The American press took up a lot of the pavement space in front of the hospital where the new Prince of Cambridge was born this week. Why our fascination with British royalty? Following is my own very personal and opinionated list of reasons.
1. We’re safe from a monarchy ourselves, having gained our independence 237 years ago. We get to enjoy the spectacle without paying the bills.
2. Nowhere in the world is the tension between the antique and the modern more visible than in the traditions of the British Royal Family. Prince William in the velvet and ostrich feathers of the ancient Order of the Garter? Irresistible, at least to many of us. To read about the 2013 Garter Ceremony, go to http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2343223/Beaming-Queen-flanked-Charles-William-Order-Garter-today-Duke-Edinburgh-recovers-home.html.
3. We won’t admit we’re a little envious. But we’re both dreading and secretly anticipating the day the royals trip themselves up and create another riveting story like the Charles and Diana Show of the 1990s.
4. We have a new appreciation for Princess Diana, who, in spite of all her colorful personal failings, gave the British Monarchy a well-deserved kick in the pants.
5. We’re embarrassed about the media “royalty” we create for ourselves: overpaid sports heroes shown to cheat by taking banned substances, dysfunctional families like the Kardashians who cynically exploit their fame, reality “stars” who waste our time with their lame antics. Is this the best we can do, 237 years after getting British royalty out of our lives?
6. We love our dogs. We have to admire a Queen who is able to keep as many dogs as she wants. Besides the much-photographed corgis, the Queen reportedly keeps any number of cocker spaniels and dorgis—a corgi-dachshund mix. (No doubt there are also kennels full of dogs used for hunting, but these days hunting is kept on the down-low because of public disapproval).
7. We’re looking for stories of redemption. Queen Elizabeth II appeared to be a classic coldhearted mother, especially to Prince Charles, but (if you ask me) she redeemed herself in the moment during Diana’s funeral procession when she briefly bowed her head as the coffin passed. We’d like to think the Queen has learned her lesson and became a better parent from that day forward. We especially like telling ourselves that a Queen NEEDS to be humbled once in awhile.
8. The current crop of royals shows signs of having more good sense than greed. I was won over when William and Kate asked for charity donations rather than wedding gifts.
9. We appreciate good PR, especially when it does not seem like PR. When Kate was photographed pushing her own grocery cart a few days after the Wedding of the Century, that was great PR–and we all knew she had been shopping for her own groceries for years. When Prince William personally placed the new baby’s car seat in the royal Land Rover and drove off with his expanded family, that was great PR. Commenting that the baby had more hair than his prematurely-balding dad was frosting on the cake.
10. We’d like to think that if we were born to untold wealth that we did nothing to deserve, we’d behave humbly and generously. William and Kate appear to be doing just that. And they’re making it look easy.
If the British Monarchy survives this century, I think people will look back on the personalities and events of the past few years as the reason. Join me next time for more explorations into the history of Europe and the British Isles–even as history is being made before our eyes!