I think we fired our guns to avoid buying a wedding present
Perhaps it’s out of respect for my Irish ancestry that I have avoided the royal wedding mania as we approach, ten days from now, the wedding of Prince William and Commoner Katherine. Perhaps it’s because I did not play enough with Princess Barbie as a child. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t make the guest list.
Or perhaps it’s because I remember that we did fire more than a few shots to avoid concerning ourselves with the comings and goings of the British head of state. Today is the anniversary of “the shot heard ‘round the world.” Not Bobby Thomson’s famous at-bat at the Polo Grounds (more worthy of Homer than Emerson), but the opening volley at Lexington and Concord, followed by several more volleys. The Redcoats, British soldiers under orders to shoot at their fellow countrymen as needed, were ordered to seize a cache of arms in Concord. The colonials resisted successfully and the American Revolutionary War began.
A little over a year later, Congress declared the independence of the colonies, describing the reigning monarch in rather unflattering terms. I’d like to think that once you describe the monarchy as tyrannical you cannot go home again.
The current heir to the throne, Prince Charles, would have inspired a different list entirely. More cut from the cloth of Henry VI than Richard I, the British monarchy survives largely because Charles’ mother survives. A reign of Charles III would probably not end as dramatically as the reign of Charles I. Not with the bang but a whimper, like his phone calls to his consort Camilla.
The monarchy, first imported from France then Germany, survived without us. And we thrived without the monarchy. We found other figures to look up to, more for their achievements than their status of birth. Presidents, generals, captains of industry, became our heroes and villains in the tapestry we wove when severed our connection to the Bayeux Tapestry that justified the Norman Conquest.
Whereas their George of 1775 produced descendents of little accomplishment except their births, our George of 1775 gave us a nation of greatness in the New World. One hundred seventy years later, the heirs of the New World George would eventually save the Old World from destroying itself.
The cynical among us would argue that our proud culture has given way to celebrity worship, the kings and queens of Hollywood. Fair enough. But given the absolute impotence of the monarchy, its only remaining function is that of hereditary celebrity. At least our celebrities can sing and act a little, and we choose whom we support financially. The subjects of the British realm are not so lucky.
It is not ironic that Yahoo is sponsoring a trip to Las Vegas for a lucky signer of Yahoo’s “guestbook” for William and Katherine. The city of Fat Elvis, the King of Rock N Roll, and his subsequent impersonators, to celebrate Old Elizabeth II, the Queen of Britain, and the poor impersonators of the monarchies of the past. Viva Las Vegas. Too bad Celine Dion is not available to sing “My Heart Will Go On” in simulcast for the wedding.
I am not entirely immune to the charms of the monarchy, obviously, given my interest in the history of Britain. But unless the future William III starts showing the ambition of William the Conqueror, the ruthlessness of Richard III, or the steel resolve of Elizabeth I, I think I’ll take a pass on giving up my sleep to witness the Royal wedding. Instead I’ll raise a glass to toast the new bride, “Here’s hoping your royal husband does not take after Henry VIII.”