In celebrating Britain's royal wedding, we salute the traditional ideal of a son's following inhis parent's footsteps. Most of us have given up on such a genealogical fantasy -- not as failed parents but as pragmatic citizens of this restless century.

Royal succession was once a testing ground for blessings and curses, as the True Son fought the Knavish Pretender. King Arthur's Excalibur was won and then cast away, but Merlin sware that Arthur should come again. Today's Prince of Wales lives off a compromise between modernity's cry for equality and the British fealty to the past, between Cromwell's rage at royal tyranny and a Dikensian love of whimsy.

But royalty is more than a hint of medieval splendor, a leftover fairytale. Recorded in its annals are the generations that link us to feudalism and beyond, all the way back to the distant hero who slew the Dragon of Disorder and thus confirmed the Rule of Law. Monarchy is the oldest of political institutions, as old as myth itself.

It was only two generations ago that the Romanovs, Hohenzollerns and Hapsburgs were heaved onto the compost pile of history, following the Bourbons two generations before them. In the Old World, most everyone has a grandparent who cannot forget a mighty king -- his folly or tolerance, his dreams of conquest or his schemes for survival.

Britain's Windsors, who kept surrendering their power for more than two centuries, have endured. The revolutions of 1848 did not spread to London; the fall of their cousins in St. Petersburg and Berlin left them unscathed. Though during and after World War II Prime Minister Winston Churchill helped to dismantle the monarchies of Yugoslavia and Italy, Albania and Romania, His Britannic Majesty had nothing to fear.

We are impressed by the Windsors' endurance. We admire their carefully calibrated adjustment to time as much as the timeless romance of their reign. Our tribute to them is as much to royalty's magic as to the wisdom of the grossest of privilege willing to moderate itself.

Britain's royals excel in self-abnegatin. Yet they can be relied upon to act their hereditary roles against a back drop of acres of crimson velvet and white fur, and in the midst of a forest of swords and lances. Their performance is flawless when delivering words and gestures dimly understood but appreciated all the more.

They are not at chummy as their Scandinavian and Dutch colleagues riding bicycles to the farmers' market. The Windsors keep a bit of distance, even though their American freinds would like to see them be just like everyone else.

As citizens of a republic, we aren't guilty of renouncing the Declaration of Independence when we how before the next head of a royal family. Our hommage is to continuity -- in bloodline and in tradition. For what is dynasty if not the family in large writ -- a sheaf of legends, a contract of inherited obligations and a difiance of tyrant time?