It’s been a good year for the British monarchy in the US. Somehow the life of a 1940’s stammering British king resonated with American audiences and Colin Firth stuttered his way into hearts. The Queen recently celebrated her birthday (85 years young!). The American press seem to be wooed, most of them turning a blind eye to Prince Andrew’s questionable dealings with certain Arab businessman. But, of course, none of this compares to the delightful decadence of THE wedding.
It’s strange to see Americans so excited about the event considering our collective history. It’s true one could argue that the modern day throne is but a shadow of the King James the Pilgrims escaped over 500 years ago but even the Windsor 2.0 version probably wouldn’t fly on the other side of the Atlantic for a few reasons.
First, the English monarchy is the largest and most expensive in Europe soaking up a wopping £110m of British taxes. Amazingly palace PRs have convinced the people that the royals earn their keep in tourism revenue. But really, only Windsor palace shows up on the top 20 of British tourist sites, and it ranks a lowly 17 at that.
In a country where court records are published in local papers, American’s might be put off by the fact that the royal family is exempt from the freedom of information act. So, on top of putting money into the royal pocket, British citizens can’t see exactly how their money is being spent.
While the Queen constitutionally has powers as Head of State, she doesn’t use them and must remain politically neutral. An elected parliament takes care of all of the boring policy making while she “fulfills ceremonial roles”. She is also Head of the Nation, meaning she is the physical embodiment of Britain. America prides itself as being built on the backs of immigrants. We revel in the underdog role (which is probably why Colin Firth came off so well). Our national heroes all have everyman stories behind them. Pride in aristocracy is a foreign concept. Not to mention the innate American sense of independence that would make being thought of as a “people” represented by a sovereign power impossible to stomach- even if it is at a ceremonial diplomatic dinner.
So why all the fuss? I think for some Americans the Royal wedding equates to celebrity nuptials. But unlike Tom and Katie or Brad and Angie this one is broadcast live feeding our voyeurism by offering a glimpse at the couple’s private life. And if my college experience taught me anything I know there’s more than enough 20 to 30 something women who will watch Kate Middleton’s every move, praying for a wardrobe failure or a tumble having once thought it were possible to snag William herself. And even still there are some 345 Americans who are waking up at 4 am because they feel it is their duty.
Myself? When Kate and Wills exchange their vows, fittingly I’ll be in Plymouth. Like a good republican I might reflect on exactly why the Mayflower embarked from there oh so long ago. Or I might think about how much I really dig the (original) tea party. But I’ll definitely be glad to escape the majestic mayhem in London.