Attempts to find either spiritual inspiration or deep political theory in the marketing and public relations matrix of the British royal family is a surefire way to be either deeply frustrated or give one a brain aneurysm. Still, American popular culture seems pathologically addicted to any form of news that comes out of official or unofficial palace sources about this family.

Why Americans are so enamored by the antiquated and shell-of-its-former-self British royal family is work cut out for deeper thinkers than me. But with the marriage of an American woman to one of the more popular princes of this family, interest on this side of the pond is dominating entertainment news shows, real news shows, and is keeping most internet stories about piano playing cats in abeyance. We’ll forego the historical irony that Prince Harry’s not-so-distant ancestor had issues with the American divorcee he fell for — times have changed indeed.

One thing the British royal family is good at, especially in this 2.0 version, as seen in the princes William and Henry, is an elevated gift for using media. After a brief “honeymoon” period, their father and late mother seemed to be constant victims of a voracious press both at home and over here. The next generation of royals are much better at the game.

That’s good and bad. I think it’s good because it is probably better for them personally and their families. But it is not so good as it gives them more influence than their state deserves. 

They could not have chosen a better time to be popular icons as they are, like a lot of popular icons, famous for being famous…not because of any solitary accomplishment or achievement. It was so much easier when all royals had to do was visit some former colony, put on a cheesy native costume and pose awkwardly for the cameras. But now royals are expected to be experts from everything from runway fashions to climate change. And on the latter issue, Prince Harry Windsor has answered that bell with gusto.        

Not a climatologist, and neither is Prince Harry, last I heard, so I’m not qualified to make declarative statements (though from what I have read, there does seem to be more scientific debate as to the cause and remedy than is readily made available in popular culture formats). But that did not prevent Prince Harry from jumping into the deep end by allowing himself to be the subject of a print interview by renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall in a British Vogue article that was edited by none other than the prince’s American wife Meghan Markle.  

During an exchange of ideas on how to best preserve the world for their newborn son and future generations — a worthy and lofty goal indeed — the prince responded to the primatologist that he and his bride would do their part in saving the planet by limiting their family size.

This private matter became intentionally public and unveiled the great divide that exists between those who see the earth as the final destination and those who see it as a waystation. Now, beside the fact that my Irish ancestors are likely dancing in their graves at the news the British royal family is self-limiting its size, the further explanation of this decision by the prince is somber and foreboding, as it reflects sentiments held by more than a few royal family fans. He told Dr. Goodall that “we are the one species on this planet that seems to think that this place belongs to us, and only us.”

Finally, something on which Prince Harry and I can wholeheartedly agree.

Now, as I proceed to rebury my Irish ancestors who are rising from their graves over my support of a royal and his statement, let me just add: Yes, Prince Harry, we are the one species on this planet that thinks this place belongs to us. We “think” this because as Christians we know this was part of God’s design for us: to give us a home. We have no right to wantonly destroy this gift and we must be good stewards and managers of all the gifts of the earth that we have been bequeathed.

But, if there is no difference between a member of the British royal family and a bonobo chimpanzee, then the Bible cannot be correct. 

Robert Brennan is a weekly columnist for Angelus online and in print. His column Ad Rem won second place in the “Best regular column: Arts, leisure, culture, and food” category at the Catholic Press Awards in 2019. He has written for many Catholic publications, including National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor. He spent 25 years as a television writer, and is currently the Director of Communications for the Salvation Army California South Division.

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