The Real Fresh Prince.
To employ potential student interest in 18-year-old Prince William as an entry point in building an understanding of Britain's monarchy, its role in history, the nature of constitutional monarchy, and the arguments for and against the monarchy in today's democratic Britain.
* What purposes can a monarchy serve in a democratic country?
* Millions Of people in the U.S. are eager to learn all they can about the lives of young royals. Why, in a country that fought a revolution to free itself of the rule of Britain's George III, might people be so enamored of British royalty?
* Do Americans treat some celebrities almost like royalty?
Before Reading: Remind students of the difference between a constitutional monarchy, in which governing authority is held by elected officials, and an absolute monarchy, in which royalty has real power.
Discussion: Discuss the contradictions in Prince William's life. Does his wealth help compensate for or make more profound the tragedies he has suffered in his personal life? Should people of Prince William's status embrace public attention? Do they have a right to high position and privacy?
Guided Reading: Direct students to the observation, on page 17, that the royal family "plays a vital role representing British ideals." What ideals does it represent? (Tradition? History? Pageantry?)
Next, direct students to the criticism of the monarchy voiced by writer Claire Rayner. Is the monarchy "unrewarding and destructive"? Is it a "crime" against the people of Britain?
Debate: Pro-monarchists should explain how the pageantry, history, and tradition embodied in the monarchy strengthen Britain's sense of nationhood.
Anti-monarchists should explain why the unequal privileges enjoyed by members of the royal family--financial as well as official--outweigh any advantage they provide the nation. Both groups might refer to the "Princely Pleasures" article on page 19 to bolster their arguments.
Web Watch: For information on the British monarchy, students can log on to http://www.royal.gov.uk/ For information specific to Prince William, they can log on to www.angelfire.com/mo/ quotesrule/index.html
AT 18, PRINCE WILLIAM SEEMS TO HAVE IT ALL -- MONEY, LOOKS, AND CHARM. BUT WILL THAT BE ENOUGH TO REVERSE THE DECLINE OF BRITAIN'S 1,200-YEAR-OLD MONARCHY
Call him Prince Charming. He just turned 18, stands 6 feet 2 inches, and has the piercing blue eyes of his famous mother and the of kissable lips and strong chin that send teenage girls into paroxysms of screams and swoons. And, incidentally, he's both wealthy--worth more than $20 million easy--and destined to be the King of England.
If you ever imagined anyone having it all it would seem to be the WOW boy, William of Wales, aka Prince William, the real Fresh Prince of Buckingham Palace. How cool is he? When Britney Spears found out he was interested in talking with her, she e-mailed him. How popular is he? When the royal family announced that William would enroll next year at Saint Andrews University in Scotland, thousands of girls immediately applied to the school in hopes of being able to chat him up casually on campus.
But if Prince William's life reads like something out of a storybook, it's also a tale steeped in tragedy and deep contradiction. William spent his early teen years--along with his younger brother, Prince Harry, now 15--witnessing the ugly divorce of his parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and then the appalling death of his mother in a car wreck in 1997. And as if those trials were not enough for any teenager, William now faces a test whose outcome might determine the fate of Britain's 1,200-year-old monarchy, one of the world's oldest.
STEMMING THE DECLINE
The young prince comes of age at a time when public support for the monarchy is at a low ebb. If William maintains his movie-star popularity, he could singlehandedly refurbish the monarchy's tarnished image. If, however, his star falls, Britain's monarchy could continue its decline into irrelevance and possible extinction.
When he becomes king --after the deaths of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, 74, and his father, Prince Charles, 52--William will become the formal head of the British government. Yet his powers will be largely ceremonial. As in the other nine European constitutional monarchies, real power in Britain lies with the elected Parliament, a body roughly equivalent to the U.S. Congress; and the Prime Minister, the ruling party leader whose role is like that of the U.S. President.
But a growing number of Britons believe the institution of royalty has outlived its usefulness. The royal family costs British taxpayers $86 million a year for castle upkeep and the constant round of royal tea parties and entertainments. And a series of messy divorces and scandals have made the national icon look all too human.
"The monarchy is expensive, unrewarding, and destructive," says British writer Claire Rayner. "A hereditary monarchy at this stage our civil development is not just an anachronism. It's a crime against the people of this country."
