July 7

Royal Wedding seen from the United States academy

American excitement over the wedding also suggests an oblique recognition of the benefits of monarchy, once shorn of its obvious ancient abuses, writes well known historian Professor Patrick Allitt of Emory University in Atlanta Georgia in the United States. This is an extract from an historical study on Royal Weddings published in the leading US journal, The National Interest.

Monarchy separates ceremonial leadership and political leadership, functions which in the United States, are combined in the president.

Nearly half of all American voters, in any given election year, voted against the person who now represents the nation, and probably don't like him, whereas no British person voted against The Queen.

She can embody the nation over and above its wobbling politicians and can present a more dignified idea of the country to its own  citizens and to outsiders.

…brake on dictatorship…

Royalty has also, in the 20th century, been a brake on, or antidote to, dictatorship.

The restoration of the Spanish monarchy ended the sordid and repressive Franco era, while the constitutional monarchies of Holland and Scandinavia are among the most moderate and politically stable entities in the world.

The fact that accident of birth decides who will be king or queen might offend our sense of meritocracy, but it also protects us against the kind of unscrupulous personalities who often claw their way to the top in democracies.

There are two caveats, however. First, the monarch has to have a well-developed sense of duty and to behave with political impartiality, a point that  Elizabeth II appears to have understood perfectly.

Second, the existence of the monarchy must not offend the citizens’ essential idea of their own country. The United States, in other words, can never have a king.

Nevertheless, its people can look on, with admiration and disguised form of regret, as monarch’s capable functioning elsewhere, nowhere illustrated better than in a British Royal wedding


[Professor Patrick Allitt is Cahoon Family Professor  of American History at Emory University. Born in the UK, he undertook post graduate studies in the US. His most recent book is The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities throughout American History, Yale University press, 2010. This  is an extract from Romancing the Throne, published in The National Interest, number 114, July/August 2011 pages 29 – 39. 

The National Interest  is a leading conservative American international affairs magazine published by the Nixon Center. It was founded in 1985 by Irving Kristol and until 2001 was edited by the Anglo-Australian Owen Harries. ]



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