Do you follow the English Royals at all? In a supermarket, do you occasionally find yourself quietly thumbing through some of the many magazines devoted to England, its monarchs and a certain upcoming nuptials-based event?
Just in case you’ve missed the specifics, April 29th is the day when Prince William will marry Kate Middleton, his longtime girlfriend and college sweetheart at Buckingham Palace. 1900 invitations went out (does anyone ever decline?) Then of course, he’s going to become the King of England. If you are a newspaper, a TV station, a website, or any other media vehicle you’ve probably already made arrangements to cover the “wedding of the century”. If only so you don’t miss the boat.
Full disclosure: In the house where I grew up, we had a guest room. It was always kept pristine and snappily at the ready for any and all relatives or out-of-towners who might show up. It had a large bookshelf and two bedside tables, upon which were always stacked plenty of books and magazines for guests to peruse. Of these reading materials, there were never less than ten on display devoted to the British Royal Family. My mother was a huge fan. My siblings always found the books vaguely ridiculous, and told her so (I was just as obsessed and pored through them weekly, although my interests, activities and comments went largely unnoticed, so it didn’t matter). Yet, for all the complaints about these great huge coffee table books that featured stunning photographs of Princess Di smiling or Prince Charles fishing, our houseguests rarely appeared at the dinner table on time. Plus, when they did finally show up, the reason for their delay was always attributed to “those fabulous Royals books!”
Why are we – particularly Americans – so obsessed with this Royal Family phenomenon? I can cite at least two primary reasons. One: it’s the last vestige of a world that for better or worse, doesn’t exist anymore. The royals don’t have any governing power of course, but they sure have everything else under the sun. And these same people today are the pure genetic offspring of other people who – centuries ago – married first cousins, declared wars, imprisoned frenemies, commanded entire fleets to sail and return with plenty of salt and pepper, and followed up on lots of other whims – all before lunchtime. A second reason they’re so fascinating is because even in this era of the internet, when nothing but nothing is sacred, there’s stuff we still don’t know about them. And never will. They have – and can keep – secrets. Which is both intriguing and sort of romantic to us. Take Prince William’s recent bachelor party, for example. Any American movie star would be virtually unable to keep activities like a blowout bachelor party a big secret. Someone would invariably leak something. There would be a cell phone, a photo, a grainy shot of something untoward. Not these people. Royalty’s notoriously tight-lipped and there’s nothing the media can do about it. Now, we learned after Diana’s tragic passing that Buckingham Palace had to modify this somewhat, and that single event probably changed the culture of the Royal Family more than any other had, ever. Still, the elements of an age-old tradition that also happen to be shrouded in honest-to-goodness mystery are pretty tough to beat. Will you tune into Will and Kate’s wedding?
2) The Other Boleyn Girl
3) The Queen
4) Shakespeare in Love