As we all know (well, hopefully anyway) America severed itself from the United Kingdom in 1776. Talk to any rabid patriot and they will tell you we are better off observing the doings of the Commonwealth and not kowtowing to a monarch. So why does the average American follow the British Royals so closely? America’s obsession with bling dates way back to, well, the British obsession with bling.
The original settlers of the New World were seeking gold, wealth and privilege. And these three attributes are something the royals do really well. The sheer wealth of the monarchy is mind-boggling and very attractive to many people. I mean, don’t custom-made Alexander McQueen wedding gowns and crowns with 317-carat diamonds sound good? The luxury lifestyle, entitlement and fame are exalted to such an extent that the thought of being royal makes mouths water all over the world.
The inner workings of a monarchy are both mysterious and intriguing. Anyone can Google Queen Elizabeth II and spend hours, even days reading about who christened her and how long she served as a nurse in World War Two, but at the same time we will never know her personal thoughts, her favorite hat, who really walks the famous corgis.
Our fascination with the power of this select group of individuals stems from the fact that it is an exclusive group. You might observe Trooping the Colour one year and wonder, why them? Why these men and women and not others? Of course, the legal and political answers lies in the history books, but that doesn’t stop many from wondering.
America’s celebrities are seemingly willing to go to any lengths for attention. They’ll tweet their favorite pair of shoes, where they went to dinner last night, how much weight they managed to lose in two weeks. The level of personal privacy has dropped so much that if you really wanted to know how many pairs of shoes Paris Hilton owns, it probably wouldn’t take long to find an answer.
On the other hand, Prince Charles will never, ever post the cost of his new tuxedo for the whole world to see. The mystique of monarchy is still so strong because the Royals don’t feel the need to let nosy citizens who have nothing better to do into their private business.
Many other countries still have royal families, many with more power in the government than the United Kingdom, but does the large population of the United States follow them as closely? No, and the reason for this is simple. The British Royals speak English!
People feel connected to the House of Windsor because they sometimes seem like us. They speak the same language, wear more expensive versions of the same clothes and attend the premieres of the same movies we watch. As the politicians say when they feel like being nice, “there is a special relationship across the Pond.”
Since the wedding of Prince William and Katherine Middleton in 2011, the popularity of the Royals has shot up. Buckingham Palace put on a special exhibition about the wedding, with Katherine’s dress, shoes, diamond earrings and tiara (borrowed from the Queen) as well as an exact replica of the couple’s wedding cake.
I happened to be in London in August of that year and my family visited Buckingham Palace. The sheer luxury of the place is incredible. It oozes money. From the many life-size portraits on the wall to the gigantic mahogany tables, you can tell the designers of the palace made no attempt to skimp on costs. It fascinated me. At the tender age of ten, I could not grasp the amount of money these people had access to at the snap of their fingers.
Of course, my parents were making their best effort to expose me to cultural landmarks, and so, a few days earlier we had visited the Tower of London. The Crown Jewels reside in all their sparkly glory within the ancient fortress, attracting thousands of tourists a year. You’ve heard the saying, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”? The Queen has a lot of best friends.
Once Prince William was off the market and all the wedding furor had died down, the attention of the tabloid perusers turned to Prince Harry or, as he is known, “The Playboy Prince.” The fact that the lucky Miss Middleton had managed to snap up the Prince of Wales had not discouraged the millions of women who dream about marrying a Prince. If, however, that is your recurring fantasy while bored during class, think again. Apparently, he is “very serious” about his relationship with his girlfriend of a year.
To check out the public opinion on this seemingly fascinating tidbit, I read a couple of articles when the news first came out. Some of the comments were so out-of-proportion, I just had to laugh. Some people seemed to feel that their world was coming to an end, just because their infinitesimal chance of marrying a royal had been “stolen.” The lack of suspicion of this kind of reporting was incredible. Just because Yahoo! or People had published a rumor, it was taken at face value as the gospel truth.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with dreaming of marrying a member of the Royal Family, so long as you realize it is just a dream. So many girls dream of being princesses that when they mature a little, they realize their shot at the position lies in a well-known celebrity. However, hysterics when you realize the window of opportunity is shrinking are incredibly unproductive. There are so many more things you could be doing with your life than moaning about a stranger’s marital status.
The news of Kate Middleton’s pregnancy was greeted with increased media scrutiny and wagers on the prince or princess’s name. Things got so hectic two Australian radio hosts put a prank call through to the hospital where the Duchess was being treated.
The pregnancy was announced earlier than customary because the Duchess had been hospitalized with extreme morning sickness. Two popular DJs in Sydney faked a call from the Queen to the hospital, asking when Kate would recover from her “little tummy bug” and, in the background, asking Prince Charles when he planned to “walk those bloody corgis.”
The birth of Prince George of Cambridge on July 22nd, 2013 was greeted with celebration all over the world. His presentation outside the hospital was watched closely, with reporters dissecting every part of it, including the designer of his mother’s dress (Jenny Packham, if you were wondering) and the car the new family drove off in (Range Rover). The Prince’s christening was later announced for October 23rd of this year.
The question in this circumstance is, why do we care? This isn’t the Middle Ages, when the birth of an heir to the throne meant the difference between a peaceful country or decades of civil war. People stationed themselves outside the hospital to keep on the watch for a laboring duchess and immediately let the Twitterverse know when they did see her. Granted, they were English, but the obsession with this family is ridiculous.
America loved this event because they could pretend that the royals are just like us. We want to believe that they’re really not that different, that they rejoice at a birth in the family like us, or throw a wedding reception like us. We love the monarchy because the spectacle of rather mundane things these people do fills us with a sense of satisfaction, a sense of “we still have a connection.”
There is a sort of sentimentality attached to a royal family, when an institution such as this one has existed for thousands of years and shows no signs of slowing down. No matter how independent we might be from the UK, we enjoy observing the ancient customs of the royals, and today’s technology makes this easier than ever.
For this reason, I don’t think the constant scrutiny of Britain’s royals will decrease. It will probably even increase over the next few years, as the little Prince grows and we inch closer to seeing a new person on the throne for the first time since 1952.