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Congratulate Prince William, but don't mythologize monarchy

Prince William Not surprisingly, the engagement of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton is creating a sensation in this country.  To some extent, the  hullabaloo reflects the fact that the royals are celebrities not that different from Hollywood stars.

But there is also an undercurrent of  longing for the idea of monarchy. The New York Times reports that some Anglophiles are stocking their cabinets with royal kitsch -- china, novelty rings and tea towels bearing the smiling faces of William and Kate -- and  points to such activity  as evidence of the “special relationship” between the United States and Britain.

At the risk of sounding priggish, I'd say that the special relationship is based on other things: Britain’s history of parliamentary government, its solicitude for civil liberties, shared foreign policy goals and, of course, a common language.

At a time of widespread interest in the “original intent” of the Constitution, it’s worth recalling how averse the framers were to monarchy and hereditary distinctions.    Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution says: “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.”

It’s easy to downplay the importance of the monarchy because it has been rendered “constitutional” -- that is, mostly powerless -- by centuries of democratization.  It’s a legal fiction that Prime Minister David Cameron leads “her majesty’s government” as he makes day-to-day decisions about foreign and domestic policy. Likewise, the queen doesn't command the warships  of the Royal Navy even though they are named for her.

But, symbolic or not,  the monarchy  enshrines in law a distinction between commoners and those who owe their prominence, not to mention their fortunes, to bloodlines. At least Hollywood stars earn their celebrity -- sometimes anyway.

This country should be respectful of the monarchy (which survives, to be fair, with the sufferance of  Britain’s democratically elected representatives), just as it recognizes the political cultures of other societies, from warlords in Afghanistan  to politically influential clerics in Iraq.   To each nation its own.

But the framers had a point when they forswore monarchy and aristocracy, the same point made in the Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal.”  Americans can  wish William and Kate well without  succumbing to the mystique they represent. In this country, we’re all commoners.

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Not all royals are snobs, and not all snobs are royal

-- Michael McGough

Photo: Britain's Prince William is to marry his long-term girlfriend, Kate Middleton, next year after an on-off courtship lasting nearly a decade, bringing months of speculation about his intentions to an end. Credit: Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters
 

Comments () | Archives (5)

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JJ, Abertawe, Cymru (Wales)

Quite Right. I am not American, but Welsh. The "Prince of Wales" has been given a name from my country, however he is not Welsh, but English (or German, depending on how far back in the bloodlines you look, Saxe-Coburg Gotha et al). He has nothing to do with Wales. However I do respect the monarchy. My greater nationality is British rather than Welsh, and they do bring in a lot of tourists each year, even though the tourists go to London rather than the rest of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
I can wish William and his beautiful bride well, but remember that my country has not had a native prince since Owain Glyndwr in the 15th century. We can continue, like the Scots, to push for independence and rid ourselves of the monarchy, charming as they may be.

jerry in colorado

Hollywood stars earn their celebrity....but the royals do not?

Just picture how many tourists would flock to London if you did not have the castles and palaces and the changing of the guard and the Tower and the parades and the whole package of 'magic'. Think for a moment of how this marriage is going to affect their economy and how many millions (billions?) will watch the whole shebang and how many will visit England next year because of the excitement this sparks.

They earn their celebrity in spades! No Hollywood star or combination of stars can begin to have an effect on our economy and our country as do the royals.

Ann Mere

I couldn't be less interested--2 over entitled average young people.
No, they don't earn their celebrity status by being born. Give us a break media.

Brendan Ryan

The union of Prince William and Kate Middleton is symbolic of the changes that happen from time to time within Britain's Royal Monarchy. Presently, the twenty-eight year old Prince of Wales is becoming a powerful figure in the eyes of many, with relation to his roles and responsibilities as a member of the Royal Family. Prince William's ascension to iconic status collects and permeates around the idea of him being that of an adult, a long and detailing story that describes his rise to eminence, but smoothly revolves around his belongance to the Royal Family; Kate and William's marrying is a fine demonstration of their loyalty to one another, and their commitment to Great Britain.

Brendan Ryan

The Brendan Ryan Company
Houston, Texas

JohnC

British royalty should not be compared to Hollywood celebrities. The royal family are born into a social position which involves, as much as any privilege, a strong sense of duty. Hollywood "celebrities" are all about self, not service. One example, British royals serve their country in the military - Hollywood celebrities serve only themselves.

It is not surprising that there is a hankering for monarchy in America. After all it is part of your heritage, and barely 1/3 of Americans in 1775 actually wanted a republic. The restoration of links to the British monarchy may never happen, but the concept is not far-fetched at all.


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