Inbred old gits

April 29, 2011 • 3:37 am

The Royal Wedding is all over American television this morning: apparently it is Americans who are largely responsible for all the attendant brouhaha.  But Brits are way excited, too. Perhaps part of the fascination is seeing a “fairy tale wedding,” complete with uniforms, fancy hats, long gowns, and preachers who need an eyebrow wax.  But surely part of it is also that we’re seeing the future KING AND QUEEN get hitched.

The curious thing about the British Royal Family is that, nearly without exception, all of my British friends support it—even the ones so liberal that they’re almost socialists.

But the institution of royalty is outmoded in this world, and especially in that country.  And even though the Firm has virtually no political power, they persist.  The arguments I hear are that it’s more convenient to divide up political power from ceremonial duties, and that the Royal Family brings in lots of dosh through tourism (though I’m not sure whether they consume more than they produce).  If it’s money, why not hire a bunch of submental stiffs to play them, as in Colonial Williamsburg? Or just put wax figures in Buckingham Palace (that’s almost what we have anyway)?

I conclude that for many Brits—who won’t admit it openly—the pull of tradition is too strong. They’ve always had a king or queen, and always want to.  The Firm is like Marmite, or the R.A.F.

But how can a democracy tolerate a ruling family that not only neuronally challenged, but also makes you curtsy before them and back out of the room when leaving them. That’s the kind of abject servitude that characterizes religion.

UPDATE: Hitch has some choice words about the monarchy and the wedding.

UPDATE 2:  (As pointed out by commenter “Anonymous”): The ultimate indignity in this affair is that Larry, the Official Chief Mouser at Ten Downing Street, was forced to don a Union Jack bowtie for the occasion.  Does he look happy?

213 thoughts on “Inbred old gits

    1. +1 (though I like Marmite a lot). I’m also pretty disappointed that supposedly liberal Brits have come over all soft for this non-event (witness the Guardian wall-to-wall coverage). Et tu, Brits?

    1. …whose success in life was largely due to his fact that his father was rich and powerful.

      Bush is an argument for meritocracy and against quasi-monarchy.

    2. And yet, GW Bush only lasted 8 years. With life expectancy as it is today, you could end up with a Bush monarch for 50, 60 years.

        1. The British monarchy’s saving grace is that nowadays it exercises very little real power — and I suspect if one of them tried, they would be swept away by a tsunami of republicanism. They remain tolerable by being Mostly Harmless.

          Real power-wielders need to be removed from office on a regular basis.

  1. Here in Denmark it’s all over the place (The wedding that is … well the monarchy too, for that matter).
    I’ve no idea why these old monarchies are allowed to continue. Here in Denmark it is slowly eating itself up from the inside, though: the crownprince’s kids are going to attend a normal public school (not the same as public school in Britain). So they have to grow up with normal kids. Good idea, but also slowly making the fairy tale crumble (muahahahah)

  2. “But Brits are way excited, too.”

    Not this one! I don’t see why I should make a fuss over their wedding, when they didn’t make a fuss over mine.

    1. It seems to me that the majority of people interested in this wedding (aside for those who do for professional reasons, like journalists, politicians, bootleg t-shirt makers, and those keeping track of the freaking bill) are the same people who pay attention to all celebrity marriages. The yellow press crowd.

    2. I know only one person who – to my astonishment – said he was watching it, all the others do not care or are doing other things. I spent the morning photographing insects outside!

  3. Italian in the UK, and no clue what the fuss is about.
    Celebrating one more person sponging off the taxpayer goes beyond my understanding.

      1. Italian spongers or not THEY can be removed. In Britain these royal money soaker’s are in power in perpetuity. Yes in power – not much symbolism. For example the anthem the bank notes the royal prerogative, denial of position of HOS for ‘ordinary’ people, and the oath of allegiance for the monarch and her heirs and successor. Absurd. Blast all these damn profligate royals. Just GO!

    1. Stewart Lee is fantastic. I adore his “Don’t Get Me Started” doc on blasphemy (avail. YouTube).

      1. Stewart Lee:

        Our shaman-prince could not have chosen a better receptacle for his magical purposes than Kate Middleton, a peasant-spawned serf-girl, sodden with the primordial mire of the Swindon-shadowed swamplands

        Genius ! 🙂

  4. Hear, hear. Despite being just as ridiculous, the British monarchy is hard to eradicate for exactly the reasons religion is.

    1. The two are intertwined in this case, with the Queen ALSO being the head of the Church of England!

      1. Good thing I’m not British, I don’t think I could ever sing that horrible national anthem involving two of the worst ideas humanity ever had, monarchy and god, without being physically ill.

  5. I don’t have a problem with curtsying, backing out in their presence, etc, since it is entirely voluntary. No one has to get excited about this stuff, and no one is forced to get a knighthood, it’s all just silly fun.

    I don’t consider the “servitude” any more abject than what people gladly do in the presence of movie stars or the POTUS.

    There is a deeper problem here, of course, that of the cult of personality, but that seems to be intrinsic to our species.

    1. It’s not about the cult of personality, or ritual, but heredity. In the modern world, the highest office in the land should be not ascribed by descent, which is a principle predicated on the notion that some people are absolutely better than others simply due to their parentage. That is irrational. It has to go.

      1. It’s not the highest office in the land, of course, it’s purely ceremonial. And it can be argued–by people like me–that it serves a useful function by diverting some pomp and circumstance away from the PM.

        1. Undoubtedly it serves a function by separating symbolic and actual power from one another. But France and Israel manage to do that without endorsing the notion that some people are better than others simply by dint of the womb they exited on their way onto the earth. Defend the principle, man. Can you? Can you in all honesty try to defend some people and their relatives being given £180,000,000 a year simply for being born of the right person?

          That figure doesn’t just include the monarch, by the way, but the family, most of whom don’t even have a single constitutional role.

          1. I’m not defending the principle, I just can’t be bothered to some sort of glowing righteous rage.

            If Britain was some sort of perfect meritocracy except for the Royal Family then you’d have a point. Instead it is far from it, and France is even farther.

