Why are Americans so obsessed with the British royal family? You’d think, having fought a whole war over the issue of getting out from under a capricious royal-led government, that Americans would be oblivious to the goings on at the House of Windsor. But no. Every royal marriage, birth, scandal or demise gets treated with extensive and often downright fawning coverage by the U.S. media.
Case in point: the recent birth of Louis Arthur Charles, aka Wills and Kate’s youngest and the prince who is now fifth in line to the throne. There was extensive coverage in local and national media of the impending birth; the vigil some Brits were keeping outside St. Mary’s Hospital in London; the announcement of his name; and, of course, the first official pictures. (Surprise! He looks like a Baby!)
Back in 2011, when Prince William and Kate Middleton got married, I actually had friends and neighbors gleefully telling me about their “wedding parties” – groups of women who got together at the house of whoever had the biggest TV to watch the whole thing live. Bear in mind that the main ceremony started at 11:00 a.m. U.K. time, which is 6:00 a.m. here on the U.S. east coast, and you get an idea of just how early some people started their celebrations.
I must admit, I did catch a few videos of the proceedings, but only later in the day and strictly in the interests of gleaning some sociological insights into the shifting ways in which the royals portray themselves in our society. Or something like that. But get up at 5:00 a.m. to watch it all on TV? God, no!
I remember back in 1997 when Princess Diana was killed in the car accident, people here in the States actually asked me if I was ok, and the spouse had co-workers anxiously asking how I was “holding up.” Admittedly, the paroxysms of grief that seemed to engulf much of the U.K. may have led them to believe that anyone with a British accent would be devastated by the tragedy, but I was busy dealing with a toddler at home and a burgeoning regional financial crisis at work – the death of a royal, albeit a popular one and in tragic circumstances, was not real high on my list of things to worry about.
But, all of this has been surpassed by the attention now being paid to the courtship and upcoming nuptials of William’s younger brother, Prince Harry, to Meghan Markle. Since the announcement of their engagement back in November 2017, the American media has been absolutely agog over all things royal – what it means for an American to be joining the British royal family; the “bizarre, ancient customs” she’ll have to abide by; what she will be called after she’s married; how well she might be able to “play the role of princess”; which royal tiara she might wear on the Big Day; and, the fact that all of her social media accounts have been closed down (hint: a good idea for a person who’s about to be thrust into the spotlight, looking at you Donald).
And, of course, there are endless, breathless, saccharine-fluff articles about the royal love affair and the wooing of a “commoner” by a prince. Cable channel Lifetime is rushing out a made-for-TV movie, “Harry and Meghan: A Royal Romance,” which is being screened repeatedly and is being touted as the story of the romance of “the world’s most famous couple.” Most famous? Really?!
The somewhat-upmarket magazine Vanity Fair did an entire special issue last month on The Royals; Harper’s Bazaar recently did a big spread on the house they’ll be moving to (21 bedrooms!); and the more down-market weekly magazine People has been pretty much obsessed with all things Meghan for months: Her humble beginnings! Her estrangement from her half-siblings! How her mom is coping with all the attention! Her new royal wardrobe!
And, every editor is desperate to find a local angle on the Meghan story.
I guess it all comes down to the fact that the U.S. threw off the yoke of monarchy over 240 years ago, far enough in the past that the doings of the royals are now pure entertainment. Plus, of course, this is a celebrity-obsessed culture, so all the coverage does attract readers and viewers.
I have to admit, it is kind of cool that a mixed-race career-woman is joining the royal family. And, I did chortle with delight imagining the fits of horror that must have engulfed some unpleasant corners of the British populace – as evidenced by the foaming-at-the-mouth hysteria from some sections of the British media when their engagement was first announced. Oh, you’re pretending that it’s the fact that she’s a divorced American that makes her “unsuitable?” Yeah, no, not buying that!
Until I came to the States, I called myself a staunch republican – that’s with a small r, please note, meaning one who is firmly in favor of a form of government where sovereignty resides with the people, and not with, well, a sovereign. Then came my first experience with an American presidential election in 1988, an interminable process that took many months and chewed up millions of dollars (See this post from 2016). Gradually, I came to see a modern constitutional monarchy as not THAT insane.
And today? Dear lord, I’ll take HRH Elizabeth – in fact, pretty much any of the royals – over the current incumbent in the White House. Thinking about it, maybe that explains the sheer volume of royal-obsession currently engulfing America. Given the choice between reading DT’s latest insane rant on Twitter or looking at cute pictures of Princess Charlotte with her new baby brother, I’ll count myself a royalist.