To judge by the expected TV ratings in the U.S. of the Royal Marriage tomorrow, it is safe to say there was no comparable excitement when the Americans’ last British king, George III, married Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz on September 8, 1761, in the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace. He had not met her until their wedding day. It turned out to be a singularly happy marriage that produced fifteen children, nine sons and six daughters, and a granddaughter, Queen Victoria. Unlike his grandfather and his sons, George never took a mistress.
Probably his American subjects reacted to the marriage differently from his English contemporaries. It was wartime and there were two more years to go in the Seven Years War with the French. The American perspective of that war was substantially different from the one in London. But the thirteen colonies were still loyal to the crown.
In 1761, the only republic of importance was Venice. Everywhere else monarchy was the rule and republicanism wasn’t an option, even though in the ancient world the republic of Rome was remembered as a time of unique patriotic virtue. Nearly thirty years later, it was to be used as a model during the French Revolution.
No doubt many Americans today regret that there was no crisis management in place to diffuse the coming conflict between George III and his American subjects, even if that is not a fashionable subject of discussion. After all, skillful diplomacy prevented Canada, i.e., Quebec, from becoming a fourteenth colony to revolt against the king. The common people, though French and Catholic, were quite willing to join the revolutionaries. But diplomacy – and the pro-royal bishops – stopped them.
If only moderation had prevailed before fighting broke out – moderation, not reason.
There is nothing reasonable about monarchy. Its point is that that there must be something magical and mysterious about it. A Swedish king riding to the tennis courts on his bicycle, or a Danish king who is a member of the musicians’ union, would not satisfy Americans. The point about kings and queens, as they learned as children, is that they must not be egalitarian.
Today, American interest in the royal family is due to two factors. The royal soap opera is part of the entertainment industry and an aspect of Hollywood.
The second factor is far more important. Americans have endowed their Constitution with the magic and mystery of royalty. At a time when the institutions set up by this Constitution are becoming increasingly dysfunctional, naturally there is an unconscious hunger for an alternative.
While considering plans to launch a political party in the U.S., and to set the stage for a return of the monarchy to facilitate a solution of their urgent problems, we suggest a thirteen-part television series on the Royal Wedding of George III and Charlotte von Mecklenburg-Strelitz and their happy and fruitful marriage.