Whatever your thoughts on the royals, or even if you don't necessarily have any thoughts on them at all. Once cannot deny that they rise to the occassion during the most sombre of circumstances. Setting an example to the world on how to look tragedy in the face, while continuing stoicly about their business.
With the soap opera dramas that have swirled around them in the past, obscuring their role and purpose to the nation and in turn to the world. No one does pomp and circumstance better than they do. But when tragedy strikes is when we really notice and depend on their support. The Queen, the Princess Royal, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke of York, the Earl of Wessex, Prince William, the Duke and Duchess of Glouchester have visited hospitals, stood for moments of silence, met with the support staff (police, ambulances, doctors, nurses) responding in the wake of the attacks. There have been official memorial services, attended by members of the royal family; in other words, they have done their bit. Far more than most of us, removed from the disasters in the comfort of our own homes and even our own countries. In Canada the media asked people taking public transit if they were worried about attacks, the Minister of Defense has given a press conference, people have signed condolence books. Shocked true, but numb and indifferent. It didn't happen here, it couldn't happen here, or so we think.
Like a good friend we take for granted, dependable but still always there, the royals are expected to respond to national tragedies, not only close to home, but to the rest of the world: like the Tsunami disaster and 9/11. Most public figures are expected, in some way, to respond, but out of all of them the British royals seem to get the most notice. Interesting how the republicans are nowhere to be found in this case, it would not be appropriate for them to show up and hand out flyers; they don't even mention the attacks on their website. Do we see them going to comfort the ill and the infirm, showing appreciation to the response teams? Giving us an economical alternative? It means something to people when the royals listen, meet with them, sympathize, even if only for the moment. While the Republican website hawks t-shirts and teddy bears, requests donations to further their cause, the Queen puts her money where her mouth is.
The royal response to events is not new. One only has to look at WWI and WW2 to see examples that even then they were out in force. Some royals even lost their own, such was the sacrifice, the willingness to do their part. During WW2 the Queen joined the services, the only royal female to do so; the other women having only honorary titles. She did not see combat but she signed up to do her part. Prince Andrew, the Duke of York fought in the Falkland Island wars, his grandfather, King George VI, as Prince Albert, fought in the battle of Jutland, the only British Sovereign to have seen action in battle since William IV. King George V, during the four years of WWI made over 450 visits to his troops and over 300 to hospitals. In WW2, the King made broadcasts, and stayed in the country, thereby sharing in the dangers of his people. The King and Queen visited bombed cities, comforting those who had lost relatives, friends and possessions. They too experienced bombing with their fellow Londoners, when bombs fell on Buckingham Palace and it's grounds nine times during the war.
Today people may look upon them as far removed from their subjects, the republican movement labelling some of their efforts as PR stunts, but I believe their compassion is genuine. This support is something we tend to forget, unfortunately, until the next disaster happens. Not factoring it in the next time we calculate the costs of maintaining them. Why do we forget?
Because it's priceless.
© Marilyn Braun 2005
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