Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee celebration has once again flooded my media with news of the British royal family, as happens every so often. I always view it as sort of “soft news,” and a welcome break from the heavy, anxiety inducing, end-of-the-world topics typically comprising the news. After all, the royal family has no real effect on me. A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with my parents about British royalty. It was pretty benign discussion, as we are Americans and don’t have a stake in the crown one way or another. As such, I completely accept that our opinions are irrelevant on these matters, and I’m sure I’m under-informed.
We talked about what, if any, purpose the royal family still serves and how that compares to the wealthy and powerful in the United States. They do seem to serve as elevated goodwill ambassadors for their country and people to some extent. I know some of them use their position to advocate for underserved segments of society. Some of them seem to just use their position to live extravagantly and disregard the people they may hurt in the process. The fluff news aspect that I experience may also help them stay relevant, but I imagine it’s a little harder to view them as entirely inconsequential when your own tax dollars are supporting them (or however that works? I’m really not sure).
My dad likes to sum up his opinions with the analogy that the royal family are basically national pets. They don’t have much actual power in modern society, especially when it comes to ruling and governing, and are subject to similar public scrutiny as the pandas in zoos, especially when it comes to speculation over reproduction and the revelation of names of new offspring.
Dad has a point. Long ago, royalty was powerful, and did actually lead and make decisions that had life and death influence over their subjects. Rulers gained and kept power by having necessary governance and military skills. Over time, they have retained their position simply through inheritance, but the original characteristics are no longer necessary for the ruling family to retain their position.
Just like with pets.
The royalty of old were wolves, powerful and specialized, maintaining superiority in a process very akin to survival of the fittest. But now, after generations and generations of carefully selected breeding, they’ve been domesticated. Some of them are still pretty impressive with valuable skills (Elizabeth II hasn’t spent 70 years on the throne and, from what I understand, pretty well-liked, without some real diplomatic skill at least), and I’m by no means suggesting we return to medieval rulers, but sometimes you get one that really showcases the inbreeding, with reduced mental capacity, temperament and behavioral issues, or a squashy little face and lots of health problems.
Also as with overbred dogs, sometimes new blood is introduced, which really is good for the general health and wellbeing of the population, but really upsets certain people who are too invested in phony baloney ideas of genetic purity.
It feels a little rude and disrespectful to so blatantly compare the royal family to dogs. After all, calling someone a dog is almost never complimentary. But I love my dog. I’d like people a lot more if more of them were like my dog. I think the Queen with her beloved corgis could appreciate that. And maybe that’s the secret to the royal family’s success. Not everyone loves dogs, but more do than don’t, and if they’re charming enough, we even overlook the occasional poop on the carpet.
So congratulations to the Queen on her Platinum Jubilee. Seventy years is a long time for anything, but especially to do a job, and even longer in dog years.