The news that the actress who played Jill in the first two episodes of the 2008 incarnation of 90210 is affianced to a 33-year-old reformed pot smoker and ex-soldier would be of almost zero significance to those of us who do not care about the personal lives of H-list celebrities if it were not for the fact that the latter's grandmother is one Mrs. Elizabeth Mountbatten, better known as Queen Elizabeth II.
What difference does that make, though? The conduct of Britain's supposed royal family has been indistinguishable from that of the permanent tabloid class since at least the '80s, if not the '30s, when the Nazi-sympathizing Edward VIII at least had the decency to "abdicate," despite the assurances of such charming pals as Sir Oswald Mosley that marrying a divorced American socialite would not be frowned upon in the only circles that mattered, i.e., the continental set surrounding Goebbels. Why should any of us care that The Real Housewives of Westminster is due to receive an additional cast member sometime in the next year?
You don't have to be a dues-paying member of the Royal Stuart Society to feel this way about the Windsors. The British people now seem to appreciate their supposed sovereign and her progeny in the same manner they do former Spice Girls or Yoko Ono. Like the Kardashians, the Mountbattens are now a kind of dynastic corporation, a coterie of glitz merchants whose infinitely marketable product is their own existence.
Which is why the relentless coverage of every aspect of the courtship and impending nuptials of Meghan Markle and Prince Henry of Wales is so insufferable. Why in the world do patriotic Americans care what an 80-year-old woman who lives with her dogs in an old house across the ocean thinks or does about anything, much less concern themselves with whom her grandchildren marry? The only possible explanation is that for them the whole thing is not real. They recognize that the goings-on at Buckingham Palace and Clarence House bear about as much of a resemblance to an actual monarchy as the plot of Cinderella. The whole thing is Disneyfied, commodified, consumed in a thousand ways, a tourist attraction that remains useful to a desperate and increasingly insignificant island nation.
How refreshing it is for those of us who wear the white rose to turn from the sordid modern world of the Windsors to the stately reserve and austere religiosity of Franz, Duke of Bavaria, a.k.a. His Majesty King Francis II, his brother and heir apparent Prince Max, and Max's daughter, Sophie, Hereditary Princess of Liechtenstein, the third in line to the throne. The Jacobite claimants lead decorous lives of quiet decency, collecting fine art and patronizing hospitals and the Church. This is why Stuart partisans, who recognize Francis as the rightful king, gladly cheer on the antics of republican MPs like Jeremy Corbyn and Dennis Skinner, who is famous for booing the annual Queen's Speech in Parliament. Mrs. Mountbatten and her ridiculous grandchildren deserve no more deference than the average dysfunctional family of well-heeled pet lovers. So long as the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha continues its play-acting, there will be common cause between Jacobites and earnest levelers everywhere.
I should say that I bear the Mountbatten family no ill will. Indeed, the late Mrs. Windsor, the so-called "Queen Mother" of blessed memory, was a charming woman who once threw away all the science books that had been purchased for her children and replaced them with an edition de luxe of P.G. Wodehouse. I am also very much a fan of the Duchess of Cornwall, whose beautiful voice, in the opinion of her husband's biographer, is the result of her incessant tobacco habit. That doesn't mean that I am terribly interested in learning every detail of a (soon to be former) television star's struggle to stop chewing on her fingernails lest she offend the sensibilities of the world's most famous hat collector, who will one day be her grandmother-in-law.
Meghan Markle is doubtless a kind and charming woman. But the bare fact of her being engaged to Twitter's @HRHHenryWindsor is not enough to make her an interesting one.
Editor's note: This article originally misstated the surname of the Queen Mother. It has since been corrected. We regret the error.