ENGLISH AS KIDNEY PIE
Royalists argue that the royal family still plays a vital role representing British ideals, while also bringing in millions each year from tourists eager for an eyeful of royal pageantry. The royal family, they say, is as defining a part of Britain as fox hunting and Yorkshire pudding.
William's sex appeal and charm, they hope, might be the ticker to save The Firm, as the royal family calls itself. All indications suggests the young prince is up to the task. He is by all accounts likable and unpretentious. Royal photos released at his 18th birthday show him dribbling a soccer ball, playing water polo, and adjusting the flames under a skillet in a cooking class. The future king has even asked to skip the honorific "your majesty," normally bestowed at his 18th birthday, until after he's out of college.
Bogus news articles about supposed romances with supermodels and starlets have only provoked his ire. "I don't like being exploited this way," he says, "but, as I get older, it's increasingly hard to prevent." (For the record, William has exchanged e-mail with Britney, but, preferring techno music himself, he is said to have given the CDs she sent him to his younger brother.)
But for the prince, the line between public and private life has always been blurred, and sometimes in brutal, ways. Unlike most children of divorce, William had to stand by as intimate details of his parents' private lives made their way into the press after their 1996 breakup.
Then, in August 1997, Princess Diana was killed in a Paris car crash. The death gave the world the powerful images of William, then 15, and Harry, 13, dressed in black, their heads bowed in sorrow, as their mother's coffin wound through the streets of London past thousands of mourners. It also may have given William an even deeper reason to hate the throng of photographers who will soon make a feast of him once he is out of college and considered fair game by the press. His mother was killed as her driver attempted to flee a crowd of paparazzi--the hordes of photographers that hound celebrities in the hopes of snapping a moneymaking picture.
Diana's death created a crisis for Britain's royal family. William's father, Prince Charles, was blamed for the divorce, and the family was said to have been cold and unfeeling in their response to her death. A survey this summer found that even three years after the crash Charles remains unpopular, with 60 percent wanting him to renounce the throne in favor of William--an unlikely event. The royal family came in for some hard knocks too, with 82 percent saying they held a lower opinion of the family since Diana's death.
LOSING ONE'S HEAD
Will the British monarchy survive its current troubles? It has already survived 1,200 years so far. Along the way, a dozen members of the royal family have been murdered, and the heads of countless nobles and commoners have rolled at the whim of power-hungry rulers. Henry VIII (1491-1547) actually had two of his six wives beheaded. By the standards of their forebears, the current royal family seems positively well-behaved.
Nor is the tension over how much power British kings and queens ought to have anything new. In 1215, English nobles forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, granting basic rights of representation to the nobles and limiting the king's power. Later, the elected Parliament slowly chipped away at royal power, mostly by controlling the money monarchs needed to keep the good times rolling.
The responsibilities of history and position weigh heavily on the 18-year-old prince. "You've got to feel sorry for him," says royal biographer Ben Pimlott. "It's an awful fate. He knows he can't make normal friends. He can never go to any teenage party without being seen as the most interesting thing about the party."
Yes, and there are all those screaming girls to attend to.
WHO WANTS TO MARRY A PRINCE OR PRINCESS?
With only 31 monarchies left in the world, it has become a lot harder to find the royal of your dreams. Fortunately, UPFRONT has devised the following quiz to help you locate your ideal prince or princess. After answering the questions below, consult the chart at right for your royal match.
1. Where would you most like to live? A. Northern Europe B. Middle East C. Southern France 2. What's the best part of being a royal? A. Being the figurehead of a nation B. Working for peace and equality throughout the world C. Throwing great parties for models and celebrities 3. How would you prefer to spend your free time? A. Riding horses and skiing B. Searching for water C. On a Mediterranean beach or at the casino 4. How much media scrutiny could you endure? A. Any amount B. A moderate dose C. Very little 5. How old is your ideal mate? A. 18-23 B. 17-Z0 C. 14-16 6. Do you want to be responsible for your country's existence? A. No, I'd like to know that it could endure without me B. No, but I'd like to to shape its future anyway C. Yes, absolutely 7. Which of these royal challenges could you deal with best? A. Keeping the monarchy relevant B. Surviving family intrigue C. Dealing with France
RELATED ARTICLE: IF YOUR ANSWERS WERE ...
