Standing in the checkout line at the grocery store on Saturday, I heard a brief news clip about the impending birth of the new royal—Kate Middleton’s baby. It struck me as just one more example of American fascination with the Royal Family. However, this is not a recent phenomenon.
In a letter dated June 18, 1838, Charlotte Cowles wrote to her brother Samuel about a woman giving a speech to an audience of women. It raised an interesting question:
Mr Day thinks it is dreadful for a woman to speak, even to women. For my part, I think it is a very puzzling question, and ten times more so than it would be if Victoria were not on the throne. By the way, how much time are you going to spend on Wednesday in thinking of the coronation? I shall be at most afraid to think of it, lest I should afterwards find that that was not the day. There have been so many accounts of the that [sic] was fixed, that I am not quite sure the 20th is the right one.
In fact, Charlotte did get the date wrong. Victoria was crowned on 28 June 1838. Four hundred thousand visitors crammed London to witness the event. With the advent of television, of course, we can all get our royal fix from our homes. I remember watching Prince Charles and Diana Spencer’s wedding. The marriage of Prince William to Catherine Middleton also drew a large number of spectators—someone asked me if I was going to get up early (or was it stay up late?) to watch the pomp and circumstance. I didn’t. However, I shared the world’s grief at the death of Princess Diana. So there, I am not immune.
So why are Americans so fascinated? Could it be that deep down inside we wish we had a monarchy instead of a republic? Do we still feel strong ties to the “mother country” more than two hundred years later? Or are we all a bunch of hopeless romantics, seeing the monarchy as living a fairytale?