Royal Zoo Story

It’s pointless, really. Everybody knows that. The last British monarch to exercise significant power — even then, slight and declining — was Queen Victoria. The British Empire, once counting a quarter of the world’s population as its subjects, has been whittled back down to the UK itself, and there’s no telling whether that will hold together after Brexit. The monarchy is just a show, now, available on Netflix.

What? Why, yes, of course we watched it. We’ve watched that movie as well, twice. Got up in the middle of the night to watch the wedding — sardonically, mind you. Happened to stumble onto CNN when the Paris news was breaking, and there went that weekend.

No excuses. We can’t help paying attention.

So what’s the deal? For us, it’s the weirdness of it all. Plebeian America is no stranger to dynasties, but ours are hereditary by wealth, not by law, and they tend to dissipate over generations. (How many Rockefellers and Kennedys can you name?) The British monarchy is instead an international sociological spectacle, a family famous for being famous, a family born famous, lives conceived in and for a gilded zoo. The only purpose they serve is to exist for our pleasure.

Imagine being born into that.

That’s the fairtytale, right? Born Royal. The pinnacle of human existence. Your needs taken care of, cradle to grave, guaranteed. Your fame certain. Everybody knows you. Everybody wants to be your friend.

Just one catch: Everybody owns you, too.

That’s the sense you get, reading the stories about Harry and Meghan’s decision to leave the family business. The Queen is furious. Diana would be appalled. Courtiers are shocked. None of these stories are sourced to the principals, they’re all from people who just know this to be the case. The tabloids, Fox News’s wet dream of viciousness, are aghast — on behalf of their readers, of course. There’s a paying audience for this stuff, and not just random Americans with a taste for high-toned docudramas.

You’re born into this spyglass world. Your mother died literally trying to escape it. You bring a mixed-race wife into it, who is immediately called out for having “exotic DNA”, accused of polluting the royal blood, even though you’re sixth in line for that to be of any consequence, following your father, your brother, and his three children.

And now you have a child of your own. Born last May. No memories yet, no awareness of the world, of that world, a child doomed to be a Mulatto Royal before he speaks his first word. You know what’s in store for him. You’ve seen it all your life.

So what do you do?

You get the hell out.

You escape the zoo.

You leave the fairytale life for a fairytale ending.

That’s how we’re going to regard it, anyway. We don’t have a stake in the Royal Soap Opera, we know Harry & Meghan & Archie will land on their feet — Disney deal! — and we know that of the 7.5 billion souls on our burning planet, theirs are among the least consequential.

But we did watch the wedding, whatever our excuse, we followed the breaking news from Paris that weekend, we watched Helen Mirren look at that deer twice, and, god help us, we’re really looking forward to Season 8 of The Crown. Because whatever our pretense to aloofness, we’re part of the problem, too.

17 comments:

11:28 am • Sunday • January 12, 2020

I paid attention to this mainly as a reliever for the news about World War III at the time.

White Englanders living in the new northern Tory territories circa December 2019 have the problem, along with The Sun, et al. Ask Black Britons, or many Britons of colo(u)r, and they’ll tell you as to why this makes sense to them.

Monarchies make no sense in a (post)modern world, but republics don’t have a great track record, either, even if a country’s president is like royals are in constitutional monarchies — a figurehead, with de facto power vested in a prime minister or chancellor.

1:23 pm • Monday • January 13, 2020

Grandma signs off. Thank you for enjoying our pre-Brexit entertainment.

7:57 pm • Monday • January 13, 2020

I was pretzel-limbed with a Mexican gal I met in Oaxaca when we heard the news about Lady Di.

That is all.

9:15 pm • Monday • January 13, 2020

@peggynooner: Awesome.

I think it happened in August. I remember it was hot as hayell, and a friend and I were in her car on the way to a pool party when they interrupted the radio broadcast (do they still do that?) to announce the tragedy. We proceeded to get completely wasted and pretend to swim.

It’s amazing the way flashbulb memory works.

9:23 pm • Monday • January 13, 2020

Canada is a great choice for Megs & Harry & fam. Canuckistanis are totally blasé about celebrities; I mean they really don’t give a focke, or at least they’re polite and discreet.

1:01 am • Tuesday • January 14, 2020

@¡Andrew!: Gut tells me Saturday night, Labor Day weekend. I would have been catsitting for my parents and doing laundry (thus CNN access), and I recall CNN piping in Sky’s feed because nobody was around in Atlanta.

8:25 pm • Tuesday • January 14, 2020

@nojo: BBC World Service, on a transistor radio!

@¡Andrew!: Flashbulbs! Damnit but I’m old.

10:56 pm • Tuesday • January 14, 2020

@peggynooner: Shortwave band? Because that would be nerd cool.

9:28 am • Wednesday • January 15, 2020

@nojo: Always SW. I used to have a notepad listing which frequency was best at which time of the day.

Met a retired Swede in a beach hamlet who rigged an antennae up every night, cracked open a cold cerveza, and pulled in the latest from the Old Continent.

12:50 am • Thursday • January 16, 2020

If you liked Megxit, you’ll love Bernie & Liz. Such drama! The groundlings can’t get enough of it!

12:52 am • Thursday • January 16, 2020

Lefties are ever but a stone’s throw from the People’s Front of Judea.

8:55 pm • Thursday • January 16, 2020

@nojo: the sandal!

9:58 am • Friday • January 17, 2020

As long as the Senate trial ends with Prezirapist AntiChrist’s beheading, crucifixion, or anal electrocution, I’ll be satisfied. They can air it live during sweeps week.

2:22 pm

Do Queen Vickie’s haemophilia genes live on? I think the English royals were spared. The rest of Europe? Not so much.

@peggynooner: I love seeing your eye.

@¡Andrew!: Yes. I was in S Jersey, and the green head flies were out.

@nojo: My girl says you still have some sort of issue with ewoks? We’re not done with this?

5:26 pm

@JNOV: I have no issue with Ewoks, providing they’re cooked at a minimum 145 degrees with a rest time of 3 minutes.

5:29 pm

@nojo: Baby Yoda needs his protein.

5:39 pm

Tastes like chicken?

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