            There are plenty of people in France, Israel, Britain, US, etc. who do quite well simply because they were born from the right womb.

            1. Yes, there are people in France, Israel, and so on, who do well by being born, but even the largest and most powerful dynasties that aren’t founded on immediate political recognition and legitimisation fall within a couple of generations. The Bonapartes are not a force in French politics anymore, and neither are the Adamses or Jeffersons in US politics. The House of Wettin, by comparison, is legitimate in Britain, and its succession is mandated by law.

              Legitimation of descent is an irrational notion. It should stop, and noting that neither Britain nor any other nation is purely meritocratic does nothing to diminish the sense of that.

              1. Being elected in a democracy is also an irrational notion.

                Democracies are inherently irrational but they work fairly well if combined with the rule of law (a huge if). A democracy is not a mathematical or scientific proof.

                Therefore if something performs some practical good in a democracy like the Royals seem to, then I don’t see what the big deal is. And I shouldn’t have to point out the obvious differences between the Bonapartes, etc, and the current ceremonial British Royals. Even the egalitarian obsessed Swedes have an aristocracy.

              2. Democracy is not irrational. It is an attempt to find a solution to a problem, or to select a leader, which is representative of the public will. Obviously, this is not perfect, but the principle is rational and sensible. The royal family, by comparison, is selected by a principle that is based on an empirically false notion, that birth makes one better than others. Even if this is a ceremonial position, it is an incredibly well-paid ceremonial position. It is therefore in essence payment of huge amounts of money simply for being born.

                No, it’s not material for manning the barricades. But real objections have to be made in order to object to changing the system, rather than just asserting that democracy ain’t great and that Britain isn’t a pure meritocracy.

              3. I heartily disagree with you on this Al.

                Consensus (democracy) is not rationality, in fact it is often the enemy of rationality.

                The history of science is littered with the victims of consensus.

                The roots of aristocracy go back to hunter-gatherers and alpha males and females. I think it’s fair to say there is some rational basis to it.

              4. You appear confused as to what is meant here by ‘rational’. In a democratic system, the aim, if not the reality, is to create a system that will represent public opinion on issues without infringing on any rights. This means that democracy can and should be improved. Royalty, on the other hand, probably does go back quite a way, to the descent impulse, but that doesn’t make it irrational. In fact, it being a primitive emotional response, it is the very opposite of rational. It can also not be amended without destroying it. The aim, too, is to keep one group of people in power, not to forge a better society that represents people well without infringing on them. And again, the principle makes no sense – being born to a certain woman is not an assurance that you will be the best person in the society.

                Furthermore, the notion of descent is predicated on precedence. Argument from tradition and argument from precedence are logical fallacies.

              5. Yes, sorry, you meant rationality inside a democracy (consensus) not rationality as defined by science or reality.

                My bad.

              6. If you are so adamant that you have no dog in this fight – you don’t see what the fuss is all about, you claim – then why invent a strawman? The purpose of having democratically-elected leaders is to ensure that public opinion is reflected in policy, but that isn’t the sum total of government. Nations also have these things called constitutions and independent judiciaries that are also part of republican, democratic government.

                But, of course, you meant ‘rationality’ in the sense of ‘giving in to base urges and instinctual whims in forming a political structure instead of trying to find the most logically-coherent and sensible institutions possible’, predicating your view on the primitivity of authoritarian, autocratic, hereditary government for human beings.

                My bad. Really.

              7. Even the egalitarian obsessed Swedes have an aristocracy.

                If only by history, in the same sense that we used to be lutherans.

                Let me qualify that, as it is necessary:

                There is a republican movement to dispose of the royalty and exchange it for the speaker of the congress (“riksdagen”).

                However it is much less popular than the corresponding replacement of the state church (with rather nothing, ironically). This is reflected in the politics as well, where the church ousting was supported over party lines (and the christ democrats were pressed to fold) but the current issue is a “non-issue”.

          2. France & Israel? Are they the best examples of democratic states where merit gets you to the top? Hmmm…

            1. No. They are two good examples of states where there is a separation of symbolic and actual power, due to the presence of both prime minister and president. Were the monarchy to end, as it should, it would be best if this separation of powers were followed, I think. Nowhere is a pure meritocracy, but that doesn’t mean we should legitimise heredity. That should be obvious, frankly.

            2. France is a presidential republic: the president is not at all ceremonial, but the most powerfull man in France. Germany has a ceremonial president.

              1. Yes – I think Germany is more democratic, with the states having devolved government, what do |German readers think? Of course in Germany you have to plagiarize a Phd in order to get on in politics!

          3. “Can you in all honesty try to defend some people and their relatives being given £180,000,000 a year simply for being born of the right person?”

            Well, yes, but not neccesaarily effectively. But I’ll try. Depending on how much money over-all is put toward it, minus money brought in because of it, *just* to maintain the relics of, and LIVING ones at that, a powerfully compelling historical story, I’d say yes. It seems that it is not much of an issue when the U.S. or Britain puts money into historical things just for the fact that it is a relic of something historical. Not saying that justifies it, but might be good to compare and contrast our feelings about inanimate historical object vs. people. Again, though, I am nto pretending to know this is a good idea, just ‘defending’ it so to speak. It’s easy for me on this side of the pond to find some value in maintaining the live blood line of the historical monarchy, having felt somewhat jealous of the thousand year history you guys have vs. our measly 200.

            1. All parts of the universe have a history of equal length, and from the perspective of indigenous peoples of the Americas, it is offensive to say that Britain somehow has ‘more history’, as well as being inaccurate. There is also no need to be jealous. I am far more jealous of a nation with a powerful constitution and a law allowing for almost absolute free speech.

              Besides, the monarchy is part of government, not just a building, and importantly, the ‘link to the past’ that you is an imaginative fiction. My bloodline and yours go back an equal distance, to our human ancestors in Africa and beyond to the first lifeform. Your ancestry is just as much a link to the past as anyone’s. It is also not something to take pride in.

        2. It is also the highest office in the land in at least one important respect: it is the highest paid “job” in government.

