I received a note asking my opinion regarding last Friday’s royal wedding in Great Britain and the subsequent homage paid to monarchy:
“Dr. Joe, I know you’ll agree with me that the value placed on British lineage is nonsensical.”
I fired back, “Dear reader, don’t judge a book by its cover. I’ll clarify in next week’s column.”
I’ve always been intrigued by the thought of royalty. As a child, I read Mark’s Twain’s, “The Prince and the Pauper,” chronicling the adventures of two young boys who exchange roles and stations in life. In high school I devoured Shakespeare’s plays about the English kings, from Richard II to Henry VIII. Their history, power and influence shaped Western civilization. As a student of Latin, my idols were Julius Caesar and Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher/king. Although I saw them as men, I believed their stature dealing with circumstance made them magnificent.
In college, as I studied the philosophy of Montesquieu, John Locke and Rousseau, my fascination of monarchy atrophied. The principles of egalitarianism and representative government became omnipotent. There’s nothing noble in being superior to another person.
According to an Indian proverb, true nobility is being superior to your previous self.
Why do we elevate one man over another? Why should I care about who Prince William is dating? Why is one man more special than another? Huckleberry Finn, Twain’s famous character, warns us, “All kings is mostly rapscallions.”
In the 1906 Olympics, U.S. flag bearer Ralph Rose refused to dip the flag to Edward VII of England. The American team captain, Martin Sheridan, said, “This flag dips to no earthly king!”
I’ve always loved that story. But somehow I believe those of us who embrace it are devoid of a philosophical, political and historical perspective that is bigger than all of us.
You’d think that with the signing of the Magna Carta — and all the revolutions and beheadings since — we’d be over our fascination with royalty. However, the BBC predicted that approximately 3 billion people would watch the marriage of William and Kate.
Why was I was compelled to watch the royal wedding? Why did chills run through my spine when Her Royal Highness, Princess Katherine Elizabeth, The Duchess of Cambridge, walked down the aisle of Westminster Abbey?
Maybe everyone wants to a princess or prince. Here, a princess and prince are make-believe. In England they’re real. Maybe we clamor for pageantry, for tradition, for nobility. In the presence of royalty we stand taller and walk straighter. The word “noble,” a root of “nobility,” means doing an act worthy of respect. Does nobility draw us to a higher calling?
I should stop grasping for straws. I just don’t know. Some things are because they are.
His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, Barron Carrickfergus, Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Master of Arts, is second in the line of succession to the throne of England. His wedding was held in the very same sanctuary where one day he will sit on the coronation chair to be crowned king.
Prince William will follow a tradition of monarchs that define the nobility of Great Britain. There have been 38 coronations at Westminster Abbey since William the Conqueror in 1066. My dear reader, you don’t ignore a thousand years of tradition.
JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.