Long live the monarchy
In a robust democracy, fringe political parties such as the Trotskyists and the Marijuana party are cute. They're like four-week old puppies, confidently waddling around a crate they assume is the entire world. Nurtured by their indulgent mother, they throw their whole heart into adorable "fights" for dominance. They're not useful, and make messes if allowed outside their box, but they're quite diverting when contained.
In Britain, anti-monarchists are the puppies. They're a well-intentioned group of utopians, and their earnest naïveté is cute, but they don't have a clue about human nature or their own national character.
Every time a royal event, especially a wedding, rolls around, it's like a new, meatscented chew toy for the antimonarchists. They dive on it, eyes shining, chops salivating, their hearts all pit-a-pat with excitement. With Kate and William's wedding only nine days away, the anti-monarchists are in their glory, triumphantly waving their list of statistics. This time, they think, is their breakthrough moment.
"Some 79% of people in Britain do not have an opinion on the wedding," trumpeted Peter Tatchell, a well known anti-monarchist. "Some people like [the royals]. But I'm not sure whether anyone really loves them."
Love? What's love got to do, got to do with it? Kings and queens are not about secondhand emotions. And when they are, as in the case of Princess Diana, it never ends well.
In modern democracies we tend to forget that monarchies have been the norm since time immemorial, and the younger Republican nations are the exceptions. All tribalistic people striving to bond as distinct, purposeful entities yearn for an anointed figurehead ("Give Us a King!" 1 Samuel 8: 1-22). After centuries, you cannot separate the ancestral dancers from the historical dance.
A billion people watched Charles and Diana marry, the overwhelming majority of them non-Britons. Now Kate Middleton will soon be the most talked-about woman in the world. According to a study by the Texas-based Global Language Monitor, when all Internet, social media, print and other citations are compiled, "Kate Middleton is set to eclipse Princess Di as the media star of the royal family."
When royals behave with appalling bad taste (google "Prince Charles, tampon," or "Fergie, toes-sucking, influence-peddling"), polls favouring the monarchy dip a little. But overall, republicanism in Britain is a non-starter. In 2009, a BBC poll found that 76% of those asked wanted the monarchy to survive the current Queen, against 18% of people favouring a republic. With an extremely popular, grounded and dutiful prince marrying his equally grounded long-term girlfriend, both of them media-savvy and media-inured, the monarchy's health looks rosy for the foreseeable future (time and personal happiness have sanded down Charles' annoying edges; he'll be a fine king).
Nobody should have illusions about the royal family. Some of them have been icons of duty and magnificent under pressure, such as George VI and his daughter Elizabeth; some have been self-absorbed weaklings or near-traitors, such as Edward the abdicator. But the monarchy should not stand or fall on individual royals' virtues or weaknesses.
Royals in a traditional monarchy that has evolved into a multicultural democracy (such as Britain) can and do adapt to changing cultural trends, as they have in all the European countries. They may behave more democratically nowadays, but in retaining their inherited privilege and status, they still perform a valuable unifying function for the nation.
For the monarchy is more than the sum of its parts. The royal family is the nation's history, the story, written in the DNA, of a people's longitudinal striving to meet its col-lective standards of decency and honour. When a royal fails to meet those standards, the nation is collectively ashamed. When a royal meets or exceeds them, the nation is collectively raised up. But it is in the collectivity of the feeling, not the source of the feeling, that a monarchy's bonds are forged.
Republics are fine if that is how they were conceived. But there is no need to fix what isn't broken in Britain. The anti-monarchist puppies may bark, but the royal caravan moves on.