        3. In the US we don’t have a big problem with the President exercising both ceremonial and political functions. That ‘ceremony’ argument is bogus, I think.

          1. I’m not sure it’s totally bogus. The American right wing seems to have a perpetual problem separating symbolism from reality and ritual power from actual power. Reagan was and is seen as a saintly figure; if the President is a strong, powerful, handsome, (white) man, then the country will be alright. The separation of real power from the symbolism of power seems reasonably necessary in that context.

            1. When you look at what the Queen does, its mostly greeting diplomats, VIPs, and the like on state visits. She’s held out as an important person that it is a treat to meet. I fail to see how this is not done just as well by an elected official that is good at their job.

          2. If it is bogus (and I don’t have a strong opinion either way), I think it is in the sense that the POTUS is essentially always campaigning, even as a lame duck.

          3. The US is not a commendable example for democracy, actually. Few persons vote, the way district boundaries are decided are not very open or fair. Congress clearly does not function responsably.

    1. I think Hitchens, in this case, having become a US citizen does not have a right to carp. But maybe he has retained dual nationality? I don’t know… I do know that we should once again cut their heads off! Hanging’s too good for ’em! We cut off a king’s head long before the French…

      1. Listen to me, boasting about our ruddy traditions – even about cutting off the royal bonce! How sad am I…

  6. Most of the Facebook comments today on how great the wedding is are from Americans. I don’t know whether Brits are actually even more excited and can’t be bothered to post comments, or if they are not interested.

    1. I know a few Brist at least who are taking advantage of the long weekend to go on a trip, so they won’t be posting today. Can’t say about the rest.

      Americans are notorious for fawning over celebrities, including people who are famous despite having no accomplishments. Does that happen as much in the UK?

      1. Yes, talentless celebrities are big here.

        I can’t quite tell whether the average person is all that interested in all this royal BS. My neighbours seem glad to have the day off, and probably many watched the event on TV. But no one at our local club seemed all that interested in the event last night.

        I suppose everyone is just used to rich people getting their own way, as they do just about everywhere.

          1. Hope the kitten is recovering… (cannot manage to leave a comment on your pages with my internet connection via usb)!

  7. There was a similar royal wedding last year in Sweden, with the heir to the throne, princess Victoria, marrying a ‘commoner’. There was a huge overdose in fawning media coverage for the wedding, the most ironic part of which was that the interest it stimulated in the monarchy resulted in a book about the private life of the current King, Carl Gustav. This revealed a host of unsavory connections (affairs, friendships with gangsters, visiting prostitute clubs etc).
    As for the current British royal wedding, I do find it rather typical that the bride suddenly found religion in the past few weeks and decided to get confirmed in the Church of England (or rather was ordered to get confirmed -keep in mind that William, as future king will be the head of the Church of England – we can’t have him married to a heathen!)

    1. Yes – it is the gushing crap that we have to endure from media luvvies & royal botty-lickers that gets on my tits most!

  8. The tourism argument has always seemed spurious. Folks using it cite the large number of American tourists and it’s possible that US tourists going to Britain cite as a reason some royal thing or another but the larger reasons are historical connections and a shared (sort of) language.

    No Brit that I talk to who supports the monarchy seems excited by it. Perhaps Thomas Jefferson can explain the continued support: all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

    Or, change is scary.

    1. Really though, do tourists actually come to see the monarchy or the fancy buildings they live in?

      Wouldn’t more tourists come if you got rid of the weirdos inside and turned the palaces into museums?

      Now there’s a thought.

    2. I can’t imagine wanting to visit England during the Wedding… I’d imagine everything would be over priced. As for more mundane tourism, it should be noted that whenever the Queen is doing stuff at Windsor or Buckingham, the tourists get booted out of certain places, which I find irritating.

    3. I was at Versailles and it was full of tourists. France doesn’t need a Royal Family for atracting tourists. The same would be true for England, so the argument for “tourism” is BS.

  9. I’m boycotting the event. Privilege, Christianity, all on horrible display, while the masses look on in bewildering awe.

  10. The Swedish Royal family is not like the British one at all – no backing out of the room there.

    The Swedes had hoped that the wedding would bring in tourists, but I’m not sure many not Swedes knew it was happening. Certainly many American don’t know Sweden has a Royal family. Presumably they are well known in Brazil?

    1. Before I moved to Sweden for my post-doc in the early 80’s about all I knew was that Sweden had a relatively young king. Then someone gave me a Swedish travel brochure, and there was Queen Silvia decked out in a fur-trimmed coat in a snowy woodland setting, smiling broadly and holding a very long fish, probably a pike. The caption said something like “As the Queen can attest, the fishing is very good in (I think it was) Norrland”. My estimation of royalty there went way up after that.

      Maybe the many tourists now coming to Stockholm to see the sites in the Larsson trilogy will have a chance to find that royalty can be done in a lower key (and maybe Kate will be able to de-tune the British version).

  11. I think the problem is that we are *told* people are interested regardless of whether they are or not.

    As for tourism, I suspect people would come to see the buildings and history even if there wasn’t a monarch in them. It seems to work for France.

  12. Well this Brit has been baking his girlfriend a birthday cake during most of the proceedings, and she is very happy that the state has thrown a public holiday in recognition of anniversary of her nativity.

  13. They seem like a nice enough couple, and I wouldn’t begrudge the Brits their traditions, except for one thing.

    No matter how cushy a monarch’s life might be physically, it’s not a real life. Especially in European cases where they’re just figureheads.

    In a nation with weak institutions, a good monarch may be the least evil option; the most recent two Jordanian kings come to mind. But there have plenty of counterexamples, especially the last German Kaiser.

    Either way, at least that’s meaningful work compared to being a figurehead, or worse, the heir of one. Look at the waste of Prince Charles’s life, spent waiting to inherit, with intense pressure and media spotlight on his relationships. It’s one thing to choose such as life, say as a movie star, but to be born into it?

    So like many religious practices, a form of child abuse.

    1. But like many a rich wastrel, it was purely voluntary. At any time Charles had the option of renouncing his inheritance and moving to Canada to become lumberjack.

      Not a form of child abuse at all.

