(Here's one for CyberKitten.)
Americans historically seem rankled by the idea of royalty. Our political bloodline does not acknowledge the validity of hereditary rule; indeed, popular democracy is diametrically opposed to it.
But we've become a more tabloid society in the past few decades, and Britain's royal family seems to possess this strange dual citizenship where they are constantly hounded by a rabid and scurrilous tabloid press, and yet they also represent centuries of noble tradition brought right into the present day. They may not have any real importance whatsoever (that's true of celebrities generally), but they become noteworthy when millions of people deem them so.
I became more aware of this during last summer's visit to London. We walked from central London out past Hyde Park to our hotel, and along the way we passed Buckingham Palace. There happened to be a military flyover and parade in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Falklands war, and everything was centered around the Queen's residence. I had been chewing on the whole rule-by-royal-bloodline business during our trip, and as we walked we stopped a local policewoman and I asked a badly-formed question about heredity in the royal family (specifically, I wondered why Prince Philip was not the King, and why Elizabeth's mother became the Queen Mum when Elizabeth ascended the throne rather than just remaining Queen until her death? The constable laid it all out for us, thanks).
I occasionally have reason to think about this when the royal family is in the news (usually one of our own tabloids at a supermarket checkout), and my middle-aged, lecherous self got a jolt of royal news yesterday when I stumbled upon mention of one Kate Middleton. I had to look her up, naturally, and it seems that she is being positioned to be, oh, only the Queen of England. She has been dating Prince William for about four years, and they are widely expected to announce their engagement, perhaps yet this year.
Of course, their marriage--and Ms. Middleton herself--needn't matter a whit. But insofar as the whole of British society seems taken by the matter, and given that the royal family is immensely wealthy and does, after all, still wield great diplomatic authority (and even some policy influence), it becomes news.
I'm lying if I don't say that half of my incentive to look up the details of Ms. Middleton was because she's a magnetically beautiful woman--no, let's be real: she looks like a college hottie. It's not hard to imagine how she caught William's eye, but the consequences of her dating the future King of England give the story some spice. Even more so because she is from an utterly un-royal background. The daughter of a couple of flight attendants ascends to the throne of England; it has a romantic pull for the ages. Imagine a schoolgirl dreaming of the young prince, and the impossible alignment of planets for events transpire such that he discovers her and asks her out and then makes a steady go of it. What must her parents make of this development? By most accounts, she has played her hand carefully and with great skill. She seems very poised, and she deals with the crush of papparazzi attention with ease and self-possession.
I suppose this is just what the courtship between young princes and princesses looks like. But this one promises to keep the process interesting. Or at least beautiful to look at.
One other thing. It seems obvious that Prince Harry is the son of Princess Diana and the man with whom she admitted having an affair, one James Hewitt (William bears a distinct resemblance to both Charles and Diana, and Harry not at all). Hewitt and the Princess of Wales claimed that they met only after Harry was born. But his appearance casts doubt, and given that these people are carrying on the teetering concept of a royal bloodline it seems odd that courtesy or decorum would keep the family from doing a simple DNA test. Is it only that Harry is currently #3 in line for the crown, and so there is no pressing need for the tumult and humiliation? That seems noble, but insofar as he may not actually carry the bloodline I'm surprised it's not looked into.
(I warned it was a pointless post.)