What is it about royalty, especially British royalty, that causes otherwise rational Americans to get all mushy-headed and weepy, not to mention taking a decidedly unrepublican interest in the scandalous doings at the palace?
We might as well call it “King George III’s Revenge” given how much blood we shed to throw off the rule of kings and substitute the rule of law. Poor George never got over the loss of his colonies, going to his death a blind madman. I’m sure he would be comforted to know that the descendants of those rebels now sit in front of TV sets for hours, consumed with getting every last morsel of fact and fiction that can be wrung from stories about the immoral, depraved, and usually silly doings of people whose only claim to fame is that they were born to one of the richest, most dysfunctional families in England.
On April 29, one of the floppy-eared whelps birthed by the former fairy-tale couple of Charles (prince, duke, and someday king) and Diana (princess, duchess, and tragically dead) is going to tie the knot with a genuine commoner in what is promising to be the television/internet/iPhone event of the young millennium. And America is going all Lady Ga-Ga over the event.
But social media excitement pales in comparison to the bonanza coming to the royal family as a result of the sale of “official” merchandise. Someone called the “Lord Chamberlain” at the palace is responsible for licensing this stuff and by the looks of things, he’s going to be one busy lord. Here’s a blurb from a website selling “official” as well as “commemorative” wedding souvenirs and memorabilia:
The Royal Wedding William & Kate offers a wide range of commemorative Royal Wedding Memorabilia, including commemorative china, street party accessories, bottle openers, key rings, boxing gloves, jigsaws, baby items, coasters, comic books, rings, caricatures and coins. We are also authorised to sell Official Royal wedding china and official Royal Mint Coins.
But not T-shirts. I guess the Lord Chamberlain didn’t want some officially licensed article of clothing being worn by some unofficial hottie at a wet T-shirt contest during Spring Break at Daytona Beach.
Come to think of it, President Obama could use a Lord Chamberlain. According to Wikipedia, the LC is the “senior functionary of the court.” Sort of like a czar but even more useless.Where Obama is concerned, one more czar won’t matter much and every president should have a “senior functionary” anyway to help during those times when his administration becomes dysfunctionary.
Besides the online merchandise, there has been an infomercial produced that is selling out of “Royal Heirloom Rings” at $20 (plus shipping and handling) a pop. This one’s not officially licensed nor does it have much to do with the upcoming wedding. Instead, if you weren’t alive when Dumbo married Diana, you can share in that fractured fairy tale by purchasing a replica of the Princess of Wales’ engagement ring from 1981. What does your $20 (plus shipping and handling) get you?
This limited edition replica glitters with a simulated Ceylon Sapphire (3 carats) surrounded by fourteen brilliant, simulated diamonds (1.26 carats) and is layered in Sterling silver.
Who in their right mind would purchase a replica of the engagement ring of a dead, divorced, adulterous, clothes horse who achieved celebrity because she married into a cold blooded, vicious family of people who actually believe it matters more who you father was than what you’ve accomplished in life? What has possessed our countrymen that they care what these upper class twits do or say?
The English monarchy drips with tradition and as a conservative, I can understand the attraction. Edmund Burke was a passionate monarchist (although he also believed in the English constitution and the limits placed on the monarchy). But civilization has transcended nonsense such as kings, queens, lords, and ladies. We are beyond believing in hereditary abilities. These are people who used to breed their offspring like race horses, matching them based on the notion of passing on desirable characteristics. Some of the aristocracy, no doubt, continues this tradition.
The current incarnation of royalty who reside at Buckingham Palace are a loathsome example of giving people who don’t deserve it a lot of money and nothing much to do. Charles is a perfect example of this. The poor sot has nothing whatsoever to do except sit around and wait for mummy to die. He’s tried his hand as cultural critic, railing against modern British architecture (it is horrid but his idea of good architecture isn’t much better). He tried jumping on the global warming bandwagon but didn’t attract much notice. There were so many other more interesting people like Sting and Posh Spice who beat him to it.
Then there is his weird flirtation with alternative medicines. His “Foundation for Integrated Health” published some guides for general practitioners on how to combine traditional (scientific) medicine with alternative (witchcraft) medicine. A prominent member of the “complementary” medical community wrote a letter to the Times asking that the guides be recalled, saying “the majority of alternative therapies appear to be clinically ineffective, and many are downright dangerous.”
His very public, very naughty affair with Camilla Parker Bowles destroyed his marriage and drove his wife to suicidal thoughts. This is the sum total of the life of Charles, Prince of Wales, for which he receives not only taxpayer subsidies, but the free use of several castles, palaces, retreats, cabins, and a retinue of servants of which the Empress Dowager would be envious.
His son William — the one getting married — doesn’t appear to be a bad sort. He passed flight school and became a helicopter pilot in a search and rescue outfit. He has various charitable causes which he supports by exposing his person to the media so they can take his picture with AIDS patients, inner city youth, and endangered elephants.
But is this really all that praiseworthy? One could make the argument that by being a human photo-op, William — and his mother before him — deflected attention from where the real applause should have been directed: the workers, volunteers, and dedicated professionals who spend their lives helping others or protecting the environment. If it was as easy as simply dropping by an AIDS hospice and allowing photographers to click away, everybody would do it. It is an open question how much is actually accomplished by such drive by good deeds — especially when you consider that the royals aren’t really giving up anything to do it. These are the make-work jobs that they use to justify their existence.
Americans are probably attracted to this train wreck of a family because of some lost notion of noblesse oblige coupled with a very modern thirst for dirt on the rich and famous. The latter we can understand. But the very idea of “nobility” is anachronistic. We’ve outgrown such childish things. The fairy tales about growing up and marrying royalty or becoming a noble knight may have been pleasant reveries but they were never meant to last into adulthood.
And yet two billion people worldwide — a good number of those Americans — will watch this gargantuan media event on TV or the internet. CNN is sending 400 people to cover it (they have 50 covering the Japan disaster). All the female-oriented networks like WE, Oxygen, Oprah, and others are loading up with special programming. Billions in ad revenue, tens of millions of eyeballs, thousands of hours of TV specials and exclusives — all to cover the wedding of two rather ordinary looking young people who quite simply don’t deserve the attention. I’m sure they are both perfectly charming, but considering the fuss, they’d have to exceed the exploits of the Most Interesting Man in the World in order to merit this media overkill.
For those who are so enamored of this spectacle that they don’t think they can resist watching, I give you Sam Adams at his snarky best:
If you love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, depart from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains rest lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.