A Royal Resurgence in Britain

Perhaps once there was a way to get back homeward in British society and to end the role of the British monarchy.  But royalty and enthusiasm for it are going forward with two developments: the reappearance of a new Fab Four and the award of a knighthood in the 2018 New Year's Honor List to Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr, the most well known, if not the best, drummer in the country, for his "services to music."  He might, with his emollient behavior, have been rewarded for keeping the peace as well as the beat among his fellow Beatles.

In the midst of a host of problems and uncertainties related to the complex Brexit issue, much of the ascendant mood in the country is focused on interest, even adulation of the activities of members of what constitutes British royalty, not limited to the royal family.  Fifty years ago, in the mid-1960s, four citizens, the Beatles, became immensely internationally popular and received tumultuous welcomes wherever they appeared, in Britain, Madison Square Garden, and Berlin.  Symbolically regarded as the cultural icons of the counterculture, they were heralded as the Fab Four, a nickname coined by their publicist.

The old Fab Four were honored in their heyday when all of them in 1965 were given the Order of the British Empire, MBE.  Yet it is a sign of changes in British society and sensibilities that Ringo, sometimes seen as the least accomplished of the Beatles, should be given a knighthood.  Interestingly, one of his fellow honorees in the 2018 list is Nick Clegg, former member of the European Parliament, the former leader of the Liberal Democratic Party who served 2007-2015 as deputy prime minister in the government of David Cameron, and who ironically opposed Brexit and thought it would be deeply damaging to the economy.

The nickname "Fab Four" has now been accorded by the British media to the new four personalities who are the center of attention: the duke and duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, and Prince Harry and his fiancée, Meghan Markle.  The four had a starring role in the royal family visit on Christmas Day to the church in Sandringham, Norfolk.

There is partial if not parallel symbolism in past and present.  The Fab Four Beatles were working-class boys from Liverpool, with grammar school education, coming from broken homes, who transcended their humble origins to become the world's most successful music group.  Among their triumphs, they invaded and conquered the U.S. pop market, including The Ed Sullivan show.

American citizens since the nation's independence owe no allegiance to the British monarch or family, though there are some apparent simulations and imitations, in the case of royal musicians: Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, King Oliver, and Count Basie.

Nevertheless, fairy tales can come true if you're young at heart or a true believer.  The new British Fab Four now feature Rachel Meghan Markle, the 36-year-old U.S. citizen and actress, who comes from a divorced family in South Central Los Angeles, attended private schools, is herself a divorcée and feminist, and is of mixed race.  Her mother, a social worker, is an African-American.

Meghan identifies as half-black, half-white.  With her life experience, racial ethnic background, life as a divorcée, and strong work ethic, she is akin to the norm of 21st-century Western women.

What is important is that her life story makes her what might be hitherto seen as an improbable figure as the fiancée of a prince, Harry, fifth in line to the British throne.  She appears to have been accepted by the royal family, including the 91-year-old Queen Elizabeth, now in her Sapphire Jubilee.  The extraordinary contrast is with the rejection in Britain in 1937 of the twice divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson as the consort of King Edward VIII.

It is intriguing that Meghan, who descended from Africans enslaved in Georgia, glamorous, sexy, a good actress, was shortlisted as one of five possible Bond girls in the next film.  Since she is retiring from acting, her next soap opera performance will be on May 19, 2018 in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in front of the archbishop of Canterbury and Queen Elizabeth II, not in the blockbuster film with Daniel Craig.

Even fairy tales have problems.  International problems intrude with invitations to the royal wedding on May 19.  The 33-year-old Prince Harry has apparently established cordial relations with former president Barack Obama and indeed interviewed the former president during his guest editorship of the BBC's Radio 4 Today program on December 27, 2017.  Obama is likely to be invited to the wedding.  The dilemma is whether President Donald Trump, of whom Meghan was critical during the presidential election, will also be invited.  The problem is compounded by differences between Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump.

Whatever the decision on the guest list, royalty in Britain survives, with the monarch the national figurehead, symbolic of the unity of the country, and a family devoted to public events.  Some political figures such as Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn may favor the abolition of the monarchy but do not seek to abolish it.  Despite the difficulties and complexities of Brexit, there is little support in Britain for a republic, and no political party has an official policy favoring one.  Meghan and Ringo are showing the way forward.