  14. As a Brit I’m pretty ambivalent about the royal family generally but I feel that as far as this wedding is concerned, when you cut through all the pomp and ceremony (always perfectly done as usual), this couple look very well matched and very relaxed with each other in a way that Charles and Di never did even on their wedding day.

    1. I enjoyed watching the extraordinary spectacle that can be seen at no other time, with some glorious music (I learnt “Blest Pair of Sirens” in 1963 but too late to sing it to the Queen.) and extraorinary views of extraordinary architecture – Spidercam, anyone? – but I’m sure, like many others, I enjoyed it so I could make cynical comments (“For richer, for poorer” [Mrs Krebopple]HAH![/Mrs Krebopple]). And Harry has his father’s looks….

      I wonder if Rowan could reconcile his “sophisticated theology” with the mediaeval piffle he had to spout yesterday? (Though again, the English is beautiful, and beautifully spoken.)

  15. You have friends who are so ‘liberal that they’re almost socialists’? Is that ‘socialist’ in some sort of a pejorative sense? Maybe they really are socialists. Some of us are you know.

      1. Talking of ‘socialists’ [with a small s], god’s representative on earth, aka Tony Blair, did not get an invite. I think the Queen is getting her own back for all the ‘People’s Princess’ stuff!

        1. Why on earth would anyone include the words Tony Blair and socialist in the same sentence? If you consider Blair to be a socialist I think you really need to pay a bit more attention.

        2. They should have invited Tony Blair. His “People’s Princess” stuff, and dragging the Firm out of their castles and on to the streets, pretty much saved the monarchy from going down the gurgler in 1997.

          At least Elton John didn’t sing this time.

  16. As a Brit I have been successfully avoiding the Royal Wedding today … until I came here! I don’t think we really are ruled by the monarchy any more, but they’re a nice enough decoration to have on the nation’s mantlepiece. I don’t mind either way, certainly not in the same way that I mind rather a lot about the impact of religion in the world.

  17. “But I think that, secretly, the pull of tradition is too strong for many Brits. They’ve always had a king or queen, and always want to. The Firm is like Marmite, or the R.A.F.”

    Yep, that pretty much nailed it. Tradition. I’m no monarchist, but my parents’ attitude would have been very different to mine because they grew up in a time when deference was the norm. They served god, queen and country and very few people questioned it a generation or two ago. All of that took a real hammering around the time of the breakdown of Charles and Diana’s marriage and all that followed. And yet, there just isn’t the will to change and adopt a new system. It’s like we’ve got far bigger fish to fry. Still, the wedding bought me two long weekends with a three day week in the middle. Bliss. Can’t tell you how much wood preservative I used in the garden. And Marmite. I’ll give up the monarchy before I give up my Marmite.

      1. Marmite ~ yes

        Fish’n’Chips with liberal quantities of salt & vinegar ~ double yes

        A smaller proportion than usual of women pensioners out & about in the UK this morning. I presume they were home watching the church wedding.

        I don’t know any Brit under 50 who is ‘for’ the monarchy & the associated traditions.

  18. No other country in the world can “put on” a ceremony like Great Britian.
    As for myself, I could care less about the “Firm” and yes I am English.

  19. You need new British friends, Jerry.

    (On the other hand, it’s not much worse than a nation where a former President’s idiot son is proclaimed leader!)

    1. What’s worse, he was made leader twice. The vice-presidential candidate from the last election was an embarrassment, and one of the current front runners for the Republican Party is a twice bankrupted fake billionaire. Once we get into unfettered executive power where war crimes are not investigated, it’s not much better, really.

      At least when the UK goes to war, the sons of the leaders actually go into combat, so they do have some skin in the game.

      I quite liked the fairy tale wedding, but was disappointed (but not surprised) when the Bishop of London made a dig at non-believers in his sermon. Something like “Those that do not believe put too greater burden on their spouse to provide complete fulfilment of life’s purpose.” But maybe I am remembering it wrong.

              1. Michael York? Sergeant York? British royalty trivia, I guess. Sorry, it was a rhetorical question. Thanks for taking the trouble.

        1. Heh, yeah. And unlike some in the abbey, I stayed awake and paid attention. My wife asked me if I thought Prince Phillip looked happy. I thought he was either senile or drunk; I couldn’t tell. I guess you had to be there.

  20. Jerry,

    You said three things here that answer the question:

    Not in chronological order:

    1. “…And even though the Firm has virtually no political power, they persist”. –the key part there is “no political power”, thus, no harm in THAT arena at least.

    2. “Perhaps part of the fascination is seeing a “fairy tale wedding,”-

    This is profoundly powerful, and I’ll explain that in a moment.

    3. “But I think that, secretly, the pull of tradition is too strong for many Brits.”

    —spot on. And would be for us to if we had more than a ‘measly’ 200 year history. But the harm that it causes would be what should decide that they not continue with the Royal family tradition.

    4. “But how can a democracy tolerate a ruling family that not only is not that bright, but also makes you curtsy before them and back out of the room when leaving them.”

    If it is a LAW that one must curtsy and exit backward, punishable in any way, then I’d agree it is a problem. If it’s simply socially frowned-upon due to a societal desire to maintain the historical traditions, than I’m all for it. Like refusing to shake the hand of the president if he or she extends theirs. No law against refusing, but kinda a dickish thing to do anyway (with exception, of course) and many might cast a disapproving view of you if you did.

    5.”That’s the kind of abject servitude that characterizes religion.”

    I’d argue that the mores of respectful gestures in the monarchies and under rule of the Pharisees painted the themes of religious servitude, but I could be wrong about that.

    One thing we American’s might want to keep in mind. Our little over 200 year old history is not as deeply valued as they’re over thousand year history history. When you have an old castle within eye sight of your childhood home growing up that is from the 1200’s, it’s kinda a big deal to just cast off the fantasy of royalty so ingrained in your psyche, perhaps nostalgia as well as excitement like we might only begin to understand from our own nostalgic icons of childhood. Depending on just how much the Royal Family dictates anything would be how to assess if they need to go. But again, the power of nostalgia and ‘good feelings’ is hard to fight, and not worth it if there is no harm in said ‘nostalgia’ and ‘good feelings’.

