To: The Usual Media
Re: Use of a Particular Cliche
1. I refer, of course, to the lazy habit of more than a few of you to refer to the Kennedy family, of Hyannisport, late of the White House, and Camelot, as “royalty”, without use of the appropriate viciously skeptical quote marks. Please cease doing this immediately, lest I snap my mental moorings entirely, track down the most current offender, and beat him/her bloody with a rolled-up copy of the Constitution. This is the US of A, for god’s sake. We do not have royalty.
2. We did, once, as an agreeable and moderately loyal colony of His Majesty, Geo. III, before becoming first rather testy and then quite unreasonable about the taxation and representation thingy, but we put paid to the whole notion of hereditary monarchy for ourselves some two centuries and change ago. There is a certain amount of respect and affection for certain of Geo. III’s descendants, including the current incumbent; a lady of certain age with the curious and old-fashioned habit of always wearing distinctive hats, and carrying a handbag with no discernible reason for doing so. (What does Queen E. II have in her handbag, anyway? Not her house-key to all the residences; not her car keys; not a checkbook and credit cards, not a pocket calendar or business card case, not a spare pair of stockings— I understand the lady-in-waiting takes care of that — handkerchief, maybe? In the case of her late mother, a flask of gin?) Oh, anyway, back to the subject: royalty, or why we, a free people, should feel any need to grovel before the descendants of particularly successful freebooters, mercenary businessmen, and social climbing whores of both sexes.
3. We do still have all of the above, BTW, but locally grown. Sort of like the Kennedys, come to think on it, but without coronets and courts. Considered in that sense, perhaps they could be construed “royalty”; descendants of an energetic and ambitious and wildly successful (and not too scrupulous) progenitor, given to hubris, excess, degradation and (with luck) an eventual downfall, usually a drama that takes place over centuries. But around here, unless the descendants are competent and careful, and wily, or failing that, in possession of an enormous trust fund that they can be kept from frittering away, without the aid of a political structure that enforces the power of an hereditary aristocracy and monarchy, our native versions tend to fade away after three or four generations, sort of like we hope Paris Hilton eventually will.
4. We do have, however, in many places and professions, certain old and established families. There are business and banking families, show business families, military families, even newspaper families. Over generations, they produce more of the same; entrepreneurs, bankers, actors, generals and newspaper magnates, some better known than others. There are also regional “old families”, those associated with certain towns or counties, prominent in a quiet local way, sometimes wealthy, most often not. Describing any such as “royalty” ought to be punished by something painful, as a grim offense against small “d” democratic ideals.
5. There have also been from the very beginning of this nation, political families: Adamses and Roosevelts, continuing to this present with Bushes, Gores and of course, the Kennedys, who were pungently described by humorist PJ O’Rourke some years ago as “sewer trout (who) managed to swim upstream into our body politic”. How they ever got to where they did is as mysterious as Joseph Kennedy, Senior’s business dealings. We can be sure of it involving brutal ambition, lots unsavory back-room dealing, and a lot of money, though. If the whole Kennedy saga were one of those operatic, generational telenovelas, what we have seen working out ever since is the result of an implacable curse old Joe earned on himself for wronging some old gypsy witch in the 1920ies.
6. I do not care for the Kennedys, the whole Camelot thing, the whole lot of manufactured glamour and I mean glamour in the old, fairy-tale way; an elaborate fraud practiced on the American people, with the aid of journalists and intellectuals who should have known better. Just about everything about JFK was a pretense and fraud, from the state of his health to the state of his marriage. He was a handsome showboat, with a court of paid lickspittles, whose political ascension was stage-managed by his father. The rest of the clan has been coasting on that bought reputation, and shreds of illusion ever since.
7. They are not royalty; they are only a rich, recklessly self-indulgent political family, with a predisposition to think that consequences are just something that happens to other, lesser people. Get up off your knees, and shake off that old Camelot spell. You’ll feel all the better for it.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
23 thoughts on “Rerun- Memo on Royal Families”
Your gracious humor, SM, helps keep us sane. (I’m wondering what royalty exists in Luna City.Probably folks like Twain’s Duke and King that Tom and Huck endured?)
No royalty in Luna City, Roy – but there are several “old” families who have ever taken a leadership role; The Wylers of the Lazy-W ranch own a lot of land and a fair number of the revenue-producing businesses. The Bodies have the feed mill, Martin Abernathy owns the hardware store and is the elected mayor, and Miss Letty McAllister is the oldest person in town, granddaughter of the city planner who laid out the town itself, and taught practically every adult resident when they were in kindergarten.
Oh – the ebook for A Fifth of Luna City will be released on the 15th, and is available for pre-order here.
Hugo Chávez repeatedly – and incessantly- invoked the name of founding father Simón Bolívar. For example, he renamed Venezuela from the Republic of Venezuela to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. One of his favorite phrases was “We are the sons of Bolívar.” However, Chavista worship of Simón Bolívar did not extend to relatives of Simón Bolívar. Leopoldo López is a prominent leader of the opposition who was subjected to a show trial and several years of imprisonment for his efforts. He is currently under house arrest. Simón Bolívar’s sister was Leopoldo López’s great-great-great-great grandmother, making Leopoldo López a great…grandnephew of founding father Simón Bolívar.
