Backstory: My life as Prince Charles
Ever since I married my British wife, I have begged her to come clean about her ties to the royal family. "Distant cousins?" I ask hopefully.
"Don't be ridiculous."
"How about some royal assignation back when those Tudors were dallying around?" I plead.
"The Peak family doesn't dally," she explains.
"You know that picture of Queen Victoria in the National Portrait Gallery? There's definitely a family resemblance. You have the same chin."
"She doesn't have a chin."
I refuse to acknowledge defeat. "You sure there wasn't a Duchess of Peak in there somewhere?"
"We do make duchess potatoes, dear. Tasty. But not royal."
Eventually, reluctantly, I give up hoping for the waiter at the Connaught Hotel to bow low with a "your currant scone, your highness." I abandon my dreams of Camilla and I discussing the difficulties of picking out the right present for Princess Anne. ("I was thinking of a scarf, Cammy. Are you getting Annie another horse?")
With little hope of spending the holidays playing charades with the royals, we set off on another visit to Britain. I was delighted to spend New Year's Eve with Judy and Jim, who have known my wife far longer than me. If there were any royal ties, they would definitely have noticed her ability to wave to a cheering crowd with one hand while clutching a handbag with the other.
Even though I pressed the connection before dinner, there was no mention of Aunt Liz or cousin Will. No giggles about hide-and-seek at Balmoral.
And then, when I was about to attack my pheasant, the bombshell exploded.
"Back when your wife was Miss BBC..." was all Judy got out before I waved a wing to interrupt.
"Miss BBC?" I repeated as my wife began to slide beneath the table. "As in Miss British Broadcasting Corporation?"
"Yes, her picture was all over the Underground stations in London for a year. Frankly, we were tired of seeing it day after day."
"So, in a sense, she was – make that is – royalty?" I gulped.
"Not really," Jim answered. "I believe her reign came to an end."
"So she's sort of deposed royalty?"
"Not exactly," Jim said, unable to suppress a chortle. "You can, if you choose, call it that, although I don't think it's quite the same as the Duke of Windsor's abdication."
I suggested that in a sense it was.
"How so?" Judy asked. (She seemed to be taking the royal relationship more seriously than Jim.)
"Well, if Janet, let's make that Lady Janet, hadn't given up her crown, she wouldn't have come to the United States to marry me. So, in a sense, I am like Wallis Simpson and she is like the duke. Both of them chose to live in exile."
My hosts and my wife looked stupefied. Nonetheless, I was delighted. I wolfed down my potatoes and vegetables, reveled in the three cheeses, and savored the molten chocolate dessert. (Light meals aren't an English tradition.)
I was fulfilled. After all, Americans are a lot more thrilled with the royal family than their subjects are. One reason Buckingham Palace hasn't been turned into a branch of Madame Tussaud's is because of all those gawking Yankee tourists pressing up against the gates, trying to get a glimpse of the family we dumped 231 years ago.
So now that I have finally proven that my wife is every bit as regal as I thought – and deserving of the sobriquet "Lady Janet" – I am at last happy.
Now, if she would only admit what has been obvious to me since we met: that Paul McCartney is her second cousin on her mother's side.
• Chuck Cohen, an advertising writer, lives in Mill Valley, Calif.