Talk of Meghan, Harry, and the Royal Family has lit up the internet airwaves for the past week. In the UK, they take these people so seriously that the Duchess of Sussex seemingly took out “Good Morning Britain” host Piers Morgan with a formal complaint to ITV, apparently after he doubted her story of victimhood told during her now famous interview with Oprah.
While I am not at liberty to say whether Markle’s action was justified, it is difficult to feel pangs of sympathy for someone so out of touch that, for her, “getting back to basics” and living “authentically” means subsisting on a $25 million stipend, inking a lucrative deal with Netflix, and getting to tell your unilateral tale of woe to one of the wealthiest and most influential people on the planet from the patio of your $14 million spread while holding hands with your husband — a prince. If only the people of Bangladesh or Somalia knew how good they have it!
Maybe I’m being harsh? All lives have pressures, and I’ve met enough miserable millionaires to know that money is not a guarantee of happiness. So that’s just the hardscrabble American in me talking, a Colonial rebel who likes to think his views of the monarchy are more in line with those of Police Squad’s Detective Frank Drebin than that of the tabloids.
“For no matter how silly the idea of having a queen may be to us, as Americans we must be gracious and considerate hosts.”
But then one must ask: why is it that so many in this country seem to really care about the Royal Family, even in 2021? After all, Oprah wasn’t just offering a therapy session. She’s a businesswoman who knows what her audience likes. Why do my countrymen and women care about an institution that is now clearly an anachronism?
In this weekend’s “Wall Street Journal,” Peggy Noonan offered that we care because we see the royals as a sign of stability. A reassuring symbol that the values and traditions we hold dear live on, and that the Queen especially personifies these longings for constancy. That may be her view. Ms. Noonan is 70, and a product of an earlier age of Reagan, Thatcher, and the Cold War. But I think for most Americans, there’s a different, more disconcerting reason.
The dirty little secret of America’s psyche is that, despite all that unpleasantness between 1775 and 1783 with Harry’s distant relative, George III, the monarchical urge is still very much within us. Nature abhors a vacuum, so in place of the British Crown, we have often substituted our own “American Royalty” in its stead. On this side of the Atlantic, the term “old money” originally referred to the industrial titans of old who built the country and amassed gargantuan fortunes in the process. Business success replaced bloodline as barons like Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Gould, Ward, Astor, Morgan and Rockefeller ascended to the pinnacle of American society.
The 400 in the Forbes annual list of wealthiest Americans is an homage to Mrs. Caroline Schermerhorn Astor whose ballroom could accommodate 400 comfortably, and with that number being the cutoff for invitations to her annual gala event. Our new royalty got the ticket. The rest of the country merely watched with awe from the outside, peering through the windows at a life of opulence beyond their wildest imaginations. Today, those family lineages meander through our national bloodstream, with Anderson Cooper being a direct descendant of the Commodore himself.
In the 20th Century, the media-driven age made us so thirsty for a new monarchy in the form of the Kennedy clan that when JFK came into the White House, the press even bestowed on the new administration a fanciful moniker taken from a British king of legend, “Camelot.”
As Meghan and Harry (and his mother) aptly demonstrate, celebrity and royalty are often symbiotic. Although the veneer has broken down with the overplaying of the woke hand, Hollywood provided Americans for decades with yet another avenue through which to express our love of monarchy. From Garbo and Gable to the present day, we speak of “Hollywood royalty,” offering those whose job it is to offer up fantasy an outsized influence over our culture, and even policy. Is it any surprise that Americans should be enamored with a fallen princess who also is a product of Hollywood?
In the film “Master and Commander,” Captain Aubrey offers that: “Men need to be governed. Often not wisely, but governed nonetheless.” But I would argue that it goes deeper than that. Men want to be governed. This is why I view one aspect of the story of the American experiment as, in essence, one that starts off with a Constitution and successive Bill of Rights that made us the freest and most independent people — and most unburdened by the impositions of a central government — in history. This apogee of liberty has subsequently been followed by 234 years of gradual erosion — sometimes imperceptibly, other times boldly — and the filling of that void with an ever-metastasizing and intrusive State apparatus.
Step-by-plodding-step, Washington D.C. — our Buckingham Palace — has been reclaiming those duties and responsibilities that the Americans of the Revolution felt were the purview of the individual. Rights, too, have once again become more a function of a perpetually multiplying list of State edicts than divine gifts of Providence. It is safe to say that should the Founding Fathers have had the misfortune of being teleported from Independence Hall in 1776 or 1787 to the House Chamber or Rose Garden in 2021 and witness the awesome amount of real hard power over the lives of Americans that the Federal government has assumed unto itself, they would be horrified. Could they have even conceived of not only the assumed power to compel citizens to remain in their homes and destroy their livelihoods, but a populace who so meekly acquiesced to such despotic demands?
In the mind’s eye I see a befuddled Washington standing along Pennsylvania Avenue as the Presidential motorcade passes by. Streets blocked off, police sirens wailing, black limo after limo moves past him, while helicopters swoop overhead. He casts his gaze to the executive mansion he never saw, situated behind iron gates secured by armed guards, concrete barricades, and high walls, with its patrolling sharpshooters pacing the distant roof warning any citizen not to come too close. He might think if only the tyrant King George could have ever projected such power, and signaled such disdain for and mistrust of his people. Seeing all this, Washington may have wondered why he ever rebelled in the first place.
So it is no surprise that Americans are paradoxically so enamored with the British Crown. Because we fought for eight years to shed their monarchy, only to spend the next two centuries allowing its American version to achieve control over our lives, if not in the form of a Queen, then certainly a President, Congress, and a cultural and business ruling class. And then, of course, there are those 2 million unelected, unbridled bureaucrats burrowed deep within their government fiefdoms who have inexorably asserted increasing dominance over our daily lives from where we live, what we eat, where and when we can work, and indeed what we can even say, to the point where we no longer even remember what 1776 was all about.
So that is why we love the royals. We may have left them, but in our hearts they never really left us. Maybe we should have just stayed put? I’d like to write more, but “The Crown” is about to come on. I never miss it.
Brad Schaeffer is a commodities trader and writer whose articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News, National Review, Celeb Magazine, Zerohedge, Frumforum, and other news outlets. He is the author of the acclaimed World War II novel Of Another Time And Place. His newest novel, The Extraordinary, will be released on August 31 and is available for preorder here.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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