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ROYALTY The Allure Endures

26 minute read
TIME

By George and all his kin, it will be a royal Bicentennial. In fond, forgiving tribute to the nation that rejected monarchy 200 years ago, nine of Europe’s ten reigning families will have visited the U.S. by year’s end. Preparing for one of the biggest convergences of royalty since the days when regal retinues descended on Paris or Vienna for filet Empire, monarchs in palaces from Copenhagen’s Amalienborg to Madrid’s Zarzuela are brushing up on such transatlantic lore as Queen Elizabeth’s relationship to George Washington (second cousin seven times removed) and the name of U.S.S. Monitor’s designer (Swedish-born John Ericsson)—or on the nuances of the English language as it is spoken in Paris, Texas, and Vienna, Ill.

Their Majesties’ speeches and itineraries are being prepared with surpassing delicacy, bearing in mind that most Americans’ forebears were happy to flee monarchical regimes. Once here, the visitors will be interminably gossip-columned, misquoted, misaddressed and mispronounced. Yet wherever they go, they will excite the special rapture that republican hearts seem to reserve for crowned heads.

Belgium’s King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola were the first sceptered pair to visit the U.S. in 1976, followed this month by Sweden’s rambling Rex, Carl XVI Gustaf, on a 26-day, 26-stop itinerary that would sap a Saab. Denmark’s Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik will arrive May 9 for a nine-city tour winding up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were hornswoggled from their country for $25 million in 1916. Norway’s Crown Prince Harald and Princess Sonja will explore Leif Ericson’s land in June; earlier the same month, Spain’s new King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia will visit President Ford in Washington; so, commemorating 1776 not 1812, will Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Monaco’s Prince Rainier and Princess Grace will be in New York for Independence Day.

Times and thrones have changed since Walter Bagehot, the 19th century British political analyst, said of royalty: “In its mystery is its life. We must not let daylight in upon magic.” Royal houses, which once saw outside light only when their occupants were wedded, beheaded, deported or deposed, today are almost constantly floodlit. Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister Margaret is squired by a swinger 17 years her junior, and the princess’s rift with Photographer-Husband-Antony-Armstrong-Jones-the-Earl-of-Snowdon reigns supreme on front pages and TV for days on end. Princess Anne, 25, the Queen’s second child and a contender for Britain’s Olympic equestrian team, cracks a vertebra in a fall from her horse and makes news bulletins worldwide.

Queen Juliana’s consort is accused of pocketing payola, and the unsubstantiated charge prompts fevered speculation about the future of the 400-year-old Dutch royal house. In Spain, as Juan Carlos stumps the boondocks as tirelessly as a Castilian Jimmy Carter, the young King’s every word and move merit Delphic scrutiny. Britain’s Prince Charles dates a new girl, and her bloodline is examined as closely as a yearling filly’s. Monaco’s 19-year-old Princess Caroline keeps squads of paparazzi employed.

Still, the magic persists, though democratic Kings and Queens often wield less executive power than a welfare caseworker.

Whether dowdy or debonair, starchy or outspoken, they radiate an extraordinary aura of power and hieratic authority. They are walking Gainsboroughs, Goyas on the go. Ulster M.P. Enoch Powell said of Elizabeth: “Our monarch is not a crowned President. She is anointed. She represents a supernatural element in the nation.” Though it has been 300 years since Britain disavowed the divine right of Kings, an opinion poll indicated that one-third of all the Queen’s subjects believe she was chosen by God. In socialist Scandinavia, where Kings and Queens shop for bargains and drive their own cars, talk of dismantling the monarchy is greeted with derision. The restoration in Spain may be the practical answer to that nation’s deep divisions.

Europe’s Kings and Queens are the Houdinis of history. They have survived the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars and the socialist governments that rule some of their nations. Endogamous and interrelated (five are descended from Queen Victoria), all ten monarchs are disciplined and devoted. Their ranks, including those who no longer occupy thrones (see box), do not include a single wastrel, tosspot, cretin or voluptuary — or even a certified eccentric. In wartime, they almost gratefully revert to King Harry or Boadicea. In peace, they are diligent public servants and accomplished sportsmen and devote their surplus energies to such causes as the environment and conservation (bearing in mind, perhaps, that they also may be an endangered species). Above all, they are adaptable.

