Of all the annoying things about the royal wedding—the crass materialism, the outrageous invasion of a young couple's privacy, the bad TV—none is more troubling than the occasion this event gives for the non-English to transform themselves into besotted Anglophilic wusses. It is one thing for the English to care about the wedding. Paying attention to the royal family, even if only to read sensationalist tabloid articles about them, is one of the proper jobs of English people. But for an American to be excited about the royal wedding is undignified and lame. And, I would add, if you get up at 3 a.m. on Friday to watch the wedding on television, you are a traitor to your country.
Good Englishmen might mock the royals, but good Americans should not even consider them royal. (Just writing this column I risk paying the House of Windsor too much mind. I'm like Phyllis Schlafly, whose work outside the home was to convince women not to work outside the home.) Americans are supposed to loathe and reject monarchs. In the earliest years of English settlement, this land was a proud haven for king killers. In 1660, it was to the New World that Edward Whalley, John Dixwell, and William Goffe, all responsible for the beheading of Charles I, fled after the restoration of the monarchy imperiled their lives. A century later, descendants of the New Englanders who had hidden the regicides, now banding together as overtaxed colonists, fought a bloody war for the privilege to ignore the king of England.
Anti-monarchism was then written into our Constitution. The United States was born in sin—slavery, the murder of Indians—but one thing our founders got right was the banishment of titles as inimical to republicanism. To wit, Article 1, Section 9: "No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State." Not only were we not to bestow our own titles—we were not even supposed to accept them from foreigners.
No nobility—what a noble sentiment.
That is not to say that certain (ignoble) Americans have not acceded to monarchy by accepting its bestowals, like titles of nobility. On June 15, 1989, the New York Times reported: "Queen Elizabeth II conferred an honorary knighthood on former President Ronald Reagan today, the highest honor Britain can give a foreigner. ... The palace said the Queen made Mr. Reagan an Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath, an order established in 1725 that recognizes services to Britain." Apparently, Reagan was the 58th American to receive an honorary knighthood, earning the right to use the initials "G.C.B." after his name.
It is unclear why anyone would want to take the Bath, given the company you would keep: Yes, you join Lech Walesa and Colin Powell (who got bathed after the Gulf War), but also Zimbabwe's murderer in chief, Robert Mugabe, who at least got stripped of his G.C.B. in 2008, after the foreign secretary pointed out that Mugabe was not a nice person (a fact that had escaped the queen in 1994, apparently).
Technically, only current office-holders are barred from accepting such titles, so Reagan's post-presidential knighthood was kosher. What concerns me is not the legal propriety of becoming part of the machinery of royalty, but the unseemliness. After all, are we not taught, as Americans, that all are equal, if not in wealth and education and type-of-car-we-drive, than at least before the government? It is surprising, and dispiriting, to see Americans accept symbolic taps on the shoulder from foreign governments that hold to such official vestiges of inequality.
This eagerness to be ensconced in royal velvet has many roots. For some, like the late, weird billionaire John Templeton, moving to the Bahamas, renouncing his American citizenship, and accepting a knighthood seems to have been a tax dodge, although he said it was to keep his distance from Wall Street. (Asking his employees thenceforth to call him "Sir" was just garden-variety boobery.) For others, like Mick Jagger, one can only surmise that accepting a knighthood was an acceptance that his days as any sort of rebel were over. At least Keith Richards had the good sense to dissent: "It's not what the Stones is about, is it?" he asked.
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