Politics & Media
May 09, 2023, 06:26AM

Me and My King

With regrets to Thomas Jefferson.

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I’ve got a king. Most Americans don’t, but I do. I’ve had him since his mother died. One brief month of Elizabeth, my taste of that historic reign, and then him, oh gawd, Charles. People ask if I mind that it’s Charles, but honestly I don’t. It’s not like you’re waiting for a good one. You take what they send and the supply is just these people here. The Windsors. Nothing special, but okay, neither are we.

I didn’t especially want a monarch. Maybe I thought I didn’t want one at all. But I took my oath to Canada and that’s the form they insist on: you swear loyalty to the monarch and the monarch’s successors. I discovered this only at the end of a three-year wait for citizenship, when they sent instructions for the ceremony. Someone said they had an opt-out form for the monarchy part, and I thought I might look into filing it. The countries allow dual citizenship, so I’m still American and that’s what counts. But an American with a king would seem to have thrown away the Revolution, and that’s a bigger decision than I like to make.

Yet I never did file and now I feel happy enough. Not for very large reasons. The ruling principle, so to speak, is this: in my position, at this stage of history, I don’t so much belong to the king as he belongs to me. Monarchs of our day are merely a notion, and the farther you get away the more notional they become. Over here the last monarch got her face on the 20s and that was it, that’s how you remembered she was something. Charles will have a sop like that, and I’ll accept its existence as something more than just an historical freak, and in return I’ll keep my little reason for bragging to myself. Just to myself, though; to anyone else I’d pitch my reflections as a droll piece of Americana, which they are. Look at the American, he thinks the king is an accessory or an option, like heated seats or head-up display. Not to mention that Americans like something big. We may have principled objections to hereditary distinctions of a non-fiscal sort, such as a monarchy. But this is a big monarchy; audience-wise it’s global and I’m part of the operation, sort of, all the way over here.

Simply put, when Elizabeth died I liked the fuss. Now I’m glad to be standing next to this giant and possibly gratuitous institution, even with its knobby placeholder occupants. Allow me that last bit of description, though lately the Windsors have grown more presentable and streamlined regarding appearance. I grew up with pre-Diana Windsors and I’m used to a monarchy that looks as dowdy as it thinks. I don’t mind. The people come with. We can watch this collection of personalities live on top of each other; it’s like the blank room episode of Twilight Zone, or possibly No Exit. But they’re all incidental to something whose value, if any, rests on elements separate from a given person. I think of this when I look at the width of William’s jaw relative to his forehead. For the streamlining of the Windsors is only partial, and everything above William’s neck keeps the picture honest.

I do favor keeping the monarchy, and that position should fulfill my oath of loyalty. I wish most of its members well, or well enough. But I have no thoughts about the institution as a bolstering or stultifying influence on society. When it comes to the monarchy, I’m a consumer more than a subject. I didn’t grow up in a country wrapped about this particular institution and I don’t live in such a country now. That’s the Brits, and eventually they may choose to reboot and continue their nation crownless. In the meantime I’ve got a king. 


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