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Royal wedding: American Anglophilia finds a new generation

Fascinated by the royal wedding? Relax, you’re not alone – and this is nothing new. American love of all-things-English reaches back centuries.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer / April 28, 2011

A royal fan is seen opposite Westminster Abbey, in central London, April 28. Hundreds of people have set up tents along the route Prince William and Kate Middleton will travel to Friday's royal wedding.

Nir Elias / Reuters

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Americans who plan to watch the Royal Wedding – even just a piece of it – are part of a long tradition of American Anglophiles (lovers of all things English).

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Consider this statement from Mark Oppenheimer in Slate:

“Of all the annoying things about the royal wedding – the crass materialism, the outrageous invasion of a young couple's privacy, the bad TV – none is more troubling than the occasion this event gives for the non-English to transform themselves into besotted Anglophilic wusses.”

Harsh words, but they raise an interesting question. Why are we, the republican colonialists who rejected monarchy, now riveted by this wedding?

Professors of British and American history offer several explanations.

The rise of Queen Victoria

After the colonies declared independence from George III, reviled for innumerable political reasons, two even worse kings ascended to the throne. Both George IV and William IV were “greedy, vulgar, brutal, adulterous … horrible in every way,” says Patrick Allitt of Emory University. “Americans said, ‘Look how revolting they are… Even the Brits will kill their own monarchy now,’ ” he says.

But they were followed by Queen Victoria, a paragon of respectability who generated an enormous pendulum swing of public opinion. The rise in respect for the monarchy accelerated when Victoria wed Albert, and the two became the “exemplary moral couple of the whole of Europe,” he says.

“By the late 1800s, lots of Americans believed the revolution had been a terrible mistake,” says Professor Allitt.

The ‘common bond’ forged in World War II

The common threat of Nazi Germany drove the countries together in ways symbolized by – but far deeper than – the friendship of Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt.

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