On Our Fascination with Royalty

April 1990By Ken Russell

The Rev. Ken Russell is Associate Pastor of St. John’s Catholic Church in El Cerrito, California.

The advertising industry in this country has become a near-faultless barometer of the American character. It has an uncanny ability to display daily the catalog of our likes and dislikes, our needs, tastes, styles, trends, fash­ions, fears, ailments and cures, hopes and dreams, and whatever. Curiously, the admen have been particularly resourceful in exploiting a social phenomenon which, officially, doesn’t even exist in this country — one which we claim we neither want nor need, but to which a fascinated public pays ever-so-close atten­tion.

It would surprise no one if the American public finally came out of the closet and ad­mitted, once and for all, what Madison Ave­nue has known all along: Americans love roy­alty. Of course we’d deny it. “What do we care what they do?” But the evidence is irre­futable.

Sales of such supermarket rags as The Star and The Enquirer soar whenever headlines of­fer yet another peek into the affairs of the royal family. So now what are Charles and Di up to? Or Andrew and Fergie?

The television networks lave nothing bet­ter than to lap up a BBC feed of a regal event — a coronation, an anniversary, a wedding, a funeral. The whole imperial panoply tickles the drab underbelly of America. But why not? Such events provide sights and sounds that make Freshman History come alive — Her Majesty’s coachmen leading the royal team out of the Queen’s stables along the route of an adoring throng to Westminster or St. Paul’s Cathedral; the music, the ceremony, the rega­lia, the Coldstream Guards with their fuzzy busbies, the stunning gowns, the powdered wigs. We’re there and hating every minute of it. “Don’t touch that dial!”

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