All the best to the royal couple; pardon my sneerby Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio
I have to quietly admit that I am enjoying the lead-up to the royal nuptials. I won't be getting up early to watch or listen to the ceremony beamed from my homeland. I'll actively avoid any coverage, as I have been doing for the past couple of weeks.
What I'm enjoying is flexing some old muscles -- those I use to curl my lip and grumble about the anachronistic farce that is the British royal family. It just feels good to sense the blood rising a little, and enjoy the burn of the long-matured feelings about the wasteful silliness of the whole thing.
Don't get me wrong. I wish all the happiness in the world to William and Kate, as I would any couple embarking on the adventure of marriage. But that's the thing; they are just another couple. All the hoopla is manufactured, and it's not in everyone's best interests.
The tourism industry is going to make a packet, and some will argue this is vital to the continuation of British tradition.
Some traditions have value. But royalty? I'm not so sure.
I come at this from the perspective of a Scot who learned to sing "God Save the Queen" when I was in the Boy Scouts, but wondered at the usually unsung second verse, which included the line about beating the rebellious Scots.
When I was very young, I used to wonder what it would be like to meet Prince Andrew, who is the same age as me. I had visions of bumping into him in the street and striking up a friendship. Yet these dreams never included going off to visit him at the palace. They always involved him looking for a way to escape and enter a normal life.
I believe I first saw the queen when I was about 8. I joined the thousands crowded along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh to watch her pass in an ornate open carriage. I was dumbstruck. I remember feeling the weight of her presence as she passed, a physical manifestation of her power. Now I realize it was really a sense of awe at the stature of this person, this royal figure who in some way owned us. We were her subjects. It's a heavy concept for a youngster.
The next time I saw her was almost a decade later, when she opened a shopping mall, again in Edinburgh. A friend visiting from Austria dragged me down to the event. My sense of awe had long evaporated as a result of reading history, which seldom works well for royal reputations. I stood and watched in a grumpy stew of teen disgust.
When she walked by, I thought "She's awfy wee" (Trans: she's not very large). For a brief moment I felt sad for this petite being who bore the weight of the remnants of the British empire on her shoulders. But it was just brief, because then the stories of royal privilege, and the belief in the divine right of kings, washed to the fore and my irritation at the royal family returned.
It's just silly that we get all excited about royalty. Despite all the stuff about destiny and lineage, it's vital to remember that royalty is a political construct. These are folk who are where they are not because of merit but due to circumstance, and sometimes some pretty dubious circumstances.
There is a glorious photograph of Queen Victoria's extended family on the occasion of her diamond jubilee in 1897. She is surrounded by most of the crowned heads of Europe, all related by marriage and destined in just a few years to be sending armies against each other in 1914 with a horrific loss of life.
I am celebrating Royal Wedding Week by reading "The Tyrannicide Brief" by Geoffrey Robertson. It's the story of John Cooke, the lawyer who prosecuted Charles I of England after the English Civil War. The idea that someone could not only question the decisions of someone who claimed to have been appointed by God, but then also prosecute that person based on a 'universal right to punish a tyrant who denies democracy and civil and religious liberty to his people,' was audacious. Yet Cooke argued and won the trial, which led to Charles' beheading, an act that shocked Europe.
Cooke took the job knowing it probably would turn out badly for him. He met a horrible end after the restoration of the monarchy, when Charles II had pretty much everyone involved in his father's trial hanged, drawn and quartered.
Yet Robertson argues that Cooke's ideas have power and resonance today, and echoed through the trials of Milosovic, Pinochet and Saddam Hussein, who all claimed immunity by virtue of being sovereign leaders.
So what has this to do with the royal wedding? It's the balance between symbolism and reality. As some are lost in the fairytale aspect of a commoner marrying a future king, they shouldn't lose the perspective of what having a royal family actually means. It's a reality that discomforts most thinking people in both the United Kingdom and the United States.
Euan Kerr is a member of the arts and culture unit at MPR News.