    1. How on earth do you equate bowing & scraping like a lackey with shaking hands?

      The one is designed to denote your inferiority, the other is not.

      1. Seriously now, have you ever actually seen anyone ‘bowing and scraping like a lackey’ to any current Royal?


          The point is not that any person in the presence of British royalty is endangering their lives by not performing obeisances.

          The point is that in an age of presumed democracy and equality such behaviour is expected at all, let alone regarded as acceptable – and those who don’t conform would be regarded as rude or uncouth. Well, at least by the Daily Mail.

  21. “… but also makes you curtsy before them and back out of the room when leaving them. That’s the kind of abject servitude that characterizes religion.”

    Where do you get this strange idea from? No-one is MADE to curtsy, bow, or do anything else. And if I did meet the Queen and failed to bow, I would be in no danger of being hauled off to the Tower for execution.

    As others have said above, there is no “abject servitude” under a constitutional monarch. The Queen reigns but does not rule – her authority is purely symbolic, and in practice is exercised by the elected parliament. If you want to find people living in “abject servitude”, I suggest you look at some of the long list of states which style themselves as “People’s Republics”, “Democratic Republics” and the like.

    And to any non-British or non-Commonwealth readers here who want to bash the monarchy, with the greatest respect – Butt Out. It’s our country, our system and our history. If you don’t like it, that’s no problem, but don’t try to tell us how we “should” be governed. It’s none of your f*****g business.

    1. Quite. It’s a pretty bad system, but looking around I don’t see that any other nation has bettered it.

    2. Since I am a Commonwealth reader, I presume I can say that I would like to tell the monarchy to “get their but out of my country.” The new princess and her spouse will be celebrating Canada Day 2011 on Parliament Hill. There will be lots of “bowing and scraping” then, especially scraping to pay for their visit.

      1. That’s entirely a matter for the Canadian people to decide. If you want to ditch the monarchy and become a republic, go ahead. No-one here in the UK will be demanding that we send a gunboat to stop you.

    3. Well, I am a “Brit”, so it is my fucking business. I do not personally know one single person who gives a toss about these inbred halfwits. As far as I can see the only people who seem to think everybody is enthralled by this medieval circus is the media hoping to make a few quid out of it.
      Maybe it is the circles I move in, which are completely working class, that gives me this perspective and the rest of the social strata are lapping it up.
      I cannot see how anybody in the 21st Century can defend a system that says we are all inferior to the royals because of their (in)breeding.
      It’s quite amusing when xenophobic little englanders stick up for the House of Saxe-Coburg and Phil the Greek. In any other situation they’d be calling for these “immigrants” to be deported.

      1. Absolutely.

        If someone were to come up with the idea of a monarchy for a modern democracy they would be laughed at.

        The monarchy is out-dated but, unfortunately, a lot of Brits still cling to it. Probably for nostalgic reasons for most. The idiot Prince Charles is a good example for why the monarchy is wrong!

        1. To be honest I think Charlie Boy is our best ally against a monarchy. He is regarded by most people here as a bit of an idiot, Even the Loyal Subjects are a bit embarrassed by him. If he ever did ascend the throne I think it wouldn’t be long before there was a republic.

          1. Which is why the queen is not going to be allowed to die until Charles is dead, which would also deal with the vexed question of what to do about Camilla. Since Charles was so spineless as to allow such an appalling insult to the woman he claims to love I lost what little sympathy I had for him. Note: he let them make her a duchess instead of a princess which she ought to have been. I think they whole royal project ought to be abandoned but while it remains it should be done properly.

    4. It’s none of your fucking business. (Dave Hughes)
      Your arrogance is noted.

      No one should ever care about other countries than their own.

  22. PLEASE DO NOT CALL ME A BRIT! I detest the term – it is not endearing. I am English – I want nothing to do with Britain which was an 18th/19th century invention to try to be inclusive & keep the Welsh, Irish & Scots happy. As for the royal family, off with their heads. I am all in favour of a king – in mediaeval times! It was useful & appropriate then. The ONLY problem is, with what-or whom – do you replace it or her??? I can scarcely think of anyone who I would want as a president – in the ‘head of state’ role as opposed to the US which has effectively an elected monarch anyway.

    OK – possible candidates for a UK head of state anyone? I would say Ray Mears…

      1. Well he is from Norfolk – where I am today (sunny Cromer!) & is funny & intelligent, if a bit gushing himself, so yes maybe – any others?

        1. Fry tends to be quite busy, and he’s a friend of the Prince of Wales so probably wouldn’t go for it. How about Alan Davies? Or Frankie Boyle might liven the place up . . .

  23. I’m in the UK and am of the opinion that a monarchy is an anachronism and has no place in a modern democracy.

    But it does seem that I am in the minority. Most people do want fairy tales, they have romantic notions and sentimentality for the royals; they believe that without the monarchy the UK will lose its uniqueness and no longer be special, that tourists will no longer visit. It’s all nonsense of course but people are afraid of change.

  24. Here in Australia, the Chaser (a TV comedy group) were planning to satirise the media circus and the monarchy, when Charley suddenly changed the rules on them, forbidding any footage of the ceremony being used in any satirical programming. Which removed the last of my interest the affair.

    Fortunately, they’ve posted their prepared material on Youtube:

    1. Yes I thought it showed a miserable lack of a sense of humour. Though maybe it means he’ll take his wedding vows a bit more seriously than his father did.

