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On Our Fascination with Royalty

GUEST COLUMN

By Ken Russell | April 1990
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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