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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.

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“Our historical connection with Britain ebbs and flows with anger at certain periods and closeness at others,” says Elisabeth Cawthon, an associate professor of history at The University of Texas at Arlington.

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“We are just at the tail end of a very close connection we have had since World War II,” she says. Many American soldiers came back from operations in Britain with stories of kind treatment, hospitality, and warmth, says Professor Cawthon.

“This has a lot to do with what grandpa told us as children growing up, about the common bond – the common threat from Nazis – and the mutual purpose to defeat the tyranny that threatened the entire globe,” she says.

Their irrelevance

The royal family has no actual relevance to Americans, leaving us completely free to cheer or look down our noses, says Chad Martin, assistant professor of history at the University of Indianapolis. We would object vehemently if Obama were spending this kind of public money on his daughter's wedding, he says, but since it's the Brits, it gets a “whatever.”

Also, England's role in the world is diminished, he notes. For a time during the 1930s, some worried about England’s power to injure us economically, because of its hold over its empire, he says. “But now, Britain is not all that threatening. Their reduced status makes it safe to really like them.”

British theatricality

“They are better than anyone in the world at presenting ceremonies so as to draw in audiences of all ages … to make them grand and accessible,” says Cawthon. The British royals are not so removed as to be inaccessible like Japan, or as commonplace as royals in Scandinavia.

“The Brits have established that perfect balance where you can see them but not quite touch them,” says Cawthon. “You can aspire to be one of them, but never quite be one.”

Growing interest in heritage

“Americans are an invented people, the mutts of the world,” says Professor Martin.

“There is this growing fascination in tracing history back to the old country, and for many, that means England," he says. "It’s a nostalgia for a past we never really had.”


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