Royalists Among Us

THE MYRIAD AND DEFERENTIAL appreciations of Queen Elizabeth in the American media since her passing I find most curious. Even if you haven’t seen Hamilton, the most cursory study of our nation’s founding provides a reminder that George Washington, John Adams and other 18th century colonists risked their lives rebelling against the English Crown so as to forge a new republic free of fealty to a monarchy. Yes, we brought the language, some cultural traditions and English common law with us to these shores, but the American Revolution made the political separation permanent, as evidenced when soldiers from the mother country returned to burn the pesky new nation’s capital during the War of 1812.

While we became allies in World Wars I and II, the monarchy remained an anachronistic symbol and emblem of what America was not: a nation tethered to inherited privilege and the authority of kings and queens. So what’s with the elegiac tributes to the House of Windsor?

In a New York Times op ed, the British-Indian novelist Hari Kunzru pointed out: “Elizabeth was queen when British officers tortured Kenyans during the Mau Mau uprising. She was queen when troops fired on civilians in Northern Ireland. She spent a lifetime smiling and waving at cheering native people around the world, a sort of living ghost of a system of rapacious and bloodthirsty extraction. Throughout that lifetime, the British media enthusiastically reported on royal tours of the newly independent countries of the Commonwealth, dwelling on exotic dances for the white queen and cargo cults devoted to her consort.”

The weepy cable TV anchors seem to have forgotten this, if they ever knew or cared. Ditto, friends who posted things like “Long live the king!” on Facebook. Really? I hope they were being facetious.

About Sean Mitchell

SEAN MITCHELL is a journalist, critic and former staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Herald Examiner and Dallas Times Herald. His articles and reviews have also appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, and other publications. Born in Bethlehem, Pa., he grew up in Dallas and is a graduate of St. Mark’s School of Texas and Brown University. He lives in Dallas.
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