In an essay yesterday, my friend and editor Alyssa Rosenberg posited, “Enjoying Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s romance doesn’t make you a bad American.” And, at the risk of wearing out my welcome here, I have to disagree in the most vehement terms possible. My buddies’ ancestors didn’t die face down in the muck so Americans could “ooh” and “ahh” at the pomp and circumstance of the ceremonies for a band of fetid royals on the other side of the pond.
I mean, look: Prince Harry seems like a nice-enough guy, Nazi costumes aside. He served two tours in Afghanistan, making him, by definition, a better man than I could ever hope to be regardless of the heat my takes achieve. His quality as an individual is not, however, the point. The point is that we Americans rightfully and violently overthrew our tea-sipping stamp-taxing overlords in large part so that we should not have to genuflect in front of the altar of royal bloodlines.
There are decadent contrarians who will argue to this day that, actually, the (British) Empire was good. But these shallow-chested sorts are not to be trusted. Instead of listening to these quislings, we should call to mind the lessons our great works of art teach us about the wickedness of King George and his minions — for instance, 2000’s immaculate cinematic text, “The Patriot.”
In Roland Emmerich’s masterpiece, you may remember, the British army runs roughshod over the good people of the Carolinas. Following valiant guerrilla resistance organized by Benjamin “The Ghost” Martin (Mel Gibson), Redcoats led by General Cornwallis (Tom Wilkinson) inflict terror upon the Americans. In the film’s most chilling moment, the villainous British Col. William Tavington (Jason Isaacs) locks a town in its church and burns the church to the ground.
Okay, well, that whole “church massacre” thing was possibly exaggerated a teensy bit for the screen. But the character Tavington is based on a real British soldier, Banastre Tarleton, who committed atrocities (including the execution of surrendering troops) and later went on to be elected to the British Parliament. Some would argue that it’s unfair to link George directly to the misdeeds of his minions, but I would heartily disagree: They fought for him, were rewarded by him and did their dirty deeds under his name — a name that you can easily connect to the wizened monarch currently lording her status over the people she rules.
We stacked British corpses 12 feet high so that, centuries later, the descendants of those we overthrew should be celebrated in our tabloids and on our computer screens? I think not.
The idea of political aristocracy is antithetical to the American ideal. Sure, we have our dalliances with bloodlines here and there — the Adamses in the years after the Revolution, though they should get a pass due to their service in the fight against the crowned, cowardly bully George; the Roosevelts, who shouldn’t — but we have done a remarkably good job of keeping the idea of political meritocracy alive. Typically, these bloodlines self destruct (see: Kennedy, Ted — Chappaquiddick) before they can metastasize too fully into our political bloodstream.
Indeed, one could argue that a, if not the, reason we have President Trump is the American disgust for royal houses: The average American found hateful the idea of yet another contest between Bushes and Clintons. The thought was disgusting enough to radicalize voters into nominating as presidential candidate someone with absolutely no business being within 1,000 yards of the White House.
How do you get Trump? Royalty. That’s how you get Trump.
No, the idea of being ruled over someone by dint of their last name is anathema to all good Americans. We prefer our aristocrats to stay out of politics and confine themselves to the world of business and the arts — generations of Duponts and Vanderbilts and Fords slowly devolving from feared magnates to the owners of football teams and funders of museums and philanthropies, while new entrepreneurs such as the Kardashians become the queens of the entertainment industry. Barrymores and Coppolas and Clooneys and other aristos of the silver screen are the only dynasties we tolerate. And even then, only barely.
Look, I’m not opposed to the British, per se. I even lived in England for a while as a youth! They make for useful allies. They’ve contributed greatly to the arts over the years, from novelists such as Waugh and Greene to musicians like Coldplay and lesser Coldplay imitators such as Radiohead. Who among us isn’t thankful for Gordon Ramsay and shepherd’s pie, for Jamie Oliver and bangers and mash?
But all good Americans will happily ask you to keep your royals to yourselves. We bow to no man, woman or child — especially if they happen to wear a crown.