When Henry Tudor grabbed the throne there began an accession of “new men” into government. It was perhaps most striking under Elizabeth I who had first William Cecil and then his son Robert Cecil as her chief advisor. They were from a gentry family of Welsh origin, and both highly intelligent.
A descendant, Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, served three times as Prime Minister under Queen Victoria and her son, King Edward VII. It’s a fair stretch, late 16th century to late 19th century. So many of the family have been “prominent in public life” that WKPD gives them a page of links. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Cecil_family
Some were distinguished in other ways e.g. the historian https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_David_Cecil
The most recently politically active one that springs to mind was in John Major’s cabinet, 1994-7, so there’s another century gone by.
Any fool in their position can aim to marry a rich girl, or a pretty girl, or an aristocratic girl. I assume that over the centuries the boys have been in the habit of marrying intelligent girls. Otherwise it seems unlikely they would still be both rich and able.
Aha! I see that some of the family now live in Oregon and in Canada.
“1928 David Cecil, Lord Burghley wins Olympic Gold medal for hurdling.”
But don’t you find the prospect of a campaign or policy debate between Meghan McCain and Chelsea Clinton to offer the absolute in “je n’ais se quoi” ?
Ah … the Cecil/Salisburies, like the Adamses seem to have been so powerfully, unnaturally intelligent in the first generation that it seemed to have taken a long time and numerous generations for them to have melted down into mediocrity, or even to idiocy.
And yes, a debate between Meghan and Chelsea would be f**king hilarious!
How many ordinary Americans care about these “descendants of particularly successful freebooters, mercenary businessmen, and social climbing whores of both sexes”? It seems more that American media people care, and maybe that’s part of why some of them are media people. So much for afflicting the comfortable etc.
The sad thing is that anyone who’s read Mark Twain “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” would understand that the original Camelot wasn’t exactly anything to write home about either. Even taking the Matter of Britain at face value it is essentially the story of a dude born in adultery with the connivance of a hellborn sorcerer who becomes enough of a warlord to conquer the Roman Empire and then let the regime that he put together in it’s place collapse like a house of cards because neither his chief headbasher nor his wife could keep their zippers closed and let themselves get caught in a compromising position by the bastard he begat upon his own sister. Definitely the sort of thing that only a liberal could find inspirational. :P
If you do not have royalty, why do 3 people have as much wealth as the bottom 50% of Americans?
There is no other royalty on the planet with those numbers.
Is one of those three people your good pal, Georgie Soros, Penny?
“If you do not have royalty, why do 3 people have as much wealth as the bottom 50% of Americans?”
Because what they don’t have is effective anti-monopoly protection. It’s not just the US. In Britain we used to have the Monopolies Commission (as the old joke had it: only one??!!). Its actions would appear in the papers occasionally. Its modern replacement is hardly ever heard of.
The other reason is because “the bottom 50% of Americans” is a ridiculous comparison. How much wealth do you expect a thirty year old to have accumulated?
If you do not have royalty, why do 3 people have as much wealth as the bottom 50% of Americans?
Document, document, document.
The three richest people in the US own as much wealth as the bottom half of the nation’s population.
Jeff Bezos owns the WaPo, which is stridently leftie & anti-Trump in tone.
Warren Buffett trolls Trump and GOP on tax cuts.
I haven’t found such indication for Bill Gates, though Gates has said he doesn’t support Trump’s proposed foreign aids cuts.
My gut reaction regarding spending and taxing is that there is a bigger need to put a brake on spending, though IIRC the US has a relatively high corporate tax rate, which should be cut.
I’d like to know what product Gates, Bezos and Buffet produce.
We are a long way from the days of Andrew Carnegie. Or William Durant. Or William Knudson.
What we have now are billionaires who make vapor ware. Facebook and Snapchat.
Mike, what is the argument for Bezos’ contribution being less-valuable than that of Julius Rosenwald and the other Sears founders?
Or for that matter, Gates compared with Watson Sr and Jur?
Yer economy is wildly tilted to producing wealth for just a few people. This will be part of the reason you lose preeminence, over the next couple of decades.
It’s really hard oh your average American, and you should be ashamed.
Hey Sgt Mom,
Will there be a print version of the new Luna City book? I am trying to give my wife Christmas ideas and I think I have all of your other books.
Oh gawd! Is Penny going to devote an entire year to celebrating the centennial of the Bolshevik revolution?
Hi, Jeff – yes, there is, but not available on Amazon until the end of November. The follow-on to Lone Star Sons, Lone Star Glory will be available around then as well.
Rumor and gossip says “carrying a handbag with no discernible reason for doing so” is to make it easy to signal her handlers. The notion is that finger spelling or AMSLAN style gestures would make the fact of signaling obvious. Fiddling with her purse has ample bandwidth and obscures the very act of signaling.
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