POMP AND PRAGMATISM The world’s super-royals are, of course, the British. Queen Elizabeth II, the 42nd monarch since William the Conqueror, is surrounded by almost medieval pageantry. She is supported at the pinnacle of society by a solicitous court, a titled aristocracy and the full panoply of the Church of England. She is head of the Commonwealth and formally commands the British armed forces and the civil service. Tradition, her titles and a status-conscious middle class help maintain the myth that the Queen actually rules her realm.

When she celebrated her 50th birthday with a late-night ball for 500 guests at Windsor Castle last week, Prime Minister James Callaghan’s failure to attend stirred an uproar. Though Callaghan is a teetotaler and abhors such festivities, his absence was interpreted by many as virtually an act of insubordination.

Chided the conservative Daily Mail: “An invitation from the palace, whether for a state occasion or for a private party, has always been regarded as a command that is just not turned down.” The illusion of a potent sovereign was borne out earlier in the month when Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen had “sent for” Callaghan and “requested him to form a new administration”—though, all Britain knew, he had been elected Prime Minister by his own Labor Party. Why the folderol?

In a way, the pomp is part of the circumstance, inseparable from royalty’s arcane role as the symbol of national unity and continuity in a pluralistic democracy. No one has ever satisfactorily explained this arbitrary, totemic yet pragmatic arrangement. Even the actual powers of the monarchy defy precise definition.

In Bagehot’s classic phrase—which applies generally to all European royalty—the British monarch has three influential rights: “The right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn.” In theory, the historian added, if a bill were passed for the execution of the Queen, she would have to sign it.

The royal family has been called a “soporific for a geriatric society,” “comic relief to the death rattle of a nation,” and other things less elegant. In fact, the world dotes on every detail of their magnificences’ private lives: that the Queen is a Kojak fan; that Philip and Elizabeth sleep in separate beds; that Anne likes to drive at 100 m.p.h.; Margaret cannot stand lobster; and Charles plays a mean cello.

No one accuses them of reigning cut-rate. On a 1968 trip to Brazil, Andrew Duncan reported in his book The Reality of Monarchy, Elizabeth took along five aircraft, the royal yacht Britannia with a navy crew of 230, two frigates, a 22-piece orchestra and a personal retinue of 47, including the royal pastry chef. The government pays for such perquisites and appurtenances as Britannia (annual upkeep: $3 million), a fleet of aircraft and two purple trains reserved for the royal family. The Queen will be paid some $3.5 million this year, while five other members of the royal family receive about $500,000 in all. Prince Charles’ income from his Duchy of Cornwall is $300,000. Still, to help maintain Buckingham Palace, Windsor and three other royal abodes, the Queen pays a large amount of her untaxed private income.

Queen Elizabeth, whose coronation was hailed 24 years ago as the birth of a new Elizabethan age, has watched Britain suffer one of the most precipitous declines of any great power in history. Yet the monarchy has never been identified with the nation’s slide. On the eve of Elizabeth’s birthday, the left-wing New Statesman observed: “There can be little disagreement that she is conscientious to a fault, exemplary in her public and private behavior, frugal by royal standards, sensible and open-minded in her relations with politicians, and thoroughly professional in all the multifarious aspects of her job.” For almost half her life the Queen has spent several hours a day over state papers that range from nuclear secrets to export figures.

Her arduous duties have been eased by her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh—the only man, it is said, she ever looked at twice. Of Danish descent, Philip is a discreet, supportive husband who has laid out a career of his own as a drumbeater for British industry and technology—the areas in which he sees a shrunken nation’s future. His salty wit (“We live above the shop”) and barbs at complacent exporters (“It’s time to get the finger out”) do not always endear him to the Establishment, but he rates high with the common man.

Philip in particular is given credit for insisting that the Prince of Wales be given a rigorous education. The first heir to the throne to attend public school and university as an ordinary student, jug-eared, newly bearded Charles, 27, is well-read, unstuffy and in tune with the times. “I am one of those people who believe strongly that one should adapt to changing circumstances,” he said in a recent TV interview. “The one thing you cannot afford is to get left miles behind. You want to be just a little behind but ready to adapt gently and slowly.”

A REIGN AGAIN IN SPAIN

That lesson is not lost on Spain’s King Juan Carlos, as he attempts to market the monarchy in a riven land. When he was named Francisco Franco’s successor-to-be in 1969, the young prince spoke a vow worthy of Don Quixote: “My pulse will not tremble when it comes to do what is necessary for the future of Spain.” True to his word, in the five months since the generalissimo’s death, the novice King, a direct descendant of France’s House of Bourbon, has performed with courage and dignity.

