A New Generation of Conservative Thought

Americans join royal wedding bliss

By Dr. Grace Vuoto

May 3, 2011

It was a grand affair, mostly elegant and traditional—and yet it broke records around the world, including among the tech-savvy generation of young people. The wedding of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton on Friday compelled over 400 million people to watch the official YouTube online video stream. Online feeds by Associated Press and CBS also broke records; BBC Online was so inundated with traffic an error message was posted on the site.

In America, 22.8 million viewers watched the event on television—along with an estimated 2 billion people worldwide. This was a larger audience than watched the other “wedding of the century”—that of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981.

It is easy to understand that the heir to the British throne would garner interest in his wedding by a British audience. Yet, why were so many Americans equally intrigued?

Our country’s national identity is explicitly anti-monarchical. The American Revolution of 1776 overthrew the monarchy of King George III and rather than establishing another monarchy—an American one in its place—the Founding Fathers adopted republican ideology. They abandoned the very concept of a royal family, an aristocracy of birth and a hierarchical social order. The new republic embraced the ideals of equality and meritocracy, thus rejecting, both politically and culturally, the notion that some people are entitled to greater reverence and respect simply because of the lucky circumstances of their birth.

Nonetheless, several centuries later, that very same public was overcome with glee when two people, William and Kate, who do not have exceptional accomplishments as individuals, were joined in matrimony. Apart from the fact that Prince William is a royal, the couple is not noteworthy. They have not done much that would truly merit such widespread interest and affection.

Regardless, millions of Americans woke in the middle of the night, tuned in, cried and toasted the beautiful bride and proud groom—as though it matters to them too. Millions will buy photos, magazines and souvenirs to remind them of the wedding for decades to come. This phenomenon reveals that while America overthrew the monarchy centuries ago, many, including the youth, crave a public display of hierarchy, order, beauty and truth. The royal wedding was a moment of surreal bliss. For a little while, at least, the world was as exactly as it should be; the universe was in order.

The royal wedding was in fact the most anti-liberal event of our times. Granted, the bride and groom made a few concessions to modernity—Kate did not pledge to “obey” William in her wedding vows; and William drove his bride out of Buckingham Palace in a car, with the top down, license plate “JU5T WED.” Yet, apart from a few small touches, the ceremony was little different than what has been idealized and romanticized in books and fairy tales for generations.

This exposes the lie of the liberal worldview. As the founder of conservative ideology, the 18th century British parliamentarian Edmund Burke explained, conservatism is based on the premise that truth, for the individual and society at large, is rooted in the natural, the historical, the traditional and the organic. Marriage between a young man and woman fulfills that vision—one that is innately recognized by millions as the fountain spring of all that is good in the world.

During a wedding, the seeds of a new family are planted and this springs forth great hope for the future. Furthermore, when that family conveys that it respects authority and hierarchy—this too speaks to the deepest seeds of wisdom implanted in the human heart. Individual happiness is achieved when two people pledge to love one another, while at the same time promising to serve God and their nation.

Contrary to the 1960s radical chic that has become pervasive, the highest ideals of humankind are not in destroying the traditional family, smashing “authority” and wrecking all standards. Rather, when millions of Americans tuned in to see the royal wedding, they were essentially stating that this is what is truly beautiful and praiseworthy: these are our social ideals, whether or not we can always live up to them.

Furthermore, there is a deep craving in American society for a unifying head of state. In a constitutional monarchy, the head of the country—the monarchy—is not also the head of the government—which is the role of prime minister. Regardless of how much one might object to the current policies of a specific government, the British understand that their nation can be united by common ideals, as upheld by the institution of monarchy. By contrast, in America, the head of state and head of government are the same individual. Hence, if one dislikes the American president in office at any given time—whether he is liberal or conservative—there are few means of unifying the nation under common aspirations. Americans try hard to glorify the first family but do not succeed in kindling widespread affection. The intense daily political partisanship renders the presidency, inevitably, a representative of one faction or the other, rather than a symbol of national unity and common ideals.

The American democratic and republican system of government works extremely well and for the most part, is the envy of the world. However, it has a gap: the public craves a leading family to rally behind. In its absence, the British royals satiate that thirst, just a little bit. But more than this, the British royal family, as a symbol, encapsulates the highest Christian ideals of a good and devoted family. In our upside-down, post-modern culture, this is still a breath of fresh air—even when the royals fail to live up to the ideals they are supposed to uphold.

American liberals relentlessly peddle their anti-family, anti-authority, anti-Western destructive creed. Yet, when Prince William and Kate Middleton exchanged glances on a spring day in April at Westminster Abbey, millions of Americans cheered them on. This is the way toward all that is good, true and beautiful, the viewers stated implicitly.

Western civilization was built on the recognition of these simple, eternal truths. In the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Hence, when Will and Kate said “I Do,” many of us said “Amen.”

-Dr. Grace Vuoto is the Executive Director of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal. She can be reached at gvuoto@edmundburkeinstitute.org