Why do nations need a king or a queen and why do we feel the need for royalty? This is not something many of us think about or have the answer to. Yet, it fulfills a deep psychological need in the lives of millions around the globe.
Two Ways to Look at Royalty
There are two ways to look at the position royalty holds in society. The monarch is put in place by God; God protects the monarch. The idea of a monarch is that it is a metaphor for God’s rule over the earth. In theory, the human monarch is the viceroy carrying out God’s justice. So, people sing, “God save the King/Queen.”
The second way to see royalty, is that it is a long history in Europe, of the idea of “the divine right of kings and queens.” This is based on the assumption that God instituted the monarchy as God’s divine will and that God chooses who sits on the throne. Anti-monarchists strongly deny this. These same people are usually anti-God as well.
Usurping the Right to Rule Ourselves
Why do nations need a monarch? In the right to rule ourselves it needs to be inside a framework. Living in a world where ‘Every man did what was right in his own eyes’, is a sure recipe for anarchy.
In modern thinking, anti-monarchists say that kings and queens are warmongers and rob the people they are supposed to care for. Anti-monarchists don’t want a human ruler in terms of the aristocracy and say that hereditary ruling is non-democratic.
Yet, countries that are consistently the freest and the highest rated democracies, have a king or a queen. It is the Western constitutional monarchies where freedom and democracy thrive. The Crown is a concept that doesn’t exist in republics, yet, America, birthed on anti-monarchist ideals, has a huge fascination with British royalty.
- Over 17 million Americans tuned in to watch when Prince Charles married Diana Spencer in 1981. It was one of the most-watched television events of the 1980s in America.
- Nearly 23 million Americans watched the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.
- Over 29.2 million people watched Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tie the knot on May 19, 2018.
- Over 33.2 million Americans watched the funeral of Princess Diana.
Thanks to satellites and modern technology, millions watched the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II and allowed millions to pay their respect to the monarch in their own way.
The Role of the Crown
The Crown is the legal embodiment of executive, legislative and judicial government in the monarchy of each commonwealth realm, which are independent states. The Crown is designed to keep politicians in their place, as the Crown represents the people in a truly bipartisan way, being above politics.
The Crown links the people to history in a way a Republic cannot. Each era in a Republic is limited to the term of a president, whereas the Crown is linked to thousands of years of history. The Crown cannot interpret the law for its own gain, or motivation. The current royal family can trace their lineage across 1,209 years and 37 generations. The first king of England began his reign in 927.
The extensive family of Queen Victoria links all European royal families. While British monarchy is a ceremonial monarchy, there was a time when the king, or queen reigned supreme. There have been many good and bad rulers on the throne, but the Crown is designed to protect the people, in spite of what the anti-monarchists say.
In England, the royal family are known by insiders as ‘The Firm’. Just as any organisation has a CEO and an organisational structure, so too does ‘The Firm’. Managing the royal family and their public duties, plus the vast royal estates, staff and public money through Sovereign Grants, is the same as running any large institution.
The British monarchy is estimated to have contributed £19 billion ($28 billion) to the British economy pre-pandemic. Royalty tourism is fast heading back to pre-COCID figures. Many international people laid flowers at Buckingham Palace, in tribute to a British queen.
Why do Nations Need a King or Queen?
There are deep-seated psychological reasons we accept the role of royalty and nations need a king or queen. As the last couple of decades have proved, royalty is not perfect, but they serve a valuable role in society.
The brain reacts to positive things. People feel a sensation of relaxation after hearing a good story about a royal family. Psychologically, it is beneficial for people’s mental health when they are fascinated with something that makes them feel good. As people shared their collective grief, when 250,000 people filed past the queen’s coffin to pay their last respects, amazing friendships were formed in the long forbearing queues.
The influence of Queen Elizabeth II worldwide can never be underestimated. She gave people a feeling of ‘things will turn out’, no matter how dark the circumstances. The words to describe her, are constant, dignified, continuity and a servant of the people, who like to feel that royalty is, in a small way just like them, only richer and more popular.
