I am a disloyal British subject. Some 29 million people on this side of the Atlantic woke up early last Saturday to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get hitched (See Best U.S. Columns and Best European Columns), but this expat Brit was not among them. I didn’t abstain from the festivities out of anti-royalist sympathies, but because, like many of my countryfolk, I’m deeply and passionately indifferent to this ancient institution. Pre-wedding polls showed that two-thirds of Britons couldn’t care less about Harry and Meghan’s nuptials—and yet a clear majority also favor retaining the monarchy. For many of us royal agnostics, the House of Windsor is simply a perpetual fact of British life, much like the dismal weather or England flaming out of every soccer World Cup. I’m content for the royals to keep doing their thing—waving from gilded carriages, attracting tourists, occasionally insulting a former colony—as long as they don’t require anything of me in return.
So I can’t help but be puzzled by the monarchy-mania that has gripped many people in this country, which after all fought a bloody war of independence to break free from Harry’s ancestors. Escapism is a surely part of the attraction: seeing a commoner like Markle transform into a princess is pure Disney. And unlike British taxpayers, who handed the royals about $100 million last year, Americans get to enjoy all the pomp and ceremony for free. Still, this country’s royal love affair has its limits. One reason President Trump won in 2016, Sonny Bunch noted in The Washington Post, is “the American disgust for royal houses”: Many voters loathed the idea of yet another contest between the Bush and Clinton clans. Yet now that he’s tasted power, Trump has succumbed to his own monarchical tendencies—appointing his children to plum positions, surrounding himself with fawning courtiers. So who can blame Americans for looking fondly at Britain’s politically powerless royals?