  25. Kate was confirmed, Obama had to make it apparent he was Christian if he was going to advance in politics; and if one looks at the brouhaha that surrounds the office of presidency of the United States (I recall Nixon’s visit to China, and an announcer telling us with shock and awe in his voice that the little fellow not far from Nixon carrying a black briefcase was carrying the button that the president could use to start a nuclear war if he wished), and the retired presidents with their libraries and legacies, etc, then it seems to me that the American president is fundamentally an elected monarch, and it would be better to regard him as such. What is surely of interest, beyond the question whether a republic or a monarchy is better (despite being British, I favour the former), is that nexus of power and religion that becomes apparent in coronations, presidential swearings-in, royal weddings, etc. I think one needs to ignore the trappings, or, rather, see how the trappings point to or express this fundamental nexus. What struck me, as I watched out of some sort of masochistic and anthropological interest a succession of churchmen burble boringly and condescendingly away in Westminster Abbey, and listened to John Rutter’s dreadful anthem (it seemed to have escaped from a West End musical by Lloyd Webber or someone), was that virtually nobody in (or out) the country actually believes in the truth of the religious side of things, but having religion there on such occasions is the ‘done thing’ and makes them appear properly serious; so that if religion were not represented, if Rick Warren (was it him?) or some other preacher did not administer the presidential oath, and if the Archbishop of Canterbury did not marry our latest pair, then most people would feel cheated. And this is how religion works: not because it is true or even thought to be true but because it seems to sanction things, to provide some sort of imprimatur. And that is what people want: a semblance, an impressive seeming.

    1. Moreover, the clergy pronounces English in a cultured way.
      The idea of ritual is that it does not change – not whether one believes in it or not. I daresay Darwin was buried in Westminster Abbey according to an Anglican burial service. Very good traditional phrasing.

      1. But of course ritual does change, and a lot of the ‘time-hallowed’ rituals that we suppose genuinely to be time-hallowed are recent inventions or inventions for the most recent occasion. ‘Old gits’? Yeah, but what is surely extraordinarily intriguing is the role of political mythology (which always pretends to be ‘time-hallowed’) in the life of any nation, including that of the USA, with – or despite – its belief in its exceptionalism.

    2. Very good point, Tim. My best friend and her husband got married in church, depsite her agnosticism and his staunch atheism, because “it had the right sense of occasion”.

      I was appalled on two counts; firstly, that they would effectively lie while making the most important commitment of their lives, and secondly that they thought it was appropriate to use somebody else’s place of worship just for social convenience. I doubt they would have been so cavalier about getting married in a mosque, for example.

    3. “the American president is fundamentally an elected monarch”

      Yes, the Americans got rid of George III and much later replaced him with George Bush I and George Bush II.

  26. It’s a massive money spinner and most people in the UK get the day off. What’s not to like ? Most of the people on my twitter/facebook are saying they feel proud to be British today – except for a few sour Republicans.

    1. ‘Surely you mean ‘republicans’ with a small ‘r’; or are you referring to American Republicans?

      1. Right you are – small ‘r’. I live in the States now so I’ve got used to capitalising it.

    2. “proud to be British”? Why pride? About what exactly? Why should Kate Middleclass marrying a prince make me feel pride?

      1. Exactly, how can His Royal Highness marrying Her Common Lowness provoke pride in some random prole? . Quite apart from the fact that someone should consider themselves be Proud To Be British, American or whatever. How can you be proud of the fact that through no action of your own you happen to be born in one particular geographical location?

        1. It is like feeling pride in the performance of an Olympic athlete – it is the individual who gets up at 5am to train for years, so I admire the person & what they attempt, but I do not see how I can bask in their reflected glory.

          1. Or the old “If it wasn’t for us saving you from the Nazis you’d be speaking German” that you tend to hear from some of our American cousins (I’m sorry, I know it’s not most of you, but you must have heard it said) as if they had personally stormed the beaches of Normandy. I’m sure plenty of us, and every other nationality, do the same thing.
            Patriotism, that’s when you get to take credit for things that somebody else did.
            I agree with Doug Stanhope that a country is just some dirt with a line drawn round it.

  27. Actually, such things are nice fashion shows. I’m always miffed that we do not get a good line up of the dresses (I would prefer something catwalk like), just glimpses. So, Mrs Middleton had a much better dress than Mrs Camilla (who could think that up?), the bride’s dress seemed very good but not visible in enough detail, the bride’s sister looked stunning, the York daughters were awful (out of Absolutely Fabulous?), and in general, the dresses in Stockholm looked better if I remember well.

  28. Don’t know if this was mentioned or not in the thread, but since it was questioned in the article, Yes the Royal Family does generate more revenue than what they are given in terms of taxes allocated to upkeep of the Royal family and its institutions. This isn’t only through tourism (that helps) but all of the properties and businesses that they own whose revenue goes into the state coffers as well.

    But yes, I am guessing that most of the reason Brits still keep them around is a combination of nostalgia, tradition, and apathy.

    1. I suspect that that revenue would be about the same even if the Family wasn’t there. After all, tourists come over to see Buckingham and Windsor regardless of whether they contain the Queen, just as they go to Versailles which is no longer inhabited by royalty. It is the trappings of past royalty that brings in the dosh, not the living Firm.

    2. And also because unless there is a vast political upheaval it is difficult to change political institutions, wherever they are.

  29. Canadian perspective here. The cult of celebrity surrounding the Royal Family is beyond ridiculous — basically, yet another case of being famous for being famous. That being said, I’m apathetic about the monarchy as a political institution (which we get for free, aside from the occasional state visit). Yes, choosing one’s Head of State by hereditary succession is a silly anachronism — but every four years we get reminded that the alternative can be just as ridiculous.

    One good thing about this wedding: is giving a free extra day on their tourist rail passes, which we’re taking advantage of for our upcoming trip to Olde Blighty.

    1. As a Canadian I despise the Royal Family. The last government used their name to suspend parliament twice on dubious grounds, for the Governor General acts in the name of the Monarch. If there is a serious situation in my country I don’t want it coming down to a bunch of inbreds with brain damage (i.e. Prince Charles), and their lackeys to be the ones making the decisons. I think the Americans have it right- let the Supreme Court decide.

      Get the Queen out of Canada. The Brits can have them.

      How many millions have died on the stupid whims of Monarachs?

  30. I’m a Brit, and I’ve gone to amused apathy to raging republicanism in a week. I haven’t been able to watch the news or listen to the radio without being slapped in the face with how excited I’m supposed to be. I had to stick in the headphones and turn up the iPod because my colleagues, who have all chosen to come in today apparently because they are so very busy, have spent the WHOLE FLIPPING DAY watching those two weak-chinned parasites get hitched.