Returning to the throne from which his grandfather, Alfonso XIII, was ousted in 1931, Juan Carlos at 38 has the dual task of dismantling nearly four decades of dictatorship while attempting to establish his own legitimacy as chief of state. Unlike his Bourbon ancestors, of whom Talleyrand said, “They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing,” Juan Carlos proved a retentive student during his years as monarch-in-waiting.

The sports-loving King (golf, sailing, karate) was criticized for his seeming lethargy during the first three months of his reign, when he seldom ventured far from his modest, mauve stucco Zarzuela palace near Madrid. “What can the man do?” shrugged a Communist leader. “He is the lackey of the system.” Replied a high government official: “Patience. Patience. The post-Franco era has barely begun.” Then, after ugly rioting in industrial Barcelona, the capital of Catalonian separatism, the palace announced that the royal couple would make a number of tours to the disparate regions—starting with Catalonia.

With the exception of Barcelona, where their reception was cool, Juan Carlos and his handsome, tough-minded Queen Sofia, of the Greek royal family, were greeted by tumultuous, even ecstatic crowds. The King impressed the throngs at Montserrat by addressing them in the Catalan language. Many villages and small towns they visited were enveloped in a fiesta atmosphere. Crude posters of support sprouted in the dusty plazas, though some signs, as in Jerez de la Frontera, aired complaints: THE COTTON INDUSTRY is DYING. Carefully, Juan Carlos responded: “On such a short visit I am not in a position to examine all your problems, but we take note of them.” Dismayed at first by the prospect of pressing the flesh, Juan Carlos was soon chuckling at the experience—and he does not chuckle often. As the 18-hour-a-day tour wore on, the royal smile grew wider.

The lanky, handsome King seeks to project his role as moderator of contending factions. As he told a vast crowd in Seville, “The monarchy is for all and not for any single group or party. It can ensure liberty for everyone who respects others, the unity of the nation amid the diversity of its peoples, the equality of its citizens and their access to the economic and spiritual benefits that our young and dynamic society can create.”

Though the day-to-day running of the country remains in the hands of Premier Carlos Arias Navarro, an old Franco trusty, and Interior Minister Manuel Fraga Iribarne, Juan Carlos has made an effort to dissociate himself from Franco’s “political baggage,” as they say in Spain. The Communists reject his regime as one “imposed by Franco from the tomb,” but claim that they would cooperate with Juan Carlos’ father Don Juan if the latter were restored. For his part, Don Juan says that he will recognize his son as Spain’s rightful monarch—and has become the King’s principal adviser. Even with his father’s blessing and the wary tolerance of the left, the young Quixote has more than windmills to battle to secure the reign in Spain.

A HOUSE DIVIDED

The Dutch royal house has held sway almost without interruption for 400 years, and—according to the constitution—the Queen can do no wrong. That document makes no mention of her husband, however. Amid charges that Prince Bernhard took $1.1 million from Lockheed, Queen Juliana of The Netherlands and the House of Orange face their most serious crisis since World War II. (The three-man commission appointed to investigate the charges is not expected to reach a verdict for two months or so.) “The prince has been rather clumsy, that I won’t deny,” says a court official. “But the Lockheed allegations are absolutely 100% untrue.” Even if the prince should be found guilty, the Dutch speculate, he will merely be reprimanded and forced to resign as inspector general of the Dutch armed forces, but Juliana will not abdicate.

The royal predicament strikes to the heart of Dutch life.

Since the founding of the Union of Utrecht by William the Silent in the 16th century, The Netherlands has been “a republic under the House of Orange.” Even though Parliament took over effective power in 1848, the monarchy has remained a unifying factor in a country that is divided almost equally between Catholics and Calvinists and politically split by 14 parties.

The erect, blue-eyed Queen, who will celebrate her 67th birthday this week, was drilled from earliest childhood in the three tenets of monarchy as defined by Queen Victoria: protocol, public service and duty. The royal motto: Je main-tiendrai (I shall maintain). Juliana studied law, literature, economics and Islamic history at Leiden University. Queen since 1948, she has kept extremely well informed about Dutch and world affairs and enjoys close relations with Socialist Premier Joop den Uyl. “Her understanding of her task,” the Premier has observed, “has won the Dutch monarchy a new and acceptable tenure in our modern democracy.” Juliana receives a tax-free allowance of $1.3 million (Bernhard is paid $262,000) and has a private fortune estimated at $12 million.

