I know that many Americans, especially those of us who live on the West coast, don’t particularly care about “The Firm,” but as we approach the first wedding anniversary of Prince William of Wales and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, let me explain to you why the most famous family in the world is worth caring about (no matter which side of the pond you live on).
Reason No. 1: The Queen’s uncle, formerly the king, was a total pushover.
King Edward VIII, Queen Elizabeth’s father’s brother, was the king of England and the British Commonwealth from January to December of 1936. While he was a healthy and mentally sound man (unlike previous generations of British royals), he was still completely unable to do the job because he was in love with an American woman, Wallis Simpson, who during the eleven months of Edward’s reign was in the process of divorcing her second husband. Imagine the scandal!
In addition to being in love with a woman who was considered unsuitable, he apparently had no business being king in the first place. According to writer Anne Sebba’s book “That Woman,” King Edward was a Nazi sympathizer during Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. If Edward had remained on the throne, The United Kingdom could very well have become part of the Third Reich. His profound lack of ethics and his inability to think independently would’ve ensured that, which perhaps could’ve lead to an attack on American soil. Thank God for King George VI and Winston Churchill.
Reason No. 2: Princess Diana changed the way the world saw the monarchy, and the way the monarchy saw the world.
Though she divorced Prince Charles of Wales about a year before her death, her life as a royal and as an independent woman changed the course of history. The very fact that Charles married and had children with her, not Camilla Parker-Bowles, made the royal family what it is now. Her rebelliousness — her refusal to take orders from the Queen, her insistence that her children went to school like normal kids instead of being educated by palace tutors — made her appeal to the British people as well as to us Americans. Her death changed the way the family, especially the Queen, saw the world and the future of the monarchy, paving the way for…
Reason No. 3: The first marriage between a royal and a commoner in hundreds of years.
A little more than 300, to be exact. Catherine Middleton’s marriage to Prince William was watched by more than two billion people all over the world last April 29. While it might not seem like all that influential of an event, mull this over: last October, leaders of the British Commonwealth approved a historic change in succession laws, giving the throne to Will and Kate’s firstborn daughter (given that their firstborn is a daughter). This overturning of a centuries-old law gives the right of the throne to the royal couple’s oldest child, no matter if it’s a boy or a girl. Girl power!
So, faithful readers, whether you’re a Yank, a Brit or neither, you can’t deny the staying power of this family — their ancestry goes back a thousand years. With some of the most powerful people in world history as members, and with the newest member of the family being toasted by the media as one of the most-watched women in the world, the influence of William the Conqueror’s descendents will most likely reach far into the future (but then again, those succession laws have already made sure of that). Long live the lot of them.
Maddie Shannon is a former arts & entertainment editor for The Collegian who now writes a fortnightly column for The Collegian.