News this week from the British Empire. Perhaps you have heard.
I can understand that there is no hole on the Sceptered Isle deep enough to hide from the story. But I’ve been a bit surprised – and more than a little ashamed – at the relentless ubiquity of the story here in the United States, where I thought we’d fought a bloody action a couple of centuries ago precisely so I could watch the Today Show without such nonsense. And by “nonsense,” I mean a fawning, rapturous orgy of subservient bliss, with commentators ecstatically spouting the word “commoner” like some class-conscious manifestation of Tourette syndrome, then falling to the ground and wriggling with pleasure at each supercilious insult hurled their way by some dentally-impaired “royal watcher” from “across the pond.”
The utter reprehensibility of royalty was distilled for me in a single scene from the film, The Queen, an outstanding examination of the people and institution of British royalty, rendered down to cracklings in the crucible of the Diana’s Spencer’s death. Tone deaf doesn’t begin to describe the royals, who stumbled stoutly about on tweed-wrapped “walkies” in the countryside, weeping over the beauty of leaping roebucks, while their “subjects” clamored for some slight expression of public regret over the death of an actual human.
Almost thrown away in the movie is the scene where Tony Blair, having been made prime minister following a resounding victory by his party, goes to the palace for his first official visit with Elizabeth. If the two of them had engaged in sexual congress, I’d have been less shocked by what happened next. Because what happened was, he dropped down on both knees before her. I am assured by my British friends (I retain a few despite these periodic anti-monarchist rants and my more frequent Republican pronouncements regarding the Six Counties) that this is indeed the manner in which Elizabeth has received all of the one dozen prime ministers elected during her interminable reign. (Nice job defeating the Nazis, Winny -- now get down where you belong.)
I say, to have the embodiment of the collective will of the voters of one of the world’s enduring democracies groveling before an official whose own mandate comes from no greater consensus than the serendipitous meeting of two gametes. Bad enough. But it is worse – far worse – unforgivably worse – simply to have any human being abase himself worshipfully before any another human being.
It’s offensive, it’s dangerous, it’s a whisper away from blasphemy. It is precisely the stuff from which any self-respecting revolution should be built. And it is just so unutterably silly.
I don't think anyone has ever given a truer insight than did the Monty Python troupe: "Strange women, lying in ponds, distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. . . . If I went around saying I was an emperor just because some moistened bink had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!" But say what you will about the Arthurian legend, a farcical aquatic ceremony is every bit as legitimate a basis for supreme authority as whatever fairytale old Lizzy tells herself before she employs the royal we.
Then again, what do I know? I’m just a commoner. Truthfully, I can have no cavil with that characterization. But I’ll be damned – or dead – before I’ll be any man’s subject.