Initially, the Dutch were less than enthusiastic about the marriage of their princess to Bernhard in 1937. A member of an obscure German princely family, he had served briefly in the Hitler Youth Movement. However, he won the respect of the Dutch in World War II, when he got his fighter pilot’s wings with the R.A.F. and later returned in triumph to The Netherlands as head of the free Dutch forces and the resistance movement.

For the past three decades, while the Queen usually stayed home in their rambling Soestdijk mansion, the prince, now 64, has served as supersalesman for Dutch goods abroad. The royal couple seem happily matched. “My wife is head of state,” Bernhard explains. “I am boss in the house.”

Juliana’s heir is Crown Princess Beatrix, 38, whose imperious ways have not endeared her to the Dutch. She made an unpopular marriage in 1966 to a German, Claus von Amsberg. However, Prince Claus, now 49, surprised royalty watchers by learning to speak impeccable Dutch within two years (Bernhard still has a marked German accent) and keeping his wife’s temper in check. He and Beatrix have become closely associated with the country’s New Left movement, leaving some people worried that the House of Orange may turn pink if Beatrix—who with Claus receives $583,000 annually—succeeds to the throne. The princess and her husband have three sons; the eldest, Willem-Alexander, 9, is the first male in direct line of succession since William III (1849-90). Thus the House of Orange, whatever its shade, seems likely to keep on maintaining.

THE ONLY BELGIAN

Monarchy in Belgium is no symbol. It is the vital element that holds together a society as potentially self-destructive as Northern Ireland or Lebanon. Presiding over a rancorous mesalliance of Flemish and French-speaking Walloon citizens, King Baudouin, at 45, reigns with the adroit feudside manner that earned Belgium’s first King, his great-great-grandfather Leopold I, the sobriquet, “Monsieur Gently Does It.” Though his political role is strictly circumscribed by a British-style constitution, the King alone, in a government crisis, can pick the man to assemble a new regime. With slight exaggeration, Baudouin is called “the only Belgian.”

Baudouin’s life, like his twice-invaded nation’s, has been shadowed by tragedy. In 1940, when the Crown Prince was just nine years old, he was held with his father Leopold III by the occupying Germans. While their compatriots fought on from England, the King remained quiescent—or, as many Belgians suspected, acquiescent—in German custody. The issue of Leopold’s honor was close to tearing Belgium apart in 1951, when the King abdicated in favor of Baudouin, a prince sans reproche.

The new King came boldly to grips with responsibilities far beyond Belgium’s tidy borders. In the late 1950s, the Congo was erupting in the first great explosion of African nationalism. Though the colony had been a rich family fief, Baudouin in 1959 stunned his nation by calling for eventual recognition of an independent Congo. The King is honored in the rechristened Republic of Zaïre, whose President Mobutu Sese Seko sometimes shares his problems with his royal colleague in Brussels. “My biggest difficulty,” Mobutu once confided to Baudouin, “is preventing my tribes from tearing each other apart.” “Same problem,” nodded Baudouin, “as mine.”

The King’s unswerving solemnity was softened by his marriage in 1960 to Fabiola de Mora y Aragon, a willowy Spanish aristocrat. They are not big spenders, though Baudouin has old money from the Congo in addition to his government stipend of $2.4 million. A balletomane, Baudouin also observes more distant stars as an impassioned private astronomer, while Fabiola writes books for other people’s children; they have none of their own. Heir to the throne is Baudouin’s younger brother Prince Albert, 41, whose Italian-born wife, Princess Paola, strikes younger Belgians as the liveliest attraction since Waterloo. The royal house should last as long as Belgium does.

SOLID IN STOCKHOLM

Sweden’s Carl XVI Gustaf, the West’s youngest reigning monarch (he will be 30 this week), has to learn royalty’s new role in a state that has become a republic in all but name since his succession in 1973. A new constitution, which went into effect in 1975, deprives the King of all powers and even subjects him to taxes. Nevertheless, the Stockholm-stolid scion still enjoys wide popularity; even the ruling Social Democrats, though ideologically committed to republicanism, note that 75% of the 8.2 million Swedes believe the crown is worth the kroner ($1,357,000 from the state to Carl Gustaf, of which about 80% goes to support his palace staff).

Gustaf finds that in the eyes of his countrymen, he is a blend of favorite nephew and Dear Abby. At an auto plant in Troll-hattan recently, an employee patted his cheek and declared, “I just wanted you to know we workers like you.” Another Swede wrote the King asking him to tell his son to go for a dental checkup (which Hans Majestat duly did). Carl Gustaf has adopted the motto, “For Sweden—in keeping with the times.”

