Royalty, Schmoyalty: An Eye-Rolling Post
Who cares what some old lady and her brood are wearing? Seriously? Or rather, why do so many people care so damned much? Is it respect for something supposedly greater than themselves? Veneration of a mummified corpse of an institution that endured for millenia? Honoring a national tradition? Even if the answer to all these is “yes”, I still see the fawning over the Queen & Co’s outfits and the minutiae of their lives as not just tacky, but simply incomprehensible.
In the decades following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Whigs and their ideological descendants methodically stripped away one royal power after another, until there was virtually nothing left — at least as a practical matter — save for a cult of personality. And it is a cult of personality, and it is persisting with remarkable tenacity. This is, I suppose, what the most cynical of British anti-royalists always wanted: monarchy relegated to a place where it can’t do any damage, but where it still gives the masses something to rally to.
Politically, it makes sense. Up close, however — and in the age of the Internet, everything is always up close — the spectacle of public adulation is sordid. I am tired of hearing about the royals’ supposedly keen fashion sense (incidentally, their outfits look dowdy to me). I am tired of hearing how demanding their jobs are (their “jobs” have no objective standards of performance and no tangible penalties for falling short, so by definition, are not demanding). I am tired of hearing how Princess Diana was the first person who ever touched an AIDS patient (need I explain?). I am tired of hearing how monarchy is essential to bringing tourism to Great Britain (France and Italy are doing better in the tourism department despite not being monarchies).
You know what I see when I look at the British royal family? I see ordinary people. They are no more special than you or me, or the guy who delivers your mail, or the lady who brings you the Denver omelet at a truck stop diner. Except, of course, they are utterly spoiled by the public’s adoration and a court etiquette that requires constant praise and deference. This explains why so many of them are mediocre, undereducated and louche. It is a pure accident of birth that placed them at the top of the social hierarchy rather than on the exit side of a supermarket checkout, bagging your groceries. They got their “demanding jobs” and the benefits that flow from them by fiat – not through hard work, competition or accomplishment. Or they married into those “jobs”, which is an accomplishment only in the most tenuous sense. Looking up to them makes about as much sense as looking up to the Kardashians.
I am no one to say that the UK should abolish monarchy. Besides, politically, the constitutional compromise seems to have worked out fine. Cuturally, however, the British monarchy has spurred a riot of tabloid pedestrianism. Swooning over one of those people because she put on a suit with shoulder pads and a goofy hat is, if nothing else, absurd. Seriously, this is front-page news? If only mass approval came so easily to the rest of us!
Actually no, that would be terrible.