As the world delights with its first glimpse of the British Monarchy’s new heir, naturally no one is more proud and interested than the British. But they are not the only ones who care about the new Royal; Americans are running a close second. We fought a war with Britain, declared our independence and explicitly rejected all titles of aristocracy in our constitution. But now we care about who is third in line for the throne?
One might ask if this interest is the fruit of nurture or nature, and it certainly does not appear to be nurture, as Americans in general have not been educated to understand what a monarchy is all about. So why this profound and lively interest in the new prince?
There is something to be said for the notion that all men implicitly know that we are all equal in our essence and unequal in our accidents. It is through our accidents that men distinguish themselves from one another, and that royalty does, well…royally. Some might argue the Marxist line that all monarchs are nothing more than selfish strongmen who imposed their will upon the oppressed proletariat. While this is true of Socialist dictators, it does not match the historical record regarding most monarchies. What really characterizes a monarch is an ability to personify his people as a symbol.
That is why even in an age of declining democracy, the monarch survives with great popularity all over the world. Its dominance does not rest upon oppression but rather on the monarch’s ability to represent a people and convey an ideal image of his nation to the world.
While there is no doubt that people prefer a holy king to an evil one, this possibility should not be a reason for abolishing the institution anymore than it should serve as a reason for eliminating presidents. Abuses exist and will always exist but as the maxim goes, abusus non tollit usum, abuse does not take away use of a thing. Sometimes it is better to deal with the problem of bad government carefully, rather than take drastic measures that can quickly lead a country to anarchy.
It might even be argued that the political structure of America is not completely democratic. One example of this is the election of our president who is not elected by popular vote rather the Electoral College elects him.
Even the institution of the presidency itself is a quest for a single ruler who will represent the best of America. Consequently, we still look to one man to solve the majority of our problems, not a consortium of committees. We yearn for a leader who authentically embodies American values, that is, a person who is the quintessence of our national virtues, culture and temperament. We look for one who most authentically understands us because he is one of us. While we might not make this explicit, we are looking for a kind of king.
Though the duties of a monarch will vary from one culture to the next, there are qualities that are usually expected from them. These can be summed up in a few words: to reign, govern and protect through heroic self-abnegation for the common good. The monarch is a public person who serves as point of reference for a people over long periods of time. It is much harder to get excited about a president, since a new one gets elected every four years.
And so we face the paradox of Americans who admire a new little prince. Perhaps it is because the closest royal figures we can identify with are the British. Seeing their new prince connects us with a solid link to the traditions, manners and customs of the culture from which we were born and reassures us that these things have a future because in reality, we care about the monarchy.