For relaxation, Tjabo, as he was known to his school chums, cooks up recipes he acquires on his travels—and keeps his waist down with twice-weekly games of squash (“But the ball doesn’t like me”). He wheels a blue Porsche Targa, cruises the Stockholm archipelago in a U.S.-made Magnum 35 powerboat and drives a tractor on his own 395-acre farm in eastern Sweden (the eight royal palaces are all state owned).

On June 19, in the royal spectacular of the year, Gustaf will be married to Silvia Sommerlath, 32, the bright, vivacious daughter of a West German businessman and a Brazilian aristocrat. The dark-haired, velvet-eyed Queen-to-be, a former Olympics chief hostess, spent four years learning languages (she speaks seven), and will be more than an adornment at Swedish royalty’s last major function: presenting the Nobel Prize awards.

Silvia will have a more important private role. The King is the last of the royal line founded by Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, the Napoleonic marshal, and the constitution at present bars female succession. “I have to have a son to inherit the throne,” Gustaf told TIME. “I have to get a son like my mother did. I have four elderly sisters, and I am the last one.”

DANISH CHOICE

As free and frisky Denmark is the antithesis of dour Sweden, so are their monarchs near-opposites in temperament and tenure. Denmark’s Queen Margrethe, 36, is about as formal as old blue jeans, which she wears in private. She is Europe’s closest approximation to elected royalty. In Denmark until 1953, only a male heir could succeed to the throne. Since Frederik IX had three daughters and no sons, a national referendum was held that year to amend the constitution. By an overwhelming vote, eldest Daughter Margrethe, then 13 and fondly known as Pigebarnet (Little Girl), won the right of succession.

The Danes are intensely proud of their 1,000-year monarchy, Europe’s oldest; their Queen is a descendant of Gorm the Old and his son Harold Bluetooth (circa 935-985), who held sway over Scotland as well as present-day Denmark. As Queen of Denmark since 1972, Margrethe dropped her many other ancestral titles (“of the Wends and Goths, Schleswig, Holstein,” etc.). Friends call her Daisy.

Towering (nearly 6 ft.), attractive Margrethe is incontestably Europe’s brainiest monarch. Witty in several languages, she studied at the University of Copenhagen, Aarhus and Cambridge, the Sorbonne and the London School of Economics. She is a robust skier and jujitsuist and is probably the only Queen who can build an igloo. Says she: “It has always been a horrible thought to me to be just a spectator in life.”

Though an ancestor, Sweyn I, was the first Danish King to coin money, Margrethe makes do on what she gets—a state allowance of $2.1 million a year, of which $1.4 million goes to her 80 employees. She lives quietly with her handsome husband, former French Count Henri de Monpezat, who has the title Prince Henrik of Denmark, and their two sons, Frederik, 7, and Joachim, 6. In a society that prizes hygge (coziness) above hauteur, the couple are disarmingly informal. Their Copenhagen comrades are apt to be invited over to the Amalienborg Palace for a late-night snack—in the kitchen. To the Danes, such no-nonsense ways perfectly reflect their chummy democracy.

THE O IN NORWAY

When Norwegian newspaper readers were asked to pick the “name of the year” last December, a thumping majority (more than 60%) chose King Olav V, their monarch since 1957. The simplest, most egalitarian of northern royals, the powerless potentate has always, as his people say, been “one of us.” A daring skier at 74, Olav still greets early birds on the slopes outside Oslo. He can be seen whisking his 5.5-meter sailboat Bingo around Oslo Fjord or walking his dog in the streets, trailed by a puffing cop whose task is not mainly to guard the King but to help him if he should have an accident.

An international-class sailor, Big O delights in competition; as he puts it, “The wind treats everyone the same way.” In a rock pile of a country bounded by a vicious sea, that could almost be the national philosophy. Olav and his doughty father, King Haakon VII, escaped Norway after the German invasion in 1940 and led their nation’s heroic resistance. The King, a widower since 1954, lives on a government allowance of $540,000 a year. Viking-stiff on formal occasions, Olav in relaxed surroundings can cuss and down his whisky like a bosun’s mate.

