There is talk around the media that the marriage of Kate Middleton and Prince William means that the “tarnished crown” has been restored to its sparkle. Not that the crown has not had its rough patches in the distant past. There was Henry VIII, after all, and few other scalawags along the way. Still, there might be something to the most recent recovery.
John Hughes, writing in The Christian Science Monitor, tells the story of King George VI and an incident in South Africa when the monarch was traveling with his family. Even then the media were along for the ride:
“The royal railway carriage, with its widescreen windows for better viewing, was parked for the night. By accident, the accompanying railway car carrying the press drew alongside it. To the amazement and delight of reporters, they beheld the king reenacting for his wife and daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, the Zulu war dance he had witnessed earlier in the day.
“It was a rare and delicious lapse of regal decorum, the images of which served only to enhance the popularity of the king with his public. He had already endeared himself to the British people by steadfastly refusing to leave Buckingham Palace during World War II, remaining in London and sharing the dangers of the German bombing.”
What for King George was the source of a “bump” in popularity, was for later members of the royal family cause for embarrassment. There was, for example, Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince Andrew’s questionable financial dealings and a number of other peccadilloes and problematic relationships.
And then, of course, there was the very public and lengthy spat between Princess Diana and Prince Charles. The fallout did not end with their divorce, either.
However, Hughes argues that things are changing. He believes the recent royal wedding “brought uplifting color and spectacular pageantry to the fore at a time when the world is beset by problems and strife.” At the same time, England continues to benefit from the presence of Queen Elizabeth, for whom decorum and stateliness are the natural order of things.
Nevertheless, as Hughes points out, monarchy in general is on the decline. It is being challenged right now in country after country in North Africa and the Middle East. So will kings and queens be a thing of the past in England?
Not likely. The evidence from the past few months indicates that people love royalty, even if they live in a representative democracy. The outpouring of affection and admiration for Prince William and his wife, as well as for Princess Diana in the United States where a bit of cynicism should be expected, makes it clear that putting people up on pedestals is still a popular pastime.
There will be a new monarch one day. There will be more royal weddings. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to learn more about one royal in particular: Princess Diana. Diana, A Celebration, continues at Union Station Kansas City through June 12. Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, the Union Station ticket office, the Sprint Center box office and www.unionstation.org.