Copyright © by Len Holman, 7/21/12
Not to be outdone by Iran, Israel, or the U.S., the queen of England, Elizabeth II, has launched a pre-emptive strike. This strike was, however, on one of her own, the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. In the Royal Household’s Order of Precedence, just updated by the queen, Kate is required to curtsy to “all blood princesses” in the royal family, including Camilla Parker Bowles, and a couple of other princesses (I really can’t keep them straight). Remember, Kate was a commoner before she married Prince William, so she’s not of “royal blood” (the word commoner refers to, not a regular person, like the grocery lady at Von’s or the homeless man sleeping in the shade of a tree, but someone who hangs with royals, but doesn’t have that famous and long family tree. Here, she’d be a “B” ingénue).
Apparently, the queen is worried that Kate will become another Princess Diana. She’s svelte, even skinny, and cute and the public loves her, and so does the press. This kind of thing can get out of hand—as the queen well (and painfully) remembers, thus the thing about curtsying. It’s a reminder to Kate of what her place in the royal food chain is. It is being called a “humiliation” for Kate, and makes the queen look vindictive and frightened. Diana was the queen’s Vietnam, and she doesn’t want to wade through the swamps of public disdain, anger, and resentment again. Now, a curtsy is pretty hard to accomplish, unless you’re playing at Wimbledon or doing it real fast—either way, being young and supple is an advantage. But it is not going to forestall Kate’s rise to stardom unless she never gets pregnant, never wears designer clothes that hug her hips, never courts the paparazzi, and never leaves her house.
Being a royal is no easy task, and Americans were wise to eschew that particular form of celebrity. No one can make Katie Holmes curtsy to Tom, not even L. Ron Hubbard, were he alive. George Washington turned his broad back on such foolishness, and Benedict Arnold suffered the ravages of imagined kinghood. Being a “royal” after all is imaginary. It doesn’t exist in the natural world; it may have a long chain of custom, tradition, force, blood, cruelty, and tyranny behind it, but in the end, it is not real and can only be granted by acquiescence of the “subjects.” In this country, we have celebrity, we have plutocracy, we have notoriety, and we have desperate searches for the Next Big Thing. If we can’t find the Next Big Thing, if we can’t find a blood princess, we make one up, anoint her, and splash her face and body all over the media. Royals have hundreds of years of training the populace to accept their royalness, and—except for a few disgruntled souls—they can keep a straight face while they do their coach and manor thing. In this country we have that one symbol of a royal heritage which not only is accepted by the masses, but by the faux-royals themselves: money.
Royalty in England has money, but the money, by itself, doesn’t make anyone royal. Here, money makes Donald Trump a fawned-upon slug. It makes the most ignorant and unread politicians—thanks to special interest money and perks delivered by grateful recipients of favorable legislation—quite wealthy, and treated as though they wore crowns and had matched white horses pulling their limos. The Presidential candidates often appear wearing with no coats or ties, wearing blue jeans, and flashing goofy smiles—imagining the adoring multitudes see them as just one of the “regular” folk, and not people with large homes and bank accounts, and health care few have access to. Or will EVER have access to.
At least the queen makes no pretense of her “common” roots as exemplified by the gaudy, over-the-top Diamond Jubilee celebration which was staged in honor of her 60th year on the throne of the sceptered isle. One wonders: if they gave a diamond jubilee celebration and no one came, would the queen stop being the queen and go off to get a job at a fish and chips stand? She’d still be rich, however, and this makes up for the vinegar smell of the stuff she would pour on the chips (no wonder the Brits lost their empire. Vinegar on chips???) Her mom and dad stayed in London during the German blitz and she and her sister went to Windsor castle. She has a strong, proud, pedigree, and this obsession with Diana and the trappings of royal prerogative is well beneath her. She has a lot more to worry about, what with the botched security for the Olympic games.
We should not judge too harshly, however, since we, as a nation, are not immune to such pettiness. For example, no politician, including the president, dares to wear a suit in public without an American flag in his lapel, for fear of being accused of acting un-American or a being a socialist or being soft on terrorists, or being black, or too rich, or some damn thing. It is not written down anywhere (except maybe on Fox News scripts), but the howls from various opposition folk will ensure a bumpy campaign for the non-flag wearer—or worse, a lost election. One wonders what would happen if Kate decided to forego the curtsy and get on with her life. Would the queen demand that William get a new gal who obeys the rules? No it would be more sleepless nights of Her majesty, reminding her of that other pretty young thing who became an icon and a celebrity. It would be Wail, Britannia.
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