I'm an American superfan of the royal family – so of course I'm flying over for Harry and Meghan's wedding

Royalty is continuity. It’s fascinating. It’s something sensible in an insensible world

Jonathan Thomas
Friday 18 May 2018 10:49 BST
Relishing in some enjoyment for a royal wedding is like an island in a storm of terrible news
Relishing in some enjoyment for a royal wedding is like an island in a storm of terrible news (EPA)

Another royal event is upon us and you might find it strange that, as an American, I’m going to drive two hours to my local airport and then fly 4,000 miles just to get as close as possible to the celebrations. Although many won’t be travelling so far, there are plenty of US fans who will be donning a Union Jack T-shirt, sipping a cup of tea, and rising before dawn to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. Why are so many Americans so intrigued by the monarchy? After all, we fought a war for independence so that we could be separate from the British royal family. So, what gives?

It’s worth noting that most Americans really only care about the big events. There aren’t many Americans following the daily workings of the royal family. We’re fair-weather fans (to borrow a US sporting term).

Royal wedding countdown: The plan so far for Harry and Meghan

In my years running a publication dedicated to all things British and communicating with fellow Anglophiles, I’ve seen a multitude of reasons why we are so fascinated by the British monarchy. There isn’t a one size fits all response. The various reasons, I think, are rather fascinating.

One of the biggest reasons Americans are interested in major royal events is because of our perceived shared heritage. A majority of white Americans can trace their ancestry back to England and the British Isles in general. With the popularity of DNA ancestry kits, more and more Americans are discovering just how British they are – and wanting to get in touch with this part of their history.

But many other Americans don’t actually have “British heritage” to identify with. Still, it allows us as a country to bolt on some historical precedence to our otherwise “newish” American culture.

While American culture is popular and revered across the world, it’s also viewed by many to be vapid and shallow. Dig beneath the surface, and there’s nothing really there. When you look at the popularity of celebrities like the Kardashians, there’s not much history or seriousness there. Just tabloid news and TV drama (something now personified by our current president).

In contrast, when you look to Britain and its royal family, you see traditions and history that go back almost 1,000 years. That’s something exciting for Americans sick of the latest Hollywood trends. Royalty is continuity. It’s fascinating. It’s something sensible in an insensible world.

Relishing in some enjoyment for a royal wedding is like an island in a storm of terrible news. It’s something to be happy about, new love. There’s no harm in it at all. Harry is still the son of the beloved Princess Diana. In many American’s eyes that gives “brand Harry” massive cache here in the USA.

Diana was hugely popular here in America; I would argue almost as popular as she was in the UK. So, of course, we would make a fuss over one of her sons – who’s grown up to be an honourable and cheeky adult, embodying her spirit as best as he can – getting married. There are a few people who’ve sneered at Harry marrying a Hollywood celebrity, but a celebrity marrying into a royal family is not a new thing. People just want something to criticise.

Growing up I’ve always had an affinity for all things British. I lived off a diet of classic British comedies like Fawlty Towers and Yes, Minister and read Beatrix Potter and Roald Dahl as a child.

Personally, I love big royal events like this. I was present for the Duke of Cambridge’s wedding in 2011 – I was with the crowds, just outside Buckingham Palace. It was my first time experiencing a big public event of any kind.

While I’m not British, and probably never will be, it was thrilling to be swept up in the crowd, singing British patriotic songs and waving the souvenir flag I bought as the wedding was broadcast over loudspeakers. I felt a part of something. Something that extends back into history. It’s not every day that the heir to the British throne gets married. When you read British history books, major eras are bookended by royal births, deaths and marriages.

Community. That’s why people get up at 4am and watch a royal wedding. They feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. They can share the memory with their friends and children. You may be as American as apple pie, but there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the marriage of a young couple in love. There are plenty of Americans who simply don’t care, and that’s perfectly fine. But the ones that do will experience something special.

Jonathan Thomas is the publisher of Anglotopia.net, a website and print magazine for Anglophiles

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