I have been inside Buckingham Palace, but I paid for the tour. I did meet Prince Philip in person once, when he came to a youth club where I was a member. Much ado was made of his visit, including the construction of a special toilet that was reserved exclusively for the princely bottom. We were told that when the great man arrived we were to carry on doing whatever we were doing, because he wanted to see the club in action. If he approached us, we were to bow. When he finally swept in, I was bouncing on a trampoline. To my horror, he headed straight towards me. With a brief greeting, he moved on, my hand never even shaking his. I’d like to say we’ve been lifelong friends since then, but it’s obviously not so.
Despite our not being acquainted, I was still one of the worldwide throng who were delighted at the summer arrival of young Prince George. As he was carried across the hospital threshold to blink in the flashlights of the paparazzi for the first time, he obediently lifted a little finger as if to wave. These royals know how to do their stuff from the earliest age. Twitter went crazy, with 25,000 tweets a minute greeting George’s arrival. But watching the event unfolding from America was fascinating, because the interest here was overwhelming, and I wondered why. The USA has the Fourth of July, the day when our Yankee cousins celebrate the vanquishing of the British. This is a proud republic. So why should they be even vaguely interested in the birth of a distant future king?
Whatever our politics, we've been created to be subjects
Perhaps there are a number of reasons. Babies are cute, and turn many of us into cooing, infant-talking idiots when we encounter them. Then there’s a fascination that many Americans have with anything British ? for which I’m grateful, having been treated with irrational kindness ever since I’ve lived here. Our global Hello! and OK! dominated culture, with its insatiable thirst to know everything about celebrities also surely fuels the fuss. But I’ve been wondering ? is the American interest in royalty a sign of something deeper? In short, do all humans everywhere long for a king?
Whatever Eden was, it’s portrayed as a kingdom, a place of order where a good, righteous ruler reigned. It was paradise, not because the first couple lived it to the max with no moral boundaries and a just do it hedonistic philosophy, but because order and peace was theirs, because the Good King was in residence. Surely humanity has been purposely designed with a desire, even a need, to be ruled over by a righteous king who will reign with love and justice, and make true shalom a reality. Sometimes that hunger can lead us to stumble, as happened to Israel back in old Samuel’s time. Dissatisfied with the king that they couldn’t touch and see, they insisted that they needed a visible king who would lead them into battle, just like the nations that surrounded them. The need for royalty led them to bad choices. But then, when Jesus came, he had one main message that he kept repeating: the good news that the kingdom of God was here. Far from just offering a ticket to somewhere else forever, he talked about the rule and reign of the king and his kingdom, here and now, and yet a reign to be fully established and consummated later. Living with a bowed knee and a surrendered heart ? far from being abnormal ? for this we were made. Perhaps the American fascination endorses that idea. Wherever in the world we live, and whatever our politics, we’ve been created to be subjects.
Meanwhile, back at the trampoline, I learned another couple of lessons. Royals sometimes disappoint; Prince Philip never did use that specially built toilet. And there was a lesson about etiquette as well: it certainly isn’t easy to bow and bounce at the same time.