    I’m sure they are a perfectly nice couple of people, but I DO NOT CARE. MAKE IT STOP, CEILING CAT.

  31. “all of my British friends support it.

    Really? Maybe you need some new friends. Although I must admit, “Long live our noble Queen” does have a certain appeal when you look at her heir. It is a mildly interesting thought, by the way, that modern medicine is likely to ensure that hereditary monarchs in the future are doomed to be old. The present queen succeeded as a young woman because her father was a chain smoker. With luck, she’ll last as long as her mother, at which point her son will be 80.

    1. Perhaps Charles’ devotion to homeopathy will save us the trouble? That’s got to shave a few years off his projected life expectancy, surely?!

  32. Just to add a little bit of population genetics to the discussion, although William is inbred (his parents, Diana and Charles, being related), his and Kate’s children will not be inbred, since she is unrelated (being a commoner and all). One generation of outbreeding eliminates the inbreeding, so perhaps this match was made by a genetic counselor.

    1. Diana and Charles were 7th cousins, not I think biologically significant. William and Catherine on the other hand are 12th cousins so yes pretty safe.

      1. I didn’t realize that Kate and William were related at all. Since relationship declines at roughly .5 to the power of the number of separating relatives, 12th cousins have only a tiny fraction of the inbreeding that 7th cousins do.

  33. “…why not hire a bunch of submental stiffs to play them, as in Colonial Williamsburg?”

    Wow. Harsh.

    I saw poll results that said 80% of Brits couldn’t care less about the wedding. Why do we care, when we fought so hard to get away from monarchs?

    OTOH, the Lancaster/Spitfire/Hurricane flyover was lovely.

    1. The flyover is on YouTube already. I get goosebumps every time I play the first 10 seconds of this clip (Spitfire on the Lancaster’s left, Hurricane on the Lancaster’s right).

      1. The television feed had a shot from above that made them look like they were flying near treetop level. But I would guess that they are around 500′ AGL (or 150 meters, for our metric friends).

        I get a real charge out of WWII aircraft.

  34. I’m sure there’s an irony to be found in the posting of so many comments protesting a lack of interest, including gratitude for links to articles written on the manifestly uninteresting issue.

    There should be a word to describe how interesting and fulfilling it can be to denigrate something which is otherwise not worth one’s time.

  35. Well, I didn’t watch it! They are living in the Midde Ages and another example of what Sam Harris calls Moderate Christian ideals, morals and myths.

  36. I was hoping to escape the endless moaning and bitching coming from republicans. Alas it seems one more haven has been lost to me.

    Also have to remind people that the Royal family would earn more money if they were “gotten rid of”. Their lands and property generate far more income (The Crown Estate has a £7.3 billion portfolio) for British taxpayers than the Royal family recieves from the civil list.

    1. If the monarchy was disbanded, would the properties belonging to the Crown then be privately owned by the ex-royals?

  37. I’m British (living in the US) and am delighted to see William and Kate marry. I hope they have a long and wonderful life together. Everyone deserves happiness, and I trust they have found theirs.

    I found Hitchen’s piece to be churlish. OK, he doesn’t like the monarchy, we get it. He came across very much the miserable old sod in that one I’m afraid.

    1. I hope they have a long and wonderful life together. Everyone deserves happiness, and I trust they have found theirs.

      Funny, I thought Hitch said more or less the same (and for that matter, so do I, for any young couple) — but that the institution they’re embedded in, along with all its other faults, is inimical to that happy outcome (viz: his parents’ marriage).

    2. No he doesn’t. He gives Kate (I don’t know what else to call her) friendly advice at the end, wishing both of them well and calling her honey. It’s quite affectionate really.

  38. “The pull of tradition?”

    I’ve always maintained that “tradition” is never a reason to do anything. People don’t do something year after year because it’s a tradition, they call it a tradition because they do it year after year.

  39. I, too, am puzzled by the persistence of this near worship of the royal family it harkens back to a time when church and state were one, amazing.

  40. Earlier in the week when I was driving to work listening to NPR, I heard an article that interviewed people in Blackpool talking about the wedding and the royal family. I found myself writhing in embarrassment to be British: “Oooh, that Diana, she was so lovely…” “I hate that Charles for what he did to her…” “That Kate Middleton is a lovely woman” – how can it be that the masses haven’t managed to get beyond being the masses yet? I was suddenly glad that I was living in the United States and had left it all behind. But then the news of Obama releasing his birth certificate came on, and I realized it must be just as embarrassing to be American, as far as ignorant and credulous masses go.
    Like another British poster earlier, I don’t much care one way or another about having a royal family. It seems very outdated, but I’m not sure it’s doing much harm – and it seems to me that they do their best in a fairly thankless hereditary job. Like others say too, the U.S. presidential system always seems like a cautionary example of how much worse things could be.
    Having growing up with Elizabeth as Queen, though, I was shocked as an adult to discover that we actually have a system of cognatic primogeniture in place. That and the connection to the Church of England are things that really need to be updated to make the whole thing mildly less anachronistic.

  41. a “fairy tale wedding,” complete with uniforms,

    Mr Coyne, for some reason I read that as “complete with unicorns” at first. Why are you messing with my brain? d(>w<)b

    Does he look happy?

    He looks mighty dapper.

  42. Aaaargh. I had succeeded in completely avoiding this drivel for weeks, and then I came to this ostensibly skeptical, irreverent blog, and boom

    Gossip, the rest of the internet and television had completely failed to penetrate my defenses up to now. Nice going, Jerry. But at least you got your cat picture in.

    1. And yet you scrolled through >150 comments to complain about it, which makes you just as bad as us ;-).

      I don’t know how you’ve avoided it — it’s been like, top story on my usual news websites (CBC, BBC) for days, thus requiring a deliberate effort to ignore. (Kind of like sports: I couldn’t care less, but damnit, it’s just *there*).

  43. The cat wears a tag at all times, so the bow-tie isn’t going to bother him.

    The world would be a damn boring place without at least a few traditions. I thinks it’s better that we watch them get married, than bow down before our new rulers, the capitalist gods.

