There are few things in life more relaxing than a late July day lounging on a Nags Head Beach, and that’s where I found myself in July, 1981. Like many other local families, we chose a week at the beach as our summer vacation, and the Outer Banks was still uncrowded and offered a certain allure with its pirate history and mysterious legacy.
But, on this day, the normally leisurely pace was disrupted by an excitement derived from an event taking place an ocean away, the marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. And our day at the beach turned to a daylong almost voyeuristic peek at the Royal family through constant television coverage, and the pomp and circumstance of a royal wedding.
Americans couldn’t get enough, and news of the wedding flooded the airwaves attracting a worldwide audience.
I contrast the mood of that occasion with the collective yawn expressed by most Americans as Prince Charles ascended to the throne recently. Early ratings revealed more Britains watched the late Queen’s funeral than the Coronation, and fewer Americans showed interest in what once a momentous event that attracted global attention.
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That doesn’t mean the Brits didn’t make every effort to promote the event, spending a reported $125 million on the ceremony that attracted dignitaries from the Crown’s shrinking empire as well as official delegations from numerous countries. First Lady Jill Biden represented her husband, a move that some equated to a snub from the American aristocracy, but White House officials claimed it was no more than a traditional diplomatic move. Turns out other American presidents have taken a pass on past coronations.
All of this doesn’t indicate that America’s bond with England is less than substantial, and we still watch with intrigue as the royal family continually makes headlines; but maybe were fed up with the more than pretentious lifestyle associated with the crowned ones coupled with the endless streams of controversy.
I heard a British commentator who explained Charles’ lack of embrace by the public by explaining he’s less likable that the recently passed Queen or Diana. No doubt Charles is no rock star, but I’m thinking a regime that surrounds itself with jewels and riches while its citizens struggle to make ends meet might also have something to do with the lack of public acceptance.
Looking back to the that day in Nags Head, perhaps we were more infatuated with the story book tale of Charles and Diana, a love story we now know was mostly invented.
And that was before we had been flooded with royal news that painted a less than favorable picture of life in the castle. Maybe the bubble broke with Prince Andrew and Fergie’s misguided exploits, or perhaps we overdosed on Prince Harry and Meghan’s public pursuit of privacy. In any event, our lack of interest in Charles coronation wasn’t an exclusive American viewpoint. Surveys showed large number of Brits also didn’t watch the event, and big name performers like Adele, Ed Sheeran and the Spice Girls turned down invites to perform at the gala.
In any case, the who cares attitude may be a sign of things to come for monarchs universally. As one commentator said, “People just aren’t that keen on Kings anymore.”