“There’s a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads to fortune.”
But what happens if that tide came long before you were even conscious of your own existence, never mind that of the world and its affairs? What happens if you never even got the chance to let the tide of fortune pass you by? What if your fortune – or destiny – was preset for you by an archaic tradition, leaving you to tread the middle-ground between relevance and redundancy forever? A destiny that forever left you fighting obsolescence tooth and nail, trying to convince yourself (and the world) that you still matter while unable to seek out life or a career that matters to you, thanks to the whims of that same world that had heretofore questioned your validity.
This is the dilemma of the British royal family in the modern age. The same, of course, can be said for royal families everywhere, saving perhaps for some obscure fiefdoms where the monarchy might still have a tangible role to play in Governance. However, the British royalty being the most in the limelight also inspires admiration and contempt in the general public’s largest measure.
From Prince Harry’s nudist debacles to the Duchess of Cambridge’s wardrobe malfunctions, the royal family tends to grab the headlines – more often than not – for all the wrong reasons. And then, of course, there are the pleasanter occasions of the Duchess’ successive pregnancies, and the resulting royal babies – an heir and a spare, as they say, the obligation of every royal wife to her nation.
And that seems to be the sum of it. The royal family’s obligations, summed up in less than half a page – the British Government’s brand ambassadors – the men and women who really run the show. The performers whose strings are being pulled by the ringmasters behind the scenes. Born into the limelight and destined to die in it. The question is – could they really ever have said ‘no’?
Many in the more liberal circles both within and outside the UK see the royals as parasitic freeloaders on taxpayer money. In contrast, others fanatically worship the ground they walk on, to the point of betting millions on the probable names of newborn babies. Tabloids dedicate entire editions to every member of the royal family’s movement, with Kate’s wardrobe choices receiving as much screen-time as entire summits on climate change, and I guess we all know why. Most of us would probably be falling asleep on our couches if faced with two whole hours of climate-summit minutiae!
And sure, we can easily ask: If you didn’t want to do it, why not just abdicate?
And that would be a perfectly valid argument. The important question is, though, would it have helped even if they had? Take Prince Harry, for example. He is, at this point, the fifth in line for the throne. The chances of his ever becoming the ruler of Britain (however ceremonial) are next to nil. Yet the media insists on hounding him worldwide, chronicling everything from his smallest mistakes to his greatest triumphs with almost obsessive dedication. From his drunken revelries to his military career, nothing is beneath the notice of the paparazzi. Such was the media glare focussed on him during his military assignments overseas that various terrorist organizations actually threatened to kidnap him just for the press attention they’d receive.
With rabid media tailing you across the planet, would abdication really have helped any member of the royal family? Is it a blessing to be the apple of an entire nation’s eyes, or is it a curse to have your every movement monitored, every gesture analyzed since the day you were born, never to get a say in your own future? Packaged and prettied for public consumption.
Perhaps it’s a bit of both – a trade-off of freedom for public adoration.
Would you be happy to exchange your mundane life for that of a monarch?!!