  44. Poor old Larry, what did he do to deserve this?

    To add insult to injury, it’s not even a real bow-tie.
    It’s a paper serviette all concertina’d up and held together with a piece of sellotape.

    And THEN they have the nerve to preserve his humiliation on camera…

  45. Well as a half-British first-generation American, I watched part of the wedding. I wish the couple well.
    I don’t follow celebreties. I am glad the monarchy is slowing dissapating. I’ve seen my own democratic government waste billions on things with nothing to show for it. The fabulous historical buildings, and the ceremonial stuff gave me a happy diversion from all the wars going on. But I guess this just demonstrates that I come from the line of in-bred humans and I am incapable of knowing better.

  46. Liz a dimwit? I see no evidence of that. Charles is an ass, but Wills seems to have some nous.

    I think I’d rather have a hereditary ceremonial head of state than a politically-affiliated one.

    But I see no reason to continue to support the “minor” royals.

    But the monarch as head of the CofE? No. I’m all for disestablishment.


    As an anti-monarchical Brit that’s my job:-)

  48. On the tourism thing, Victoria, B.C.,Canada has no historic buildings or monuments but pretty well supports itself peddling British/Royal kitsch to tourists- first American, then Japanese, and now a gowing Chinese contingent.

  49. That wedding – an evolutionary explanation?

    Now given that it would be hard to argue against Jerry or Hitch’s take on the whole matter, there is, non the less, a couple of billion TV viewers who’s totally ridiculous behaviour seems to need explaining. (I’m afraid I made it two billion and one!) Now we can hardly argue that one third of the planet’s population isn’t a statistically significant sample and so I ask, what is actually going on here? With phenomena such as this my first thought is “are our minds being subverted by some ancient evolutionary/genetic throwback?” If so, how could this ever have come about? Is there something in our genetic history which causes us to revere the offspring of our leaders in order to ensure an orderly continuation of power? From a survival standpoint, selection of leaders would be better accomplished by a democratic selection process where the emergent heir to the throne had obvious leadership qualities and many tribes do just this. However, evolution does have a habit of doing what is easiest, not what is best. The system of choice based on simple inheritance is significantly less trouble to define genetically than one which had to evolve from complex political structures. Could it really be that simple? I suppose that, once established, the inheritance rule would, over evolutionary time, be gradually written into our genes. All it actually had to do was be better than no system at all. Put simply and perhaps a bit cheekily – it would be as if Jerry were to rail against peahens with their perverse weakness for peacocks that sported those ridiculously extravagant tail feathers.

  50. Some entertainment for you all:

    Royal Wedding (Cell, Volume 145, Issue 2, 167, 15 April 2011)
    On Friday the 29th of April, 2011, England’s Prince William will marry the graceful and poised Miss Catherine Middleton in London’s hallowed Westminster Abbey. As the world tunes in to watch the “wedding of the century,” Cell Culture explores the more biological aspects of this historic union, including the neurocircuits that strengthen a marriage, the epigenetic changes that transform a “commoner” into a queen, and the search process for finding a high-affinity partner in a sea of weak interactions.

    Read it here:

    Thanks to Not Exactly Rocket Science :- ‘an atrocity’-Ed Yong

  51. Speaking as a Brit, I can honestly say that I don’t know one single person who has been in the slightest degree interested in the latest Royal spectacle. Everyone seems to think that the whole business is a tedious waste of time, everyone seems to look on it as a sort of bad joke, and a rather inconvenient imposition. I’m not saying you’re wrong, Jerry; it may be that I just know all the wrong sort of people.

    My own feeling is that the royal family is a disaster. I except the Queen herself, who formed an ideal of her duty at a very early age and has tried very hard to live up to it – to make the monarchy a unifying force in a splintering world (she was only 13 at the outbreak of the Second World War). And she is by no means a stupid person (though she is royal and traditional, and tradition – perhaps specially royal tradition – has obligations of blindness, just like religion). “Personally, I blame” her husband, for fathering on her all those idiot brats (I mean princes and princesses). And for being an idiot himself. Also, I think that the times are against her: socialism, Margaret Thatcher, multiculturalism…

    On the subject of WHY we Brits go on having a royal family at all: I dunno; we just do. I suppose it’s just part of the air we breathe, or something, like a symbol of life that turns out to be life itself. I think that there is a lot of distant nostalgia for the Second World War, and all that coming-together-and-fighting-for-hearth-and-home that has nothing to do with being “comrades” but does have a lot to do with “fighting the good fight” (a Christian image) and “pulling together” (a normal human impulse). And QE2 certainly did her bit, even though she was only a kid.

    All this is very commendable, and I think that many people who lived through those appalling years would agree very strongly. I think that behind this, and relevant to our present (disastrously) “multicultural” condition, is the feeling that the monarchy represents a continuity, through all the vicissitudes of changing times and circumstances: England has had kings and queens reigning over a unified country since Anglo-Saxon times, and an act of union with Scotland since the beginning of the 17th century, so we are talking of more than a thousand years, and although the monarchs aren’t allowed to do any ruling these days the fact of their reigning acts as a unifying principle.

    Well, something like that: I’m afraid that my ideas are a bit woolly, but there is something at the back of my mind that wants expression, and I think that it is trying to head down this particular track. To change the subject, I think that there is more than a whiff of this in some aspects of accommodationism, and this might be food for thought.

    1. “More than 24m viewers in the UK watched the royal wedding on the BBC and ITV, industry body Barb estimates.

      The BBC said a peak figure of 20m – a 70% share – tuned into the corporation’s coverage at the end of the service in Westminster Abbey.

      More than 34 million viewers watched at least part of the BBC’s TV royal wedding coverage, it added. These figures include live iPlayer viewings.” – BBC
      Obviously more than a few were interested – but they were probably not your sort of people, so hardly count.

  52. “…was forced to don a Union Jack bowtie for the occasion.”

    It’s not a Union Jack; it’s a Union Flag. Anyone who watches Doctor Who knows that! Sheesh!

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