I never had any Cinderella fantasies. I was never very into princesses, the Disney or real-life versions. But when I was 15, I was in London for a state parade, and Queen Elizabeth rode past me in an ornate gilded carriage with a red velvet interior. To this day, I swear she looked right at me.
A few years later, I decided to take a break from college at CU and moved across the Atlantic to work. I lived in a house in central London with a rotating cast of 20 other young people, also on working holiday visas. Most of them were from Australia and New Zealand; there were only two Americans in the house.
I learned that the entire commonwealth regards the royal family with a particular brand of familial reverence. My roommates were allowed to joke about — and criticize — the monarchy, but I was not. As soon as I or the other “American in the attic” said anything remotely judgemental about the queen or her family, we were gently corrected by our roommates. “Sure, the idea of a monarchy might be ridiculous, but look at all the good the queen has done around the world,” they would say. “And also, Princess Diana.” End of discussion.
I found myself equally defensive of things I hadn’t ever felt especially strongly about. One day, we were watching a movie in which the characters said the Pledge of Allegiance. My roommate stopped the movie and turned to me. “What the hell was that?” he asked, dramatically. The group was gobsmacked at our students’ daily tradition of declaring allegiance to the United States. They made me recite it over and over again while they struggled to understand its significance.
Just as I could never understand what it was like to grow up under the rule of a monarchy, they could not fathom a childhood of implied American exceptionalism. Subtle cultural differences could sometimes feel larger than the ocean that separated us. But of course, we learned to respect and embrace each other’s cultures. And thus began my admiration for the House of Windsor.
On Saturday, my niece, sister, our friends and I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to start the festivities. We ate scones and clotted cream and wore fascinators with our pajamas. We allowed the ridiculous pageantry of a royal wedding to entertain us, and we played along with it from across the pond. Despite the fact that the newest princess is an American, I didn’t necessarily feel like I had stake in the game. But in a world of increasing divisiveness, it was a reminder that sometimes diplomacy comes in the form of a willingness to celebrate things we can never fully understand.
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