Is the resentment all about some philosophical revenge against the East India company?
Another British royal wedding and another mass episode of faux outrage by the usual crowd.
From continent to continent and coast to coast, including across the multiple cable platforms in Bangladesh, the wedding of the (now) Duke and Duchess of Sussex was viewed with garrulous enthusiasm by tens of millions, just like that of the Duke’s parents 37 years ago.
And so will those of the next generation of the House of Windsor, I suspect.
People love fairy tales; they grew up on them as children. Think hard of the tales of prince and princesses, kings and queens, good ones and bad ones, from the inventory of tales your parents and grandparents read to you and then you read yourselves as you entered childhood.
Even in our modern era, you are not about to find prime ministers, presidents, parliaments, and dictators in those tales. And when a part of those stories, especially with the proverbial good prince and beautiful princess comes to life, it is only human to relish it with an innocence that harkens back to a less stressful childhood.
The sour spoilsports of feigned resentment don’t want us to have that innocent escape to simpler times. I use the qualifier “feigned” decidedly herein. Too many of those expressing supposed disgust at how the royal wedding captured global imagination are also the same people who spend hundreds of thousands of takas getting British law degrees and attending British seminars … that is when they are not regaling the rest of us about how the uncle of their in-law of their sister was ennobled as a Khan Bahadur or even a “Sir” by the … you got it … the same royal family that they apparently hate.
Nor is the fake outrage about the money and glitter (and even if it was, how someone spends their money is really nobody else’s concern, right?). The wedding of a Russian tycoon’s daughter in 2016 ran a billion dollar tab while tens of millions of dollars for weddings in the Indian corporate elite are commonplace; as to how many hundreds of millions is the tab for each of the multiple weddings of the dozens of children of your average Gulf Arab sheikh, only God knows.
If it was truly about the fiscal cost of the wedding and the royal family -- not that it really matters what people think in those countries where Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is not the head of state -- the perpetually offended would have bothered to look at the cost vs benefits analysis of the British Crown.
The most comprehensive study of the economic impact of the monarchy on the British economy, conducted by the consortium Brand Finance in 2015 found that the cost of upkeep for the royal family was 257 million pound sterling per year while its benefits were 1.41 billion pound sterling annually.
In other words, the House of Windsor provides a net economic contribution of over a billion pounds to the British economy per year (principally through tourism, endorsements, and taxes paid). This does not include the social contribution of goodwill diplomacy, political stability, and national unity.
So, let us be honest about this outrage royale that intellectuals in Bangladesh and elsewhere conjure up every time there is a happy event in the British royal family. It is about a desperate desire to feel relevant amongst equally resentful peers and seek their validation.
It is about some bizarre philosophical and impotent “revenge” for losing out to the East India Company 300 years ago. It is about having nothing much to provide contrarian opinions on in safety in societies where extra-judicial killings and disappearances of political opponents is the norm.
The House of Windsor has thrived, even as its empire has disappeared, precisely because its members have taken great care not to cross from elegant pageantry to tasteless ostentatiousness whether in speech, decorum, activism, or celebrations.
Most of the time, the Windsors have succeeded quite well and have transmitted that sense of restraint and rectitude to each upcoming generation. It is no surprise, thus, that the late King Farook of Egypt ruefully reflected as he was being deposed by his republican-minded generals that when the world ends, only five kings will be left: The four in the deck of cards, and the one who wears the crown of England.
For good or bad, the British Crown embodies the closest real life fairy tale that we adults can see and connect to our childhood storybooks of kings and queens, princes and princesses. Let it be so.
In this complex and utterly maddening world, we need a real life fairy tale or two just to keep personal sanity sometimes.
Esam Sohail is a college administrator and lecturer of social sciences. He writes from Kansas, USA.