MOSTLY A'S: Your match is Prince William of Britain or Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.
As heirs to two of the last great European thrones, William, 18, and Victoria, 23, face a difficult challenge: keeping their monarchy relevant on a continent that has spent the last 200 years getting rid of most of its royalty. (Heard from the Hapsburgs lately?) The modern European monarchy is a symbolic job that requires a mixture of populist gestures (the royal family in Sweden pays taxes like everyone else) and charitable work, with plenty of time left over for riding, hunting, and skiing. One tip: beware of the paparazzi. Though the press has left the young royals alone at the family's request, their dates may not be so lucky.
MOSTLY B'S: You chose Crown Prince Hamzah or Princess Iman of Jordan.
Direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, Hamzah, 20, and Iman, 17, belong to a beleaguered monarchy. Jordan is plagued by a $7 billion debt, water shortages, and tensions between Palestinians, who make up 65 percent of the population, and Jordanians, who hold most positions of power. Hamzah and Iman also have family problems. The current King, Abdullah, was named heir apparent only two weeks before the death of King Hussein, Hamzah and Iman's father. Though Hamzah, Abdullah's half-brother, is currently crown prince, it is possible that he will be pushed aside by Abdullah's 6-year-old son, Hussein.
MOSTLY C'S: You picked Andrea or Charlotte of Monaco.
Since Monaco is a principality, not a kingdom, the ruler of the country will always be a prince, never a king. But since Monaco is one of the world's greatest playgrounds, does it really matter? The second-smallest nation in the world, Monaco is on the beautiful French Riviera, where celebrities come to sunbathe, gamble, and play on their yachts. But Andrea, 16, and Charlotte, 14, the grandchildren of Prince Rainier III and the late American movie star Grace Kelly, are responsible for preserving their monarchy. If their family should die out, Monaco would become part of France. --Sarah Groff-Palermo and Kellee Ngan
Britain's royal family is not the wealthiest of Europe's constitutional monarchies. That honor belongs to the rulers of Liechtenstein, one of Europe's tiniest nations, who are worth $5.3 billion. But Britain's royal family is still fabulously rich, with an estimated wealth of $4.3 billion. Here are some other fun facts about the monarchy that William will someday inherit:
THE ROYAL PALACES: So you thought it would be cool if your parents bought a lake house? Britain's royal family owns eight palaces and castles that are maintained at a cost of $22.5 million per year.
THE ROYAL JEWELS: When the Beatles played for an audience of commoners and royalty in London, John Lennon told the crowd, "You in the cheap seats, clap. The rest of you, just rattle your jewelry." The royal jewelry is now on display for tourists. But when William is crowned king, the jewels will be brought out for the ceremony. His scepter alone will contain 393 precious stones, including the Cullinan I diamond, weighing in at 530 carats.
THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD: This is the biggest royal tourist attraction. Each day during the summer, the Buckingham Palace guard that protects Queen Elizabeth is relieved by a fresh troop of soldiers, who are nattily attired in red tunics and tall black hats.
LAST MONARCH TO HAVE HIS HEAD CHOPPED OFF: Charles I in 1649, victim of the Puritan revolution engineered by Oliver Cromwell.
COOLEST TOY THE ROYAL FAMILY EVER HAD TO GIVE UP: Until 1998, when it was finally decommissioned, the Britannia was the official yacht of the British royal family. At 412 feet long, with a crew of 217 yachtsmen and 19 officers, the Britannia was quite a boat. But it was also very expensive. So, after enduring much criticism, the Queen decided to give it up.
UPPING OF THE SWANS: Every year, the Queen's swan marker and a crew of rowers make their way up the Thames River for the annual swan count, a British custom dating to the 12th century. When a boatman spots a swan, he calls out "Swan up" (hence the name). The swan is then caught, weighed, measured, and released. In the old days, the swans were a source for royal food. Today, the swan marker uses the information to improve the river's ecology so that the swans will thrive.
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|Title Annotation:||Prince William, and the controversial monarchy in the United Kingdom|
|Publication:||New York Times Upfront|
|Date:||Oct 30, 2000|
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