right about all things in the UK.

Anonymous said...

The Queen made a catastrophic miscalculation of the nation's mood when Diana died.

The fact is well-documented.