There’s a new royal baby. Have you heard? (It’s a prince, by the way.) Your reaction to this news probably puts you into one of two camps.
Those in one camp find it strangely fascinating and they’re eager to hear more about it. Those in the other camp not only couldn’t care less, but are actively irritated by the event being treated as noteworthy. Count me among the second group.
It’s easy to make fun of interest in the royal family. I’ve done my share of it in the past and I’ve been seeing a lot of it again lately because of the birth of this child. But something hit me Monday that’s making me think about it in a new way. I’m not certain I’m right, but I suspect there’s truth to it.
Lurking inside almost everyone is a desire for someone to tell us what to do and take care of us. Consciously or not, most people have a deep need for someone to be “in charge.” I suspect that interest in royalty of any kind is a remnant of a desire that’s played itself out for hundreds or thousands of generations of our ancestors.
Very few people who have interest in the royal family would say it’s from a desire to be ruled. Those I know who follow the royals and find kings, queens, princes and princesses fascinating — and you know who you are — say it’s just because they enjoy the glamour and the fantasy of what they associate with royalty. Blame it on fairy tales or on envy, but some people can’t get enough of it.
I suspect there’s something comforting and glamorous about royalty to some people because it evokes — on an unconscious level — the feeling that there’s someone “above” us, which in turn provides a feeling that there’s stability and meaning in the world. I suspect it lets people feel that there’s some up “up there” who’s really “in charge” in some way.
People have always demanded someone to rule over them, even it wasn’t required. The Hebrews of the Old Testament demanded that the prophet Samuel give them a king, even though they were doing fine without royalty to rule over them. Samuel warned them about the dangers of having a king, but the people wanted one anyway. People today still want a king. They just call him a president these days.
I remember the first time I tried to explain libertarian ideas to my father. I went into great detail about the moral and pragmatic reasons why things should be different, but he couldn’t listen. I’ll never forget that all he could say was, “But … but … but … someone has to be in charge.”
I think most people have a latent desire for someone to be in charge. Paying attention to the royals is just a nice, safe way of indulging in the unconscious desire for someone to be in command. It’s not that the people fascinated with the royal family are closest monarchists. But I do think this explains the fascination. And it explains the reason why even some western democracies have been unable to ditch the expense and foolishness of a royal family.
Having a royal family without real power lets people have the fantasy that someone’s in charge, even as they more rational side understands that power comes from somewhere else. For those in countries without royalty, I think it’s a safe way for some people to indulge in the fantasy without having to understand or accept what it means.
Maybe I’m wrong. If you’re a fan of royalty, you probably think so. But I suspect I’m right. Why else would anyone possibly care about a random baby born to random people in London who we’ve never met? I can’t think of any rational explanation.
Whether I’m right about this or not — and I’m not sure how to test the idea — I’m sure that royalty of various countries holds no interest for me. As somebody said online Monday afternoon, “We fought for independence so we wouldn’t have to care about the royal baby.”
Yes, it’s snarky and silly, but some of us are happy to be free of all vestiges of rulers over us.
For what it’s worth, though, the new baby prince was said to be about 8 pounds, which is about 12 U.S. dollars. And that’s all this baby is for me — a punchline to a bad joke.