Sorry, Charlie! Kings aren’t Chicago’s thing

With King Charles being crowned this weekend, time to examine our own blind fealty to American royalty.

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Plates for sale ahead of the Coronation of King Charles III and The Queen Consort, which will take place in London on May 6.

Plates for sale ahead of the Coronation of King Charles III and The Queen Consort, which will take place in London on May 6.

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In 2009, I had to go to London to give a speech, and wondered what else I should do while in town. Tea with the Queen of England sounded fun. So I phoned her press office at Buckingham Palace — nothing ventured, nothing gained! Not that I really expected to sit down with her, serf à la reine, and sip Earl Grey, I explained, in my brazen American way. But maybe she’d be cutting a ribbon somewhere and I could join the crowd.

“The queen,” the press person explained, “will be at her castle in Balmoral.”

Just as well....

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However, the press person continued, seizing the opportunity to bring up Prince Charles. He had a project. Something about architecture. I don’t think she wanted me to go over rolls of drawings with him. But he had some royal initiative she dangled before me. No matter, because at the mention of “Charles” my cognitive functions shut off. Sorry, Charlie.

Charles never counted. Maybe it was the ears. Remarking upon people’s physical attributes has gone out of style, and I would apologize, but I am not expressing my own bias, but merely reporting the world’s. There is something squinty and inbred about the man — his parents were third cousins, remember.

Charles was awkward and unpleasant, even before he cuckolded the world’s favorite princess and sent her hurtling toward her rendezvous with death on a Paris street (actually, “cuckold” applies only to men; a woman whose husband betrays her is a “ cuckquean” which is not a word even I would spring on you, unexplained, except to observe it was the only kind of queen Diana got the chance to be).

Anne Daley brought cardboard cutouts of King Charles and Queen Camilla to help hold her spot on the coronation route near Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, May 02, 2023.

Anne Daley brought cardboard cutouts of King Charles and Queen Camilla to help hold her spot on the coronation route near Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, May 02, 2023. The coronation isn’t until Saturday.

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And now Camilla is queen —”queen consort,” officially, though the royals have taken to dropping the second half of that title — and her husband is King of England, having become King Charles III upon his mother’s death. Saturday’s coronation is a mere formality. Either way, Britons don’t care — a recent poll found 64% shrug the matter off. And Americans, freed by revolution, are not supposed to care either, immune to the empty pomp of royalty, particularly today, when we understand the gold glittering on those carriage was snatched off the corpses of indigenous peoples around the globe.

I almost added “particularly in Chicago” with its tradition of snubbing our noses at British royals. But we really don’t, at least not more than anybody else. It was cheap political theater gone berserk — in 1927, William Hale “Big Bill” Thompson was trying to regain the mayor’s office and ran against the King of England in what one historian called “one of the most absurd campaigns ever waged in an American municipal election.”

The oft-cited quote is Thompson’s threat against King George V: “If George comes to Chicago, I’ll crack him in the snoot.” It sounds like something quipped over beers in some Clark Street speakeasy. It wasn’t. It was the linchpin of his campaign.

“I will not rest until I have purged this entire city of the poison that’s being injected into the heart of American youth,” Thompson promised, appointing a poker pal as special commissioner to purge British influence from Chicago’s libraries and schools.

Thompson was the last Republican elected mayor of Chicago, a reminder that the current Republican drive against books that make them uncomfortable, or would, if they ever read them, is nothing new, but a page from a very old playbook.

Angela Wilkinson, 48, from Maine. wore a Trump flag and Trump cap to hear the former president speak in Manchester, New Hampshire on Thursday, April 27, 2023.

Angela Wilkinson, 48, from Maine. wore a Trump flag and Trump cap to hear the former president speak in Manchester, New Hampshire on Thursday.

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Besides, the standard line about Americans having gone through a revolution so we can scorn kings rings hollow — it’s nonsense, really — when millions of free-born citizens roll like puppies at the feet of their Great Orange Sovereign. What deficiency of King Charles doesn’t dwindle into a charming quirk compared to the countless character flaws of the liar, bully, fraud, traitor, accused rapist, felon-in-waiting ... there’s more, but you either get the point or never will ... compared to the man whom the majority of Republicans nevertheless want as president, again, in 2024?

I don’t know why. Maybe the nation hasn’t been brought low enough yet. There are still sub-cellars of shame left for us to explore. As for Charles’ too long-deferred dream, I will invoke that great English philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche:

“There are two tragedies in a man’s life. The first is to have failed to have reached your goal; the second is to have reached it.”

Charles will find that out this weekend, assuming he didn’t learn his lesson long ago.

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