As Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” bounced off the walls of St. George’s Chapel during this weekend’s royal wedding, cultural forecasters could envision the Ariana Grande processional to come at Prince George’s eventual nuptials. The songs sung at Harry’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth’s wedding declared, “We wait for thy loving kindness, O God” and “the Lord’s my shepherd.” Harry’s hymns in Britain’s modern monarchy instead begged the congregants, “darlin’, darlin',” to “stand by me, oh stand by me, oh stand by me, stand by me.”
Episcopalian bishop Michael Curry’s fizzy homily drew alternately bemused and horrified reactions from the aristocratic crowd but elicited unqualified praise from the cultural revolutionaries of the global mainstream media. New York Times and CBS News contributor Jodi Kantor gushed, “Gorgeous, moving display of African American culture and expression at the very seat of white Anglo power.” ABC News anchor T.J. Holmes hailed Curry as a “breakout star” of the wedding. In one particularly horrifying tweet, ATV News reporter Charlene White observed, “Reverend Michael Bruce Curry is bringing the spirit to St. George’s Chapel right now! I could be in my local Pentecostal Church right now.” Modernizing media elites seem unaware that the royal wedding is a display of neither African American culture nor white power. It is instead a sacrament before the God 'in whom there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free’ and it did not take place at a local “Pentecostal” church but rather in the once-liturgically serious Church of England, over which the royal family is supposed to reign supreme.
The new Duchess of Sussex, a self-proclaimed feminist who pledged her eternal commitment to film producer Trevor Engleson just seven years ago before divorcing him five years ago, walked herself down the aisle in a white dress. Of course Meghan Markle is a vision of beauty, and less-than-vestal lasses have indulged white weddings since the time of Queen Victoria, and the Church of England was founded by the most famous divorcé in history. Nevertheless, after Henry VIII, the royals avoided divorce for nearly three centuries until Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 to marry the divorced Americans socialite Wallis Simpson—because fickleness has no place in fairy tales.
Walt Disney Pictures has embraced the modernizing trend for the cartoon aristocrats of its own fairy tales. While classic Disney films portrayed princesses who long for their Prince Charming, in recent years culturally progressive Hollywood executives have deconstructed the genre and fashioned modern, feminist princesses. Sisterly affection takes center stage in Frozen. Motherly love wins the day in Maleficent. The central relationship of 2015’s Inside Out is the mere love of self. In recent years, only Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast exalts the central human relationship of man and woman in marriage, and unsurprisingly that film trounced most of the studio’s other new releases.
Even we moderns long for the good and the true and the beautiful and the elevated. But modernity cannot tolerate aristocracy, and the royals' hope to modernize the monarchy can achieve nothing other than to destroy it. The word “aristocracy” derives from the Greek aristos (“the best”). Aristocracy represents not “the people” but the highest aspirations of the people: virtue, honor, nobility. When aristocracy modernizes to reflect the people it becomes “democracy,” from the Greek demos (“the people”). Perhaps modernity makes that transformation inevitable. But at some point it might dawn on the people to ask: if royalty lives like the rest of us, why should the people pay for the show?