All the Queen’s Children

Monarchy has an infantilizing effect – witness how otherwise sensible adults are reduced to nervously grinning sycophants when they are granted the privilege of touching an extended royal hand. But at a time of rising cultural pluralism in European countries, monarchs might have an important role to play.

NEW YORK – Does monarchy – constitutional monarchy, that is, not the despotic kind – have any redeeming features left? The arguments against maintaining kings and queens are mostly quite rational. It is unreasonable in this democratic age to pay special deference to people solely on the basis of their birth. Are we really supposed to admire and love modern monarchies, such as the British House of Windsor, even more so today, just because some new princess has been plucked from the middle class?

Monarchy has an infantilizing effect. Witness how otherwise sensible adults are reduced to nervously grinning sycophants when they are granted the privilege of touching an extended royal hand. At great monarchical displays, such as the royal wedding in London, millions become enthralled by child-like dreams of a “fairy-tale” marriage. The mystique of immense wealth, noble birth, and great exclusivity is further sustained by the global mass media that promote these rituals.

Now, one might argue that the dignified pomp of Queen Elizabeth II is preferable to the tawdry grandiosity of Silvio Berlusconi, Madonna, or Cristiano Ronaldo. In fact, the British monarchy, especially, has been reinventing itself by adopting many of the most vulgar features of modern showbiz or sports celebrity. And the worlds of royalty and popular fame often overlap.

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