Being a royal watcher is described as ‘parasocial behaviour’. This is a one-sided relationship where someone becomes attached to a person without actually interacting with that person. This was evidenced at the death of Princess Diana and again at the death of Queen Elizabeth when there was enormous collective grief.
People felt they had lost a family member, such as a mother, or loved grandmother, when Queen Elizabeth II died. Someone they had looked up to for decades, with many unable to remember a time when there was no queen on the throne. Even younger generations were profoundly moved.
The royals have wealth, social influence, fame, and they live in castles and mansions just like in the history books. Fans now see what is happening as it occurs, through modern communications.
People have a deep-seated need to feel part of history, which is why millions were involved in the state funeral and official mourning of Queen Elizabeth II. The world has a fascination with the British royal family, in a way no other royals have.
Fame and the Media
Children are fascinated with fairy tales and the world of make-believe. Day-to-day living is mundane. Thinking, or talking about celebrities gives us a sense of belonging to a wider, more exciting life. We enter the fairy tale through being interested in the lives of the rich and famous. Royals are often born into their position, unlike film stars, who are creations of the silver screen. Though both the two highly successful queens, Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II were born in obscurity, with no desire to ascend the throne.
Fame and fortune have many faces. Some gain celebrity status through negativity, such as Donald Trump. No matter which side of the fence you sit on with the ex-president, people hang on every word about the man. Movie stars and presidents come and go and are only there for a season, whereas royalty is a direct link to history. Through royalty there is a continuity that can be found no other way.
The media keep people interested in the royals and celebrities by constantly reporting about them. Photographs of royalty on the front cover are the media’s bread, butter and jam. Parasocial behaviour has vastly increased since the advent of social media. There has always been an insatiable desire for snippets on royalty, but modern communication fulfills that need like never before.
Born to Rule
There are those who are born to rule. Even in democratic America, there was worldwide interest in presidents who acted like royalty, such as the Kennedys or the Obamas. This is heedless of whether you agree or disagree with their politics. They acted as an inspiration to others.
We like to see our leaders act like leaders, men and women who are born to rule. We want them to act like royalty, and be the constant in a life full of chaos and above the hoi polloi.
People gain strength from leaders who appear to stand strong, despite turbulent times. Nelson Mandela was born into the Thembu royal family and fulfilled his destiny.
According to Muhlenberg College Associate Professor Jeff Rudski, the royal family is a reality show. Viewers do not want to miss the next episode, in case they miss out on something important.
History is no longer only what is written in dusty tomes. How many people around the world watched the events of November 6th on live television? Today’s instant communication makes us feel we are part of history in the making.
The idea of monarchs and monarchies may seem quaint and outdated. Some would say monarchy is almost preposterous in the start of the third decade of the 21st century.
Great Britain is known for being a class-conscious society, yet everyday life for the ordinary Brit, seems utterly at odds with the pageantry and wealth and trappings of royalty. Yet the pageantry of royalty lifts the ordinary person to think on a higher level.
We have long accepted that politicians will never give us the example of how-to live-in integrity, so we expect royalty to fill a role that deserves our respect. However, the British royal family has been battered over the years by unpleasant drama — Charles and Diana, Charles and Camilla, Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein. They have kept the tabloids in business for decades, yet the Queen remained a constant example of living on a higher plane.
As a teenager Liz Truss, now Britain’s prime minister, said, “I’m not against any of them personally. I’m against the idea that people can be born to rule. That people, because of the family they’re born into, should be able to be the head of state of our country. I think that’s disgraceful.”
The British royal family is a worldwide phenomenon, and we wait to see what King Charles III will bring to the table and just how he will follow the great example of his mother. He has an opportunity such as no other son has ever had. He had 70 years under the queen’s tutelage.
Of particular interest will be the new Prince and Princess of Wales. They will bring a modernity to the monarchy, as no others can. May they continue the Queen’s legacy of service to her people, as evidenced in her brilliant smile and quick wit.
The voice of Queen Elizabeth will be heard for many a long year. She was a woman of extraordinary influence and that influence did not finish with her death. Royalty may be under threat in some quarters, but it would be a sad day when monarchy was done away with.