Crown Prince Harald is warmly accepted as Olav’s heir. A keen sportsman like his father, Harald, 39, spent five wartime years in the U.S., and, despite two years at Oxford, speaks American-accented English. An outgoing, unassuming fellow who confessed in a recent interview that he is “stubborn and lazy, and a little bashful too,” Harald has had to take out bank loans to supplement his state allowance. He has been married since 1968 to Sonja Haraldsen, comely daughter of a self-made clothing manufacturer; they have two children, Martha Louise, 4, and Haakon Magnus, 2. Like most of their compatriots, the royal family can look forward to palmier days. Norway, by 1980, will have a $3.6 billion balance of payments surplus from its North Sea oil.

THE TINY TRIO

Royalty is as firmly ensconced in Europe’s three pocket principalities. Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, 55, reigns over 350,000 subjects and 999 square miles. No operetta state, Luxembourg is a charter member of the European Common Market, belongs to NATO and in 1951 even sent a platoon to fight in the Korean conflict. The country’s living standard is among Europe’s highest; it seldom faces a crisis more serious than a boost in potato prices.

Liechtenstein boasts 72 princes and princesses, which is eleven more highnesses than it has square miles. Prince Franz Joseph II, 69, reigns over 24,000 citizens of what in every happy sense is a have-not nation: it has no slums or unemployment, no airports, divorces, billboards or TV station.

His Serene Highness Prince Rainier III of Monaco (he has 23 other titles) reigns over Monaco’s 467 acres with, of course, Princess Grace of Philadelphia and Hollywood. Grace, 46, spends most of the week at the family’s residence in Paris, where Princess Caroline, a bright, outgoing, levelheaded beauty, attends the Sorbonne, and Sister Stephanie, 11, goes to private school. Rainier, meanwhile, devotes full time to affairs of state, which include going to all Monacan soccer games, usually with Son Prince Albert, 18. A 1918 treaty provides that Monaco will become a French protectorate when the Grimaldi dynasty runs out, which seems, by grace of Grace, an unlikely happening.

Big or small, the royal houses appear in many ways to be ingenious waxwork shows, as relevant to contemporary problems as alchemy or elephant worship. In the eyes of their critics, their appeal is to nostalgia rather than innovation, to complacency rather than initiative. Paul Johnson, biographer of Elizabeth I, argues that “the monarchy is the bastion of the class system. It is very difficult to divorce the monarchical system from the pyramid supporting it, and I suspect the pyramid itself is an extreme embarrassment in the economic and social sense.”

Royalty is also criticized—and envied—for its opulent ways.

In fairness, royalty does save elected officials the tedious and time-consuming burden of entertaining foreign dignitaries, ribbon cutting and showing the flag abroad—an obligation that can hardly be written off as caviar living.

In constitutional terms, as some American founding fathers —notably John Adams—believed, a hereditary monarchy can confer a sense of continuity upon elected governments and assure legitimacy to a new chief executive who, like Gerald Ford or James Callaghan, may not have been popularly elected.

Returning from a year in the U.S., Author Anthony Sampson finds that royalty has greater political validity than he perceived when he wrote his popular Anatomy of Britain in 1962. Says he: “One thing I realized at the time of Watergate was that the U.S. is more of a monarchy than I thought, that there was a deep, suppressed fear of regicide in the U.S. I feel much more comfortable now with the constitutional elements we have in England for getting rid of Prime Ministers and providing the mechanism for choosing the next one.”

Nor has the symbol been entirely shorn of substance. Any Prime Minister has to take seriously the monarch’s right to advise and warn. Though Anthony Eden ignored Elizabeth’s judgment that Britain should not make its disastrous 1956 Suez intervention, and was himself ruined by that adventure, the Queen strongly influenced Harold Wilson’s decision to stop short of sending troops in countering Rhodesia’s declaration of independence in 1965. Comparable governmental decisions have reflected the judgment of the Dutch and Belgian monarchs, and may possibly be seen in Spain in the future. In any event, both the ceremonial and less apparent counseling roles of the monarchy are repeatedly approved in opinion polls of citizens who support the Julianas and Margrethes, Olavs and Baudouins.

Their Majesties’ almost treasonous appeal will be apparent in coming months as millions of Americans switch TV dials from Sonny and Cher to Sonja and Harald and Liz and Phil spectaculars. The royals have always been polished performers. They have, after all, been in the magic business for a long, long time, and their claim to the copyright on Camelot is, in many ways, as enduring as it ever was. Democracies have long since learned they can live comfortably either with them or without them. But the mystique of nationhood is as elusive of definition as ever, and wherever Kings and Queens still hold scepter, if not sway, they continue to provide the sense of history and continuity that helps make diverse peoples one. That is a most uncommon, magical—and much needed—gift indeed.

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