Boy oh boy, a royal sideshow captures our attention

Stephen Wright

Stephen WrightBy Stephen Wright
Professor of Politics and International Affairs
Dean, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

The British Royal Family has added a new member to its noble ranks, and we are witnessing massive media coverage across the globe. While one could expect the British to have a fascination with Baby Boy Royal, I’m not so certain why Americans should be focused on this.

It has always interested me, as an exiled Brit, why Americans retain such a positive image and interest in the traditions of that country. Isn’t the United States all about getting away from royalty?

In Britain, the focus on William and Kate is a sign of how these young royals have won the support of the country and helped rescue the House of Windsor. Think back 15 years and how the monarchy was at a low ebb, with scandals and low approval ratings, and many calling for its abolition. The queen has done much to rebuild trust in the monarchy, and respect for her work is at an all-time high. With 60 years on the job, she will shortly surpass Queen Victoria for years on the throne—Elizabeth II has worked with 11 U.S. presidents and outlived six of them!

Princes William and Harry also seem to be able to capture more public support than the queen’s own children.

But while we all get a warm glow from the coverage of the new prince, we should keep some things in perspective. The likelihood is that Baby Royal will not do any ascending for at least 50 years (he needs to wait for Charles and William to take their turns). Who knows what Britain or the world will look like in 50 years? Although the Victorian era marked the high point of Rule Britannia, the Elizabethan II era will be seen as a period marked by the rapid erosion of British influence in the world. British monarchs have no formal political power, though they do sit at the pinnacle of a still-vibrant social class system.

So I would suggest that watching Baby Royal is an unimportant sideshow, and if one really wants to follow an important event in British history, follow the referendum that will take place on Scottish independence in 2014. Imagine California and Texas actually leaving the union next year? If Scotland does become independent, there may not be much left to rule by the time Baby Royal comes up to bat in 2060.