For The Independent
The catchphrase “It’s good to be the King” was used by Mel Brooks in the comedy “A History of the World, Part I” as an amusing reference to the privileges a monarch (in that case, Louis XIV of France) enjoys that are denied to common people.
And, as is the case in all of Brooks’ wonderfully tongue-in-cheek comedies, the phrase first makes us laugh and then makes us think. Yes, it would be good to be a king — but there is much more to it than surface impressions might indicate. There is always a down side, or at least another side, to everything.
Monarchy is a form of government in which a single individual functions as the head of state. There are numerous types of monarchy such as absolute monarchy where the King or Queen is in absolute or near absolute control of the government and constitutional monarchy where the ruler’s actual power to make law and policy is limited.
Most functioning monarchies today are considered to be constitutional monarchies, with the actual government being administered by a form of parliament. But throughout history from the earliest tribal leaders to modern Kings and Queens, the monarch has been the central figure to which a country looks for guidance and protection.
The guidance and protection aspects of monarchy are what define the other ‘side’ of royal privilege; the responsibility for and the meeting of the expectations of not only the population of the monarch’s country, but to a lesser degree other countries as well. Current monarchs must now more than ever serve as statesmen, ambassadors, and civil leaders because they are still considered to embody the best attributes of their country and to exhibit those attributes in both their personal and public lives. The “job” or “career” of the monarch and his entire family is to be the royal family, and to live up to those responsibilities in addition to anything else they might choose to pursue.
But, as Brooks points out, there are perks to the job.
No member of a royal family will ever need on a personal level to concern themselves with the healthcare issues such as the ones that are prominent in this country today.
Housing isn’t an issue, other than which home best suits their needs at any given time. Problems with transportation for monarchs and their family members are less about the actual vehicle (like purchasing and maintaining) or fuel consumption and more about routes and security. And the formal education of the royal family is more open to personal choice than for other families if for no other reason than the fact that any college in the world would welcome the addition of a monarch to their alumni. These things aren’t ‘free’ to a royal family, certainly; it’s simply that availability is never in question.
All royal family members regardless of country can also enjoy benefits other than the meeting of practical needs and concerns. Princes, princesses, kings and queens — and the assortment of dukes, duchesses and such, all have a predominantly positive place in society. We still refer to an exceptionally good man as a “Prince”; and what father doesn’t think that his daughter is a “Princess”? In the United States the media refers to extremely successful actors and musicians as “royalty” and businesses that have stood the test of time are called “dynasties.” Elvis Presley himself is still referred to as the ‘King’ of Rock and Roll, and Michael Jackson was known as the ‘King’ of Pop.
How much better would it be then, to actually be a prince or princess, much less a king or queen? Most of us of course will never know . . . but we will always wonder.
An indication of that curiosity and preoccupation can be seen in the fact that the entire world watched and waited for the arrival of George Alexander Louis, anticipating the first glimpse of the child who one day will ascend to the throne of England. His circumstances, his responsibilities and privileges, will be drastically different than those of almost everyone else living on the planet today. But there are many things that he shares in common with us all.
We all draw breath and live our lives both good or bad, by the second, the hour, and the day. The future king will think and feel, be happy and sad, and react to the events that occur within his family, his country, and the world. He will have successes and failures, be loved or despised, and know friends and enemies. People will judge his words, his actions, and his restraint and commitments to the things in which he believes. And one day he will pass the weight and responsibility on to his own children and teach them what he has learned in life.
But for now the child who one day might become the catalyst for war or peace, who might become a leader who makes the world a better place for everyone in every country, is an infant whose only knowledge is that he needs the care and love of another human being . . . truly something the world itself needs in abundance.
If those first needs are met (not just by a family that is royal, but by a family that loves him) then the privileges and responsibilities he will face will be much easier to bear . . . and it will also be the best welcome any of us could want to receive ourselves or extend to our own children.
CHARLES ROMANS is a freelance writer living in Greenup County.