Friday, April 29, 2011
It was lovely to see the child of an accomplished family getting married.
I mean of course Kate Middleton. Her parents, both former flight attendants, are successful self-made entrepreneurs. Prince William’s family - while much more wealthy - has a checkered past. In recent generations, while on the one hand helping to rally the nation in the most difficult of times, the family has also been plagued with dysfunctional relationships. In earlier centuries royal history is punctuated by acts of ruthlessness and even murder of potential rivals and insufficiently fertile wives. However, if I were one of Kate’s parents I would have advised her to judge William on his own merits. He does seem to have a kind face on television.
I have never quite understood why Britain still has a royal family. At a time when the British government is laying off hundreds of thousands of public servants it continues to spend tens of millions of pounds to support the Royals – one of the wealthiest families in the world. Britain still sports nobility of many ranks - Dukes, Marquesses, Earls and so on. The unelected nobility still wield some power, albeit greatly diminished over the years, through the House of Lords, and royal assent is still formally needed for legislation to be enacted.
True, Britain is in reality a democracy, and the Royals and Nobles play a largely ceremonial role. Having a Royal family is like hiring actors to continually re-enact the country’s history. My wife said that the pageantry of the wedding was great and everyone seemed to have a good time (especially the US television networks and their commercial sponsors). In the end I suppose that the romance of having a real-time fairy tale play out is harmless as long as royal power is in fact imaginary.
Perhaps the triumph of democracy is best illustrated each year when the Monarch, who in former times could unilaterally send forth the world’s most powerful army and navy, must read to Parliament a speech written by whichever common politicians happen to be in power at the time.