Why Do I Care? April 27th, 2011
Sometimes I like to examine my own irrationalities. Lately, in conjunction with all of the royal wedding hubbub, is one of those times. Like many Americans (mostly women, I presume) I have taken a cursory interest in Prince William’s fast-approaching wedding to Kate Middelton. Yet, there is absolutely no reason why I should care. I do not know them. I am not British. Their wedding – other than the onslaught of coverage on TLC – has no bearing on my life whatsoever. And yet, my DVR is set.
I took a little cruise around the World Wide Web yesterday to see what other people had to say about the American fascination with this wedding, and not surprisingly there was no shortage of opinions. One Slate writer Mark Oppenheimer called for all Americans to boycott the royal wedding, claiming that our forefathers gave their lives to win us freedom from the monarchy, and that to wax romantic about it today is downright unpatriotic. I think he takes his position a bit far. We aren’t talking about a ruling monarchy. The Windsors are merely symbolic today, and our interest in them has, I believe, more to do with glamour than power. Thomas Paine once aptly pointed out once that a hereditary head of state is as absurd a proposition as a hereditary physician or a hereditary astronomer. And he was right. But thankfully that’s not on the table in this situation.
Moving along to other trains of thought on this topic I came across Anne Applebaum who gives the nod to fate as the source of our intrigue. She comments:
In fact, it is not talent, ambition, intelligence, or even wealth that has made William famous, but fate—an accident of birth. Kate will now share that fate, and that, I reckon, is exactly what makes her wedding so compelling to read about, to write about, and to discuss. … None of us knows exactly how our lives will turn out, but William has a better idea than most—and now Kate does too.
I really scratched my head at this one. True, William was born second in line to the throne. But beyond that, I think fate has little to do with any of this. It isn’t the presence of fate (which I don’t believe in, by the way) that lures anybody in. William just as easily could have been “fated” to be born to an aboriginal medicine man as the House of Windsor. It is the wealth and luxury that lure us in. Further, where was Ms. Applebaum during the Diana years? Her statements about Kate Middleton today could just as easily have been made about Diana Spencer in 1981. But no one then would have predicted the estrangement, the cheating, the tell-all interviews, and the hideous Paris car crash. Was that Diana’s fate? Or did she make a series of choices in her life that led her there?*
So I return to my own motives, which are still not fully clear to me. It isn’t just the wealth that fascinates me. For surely there is no ticket to a life of wealth with more strings attached than marriage into the British royal family. It isn’t just the glamour that fascinates me. For the life of a royal is more than castles and vacations; it also entails a great amount of civic activity and regard for duty. And it isn’t the idea that life as a princess is a fairy tale. For Diana and Fergie made it quite plain what a difficult life that can be.
But in spite of all these things, I will record and watch the wedding. And I suppose this is due not to what I know to be true about life as a royal, but due to what I wish were true. We all wish for the fairy tale. We wish for a lavish existence of happiness and grandeur. And we know that on this one day – their wedding day – we will see the perfection we wish could be true in reality. Kate will be ravishing. William will beam. There will be horse-drawn coaches and balcony kisses. We will tune in and see the fairy tale.
This time around we know that the couple have taken their time in this decision (eight years to be exact), know each other well, and are hopefully better poised for success than Charles and Diana were. So we feel justified in our giddy anticipation. And we choose, for a day (or a week if you’re really swept up), to believe that this one will work out.
*For the record, I think Princess Diana was a fabulous, if flawed, person. I point out her choices here not to speak ill of her, but merely to highlight that fate plays no role in any of this.