• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Royal Attractions

May 2018


Inscribed on almost every perceivable item, from the signs on roadways, to the obverse of coins, to the pages in gazettes, to the mugs in hands, and even to the tavern doors from which they on occasion spilled, the insignia “GR” could be found. The place was America, the time the late eighteenth century, and from the New England colonies to those of the South, the two letters G and R were well-nigh ubiquitous.


That said, it’s known that things so prevalent have a tendency of dissolving into the environment in which they exist. But this particular G and its fellow R did nothing of the sort. On the contrary, they seemed always to find themselves sticking out like sore, and as you’ll come to see, red thumbs. More than that, they had become emblazoned not only on every article and edifice, but on every colonists’ psyche as well. From the hinterlands to the City Halls, Pennsylvania to Georgia and every provincial outpost in between, the insignia was clear, if not painfully so, for all Americans to see. It demanded of them their attention. It was peremptory, this much is sure, but it was also supposedly sacred and one’s failure to genuflect at its sight would be impudence on the verge of sin.


But something about it wasn’t right. Less an insignia, “GR” was beginning to feel for our Founders more like an interloper. It had become a pilferer, a parasite, an uninvited guest coming to a country originally welcome to all. It had become an inscription incapable of being erased; a tattoo impossible to remove. And, unlike so many other now common, now archaic goods of that day—goods like muskets, molasses, cattle, whiskey, fiddles, and assorted teas (I reckon some things never really do spoil)—this royal cypher “GR” didn’t belong. It simply didn’t blend into the American palate that was blooming upon our colonial canvas nor did it jibe with its colors red, white, and blue. Unnaturally was it splashed over this fledgling and, if only for a moment longer, antebellum canvas that was America before her definitive war.


Still British subjects at that point in time, as they’d continue to be for just few years more, this final generation of Anglo-Americans looked upon those initials “GR” first with acceptance, but that humble sentiment was short-lived. The meek and comfortable compliance turned into a gnawing, growing, and finally an agitating suspicion. From acceptance came suspicion, but this slow transformation in feelings wasn’t yet complete; still further had it to descend. From there, suspicion yielded to anxiety, thence to indignation, thence finally to a toxic and incurable mix of enmity and scorn. American colonists were at a combustible point of their adolescence, a time wanting of freedom but finding it not. A time with which we’ve all been familiar at some point in our lives as we’ve matured and as we’ve grown. It makes you wonder if a state really is all that different from the human being from which it derives—I think it’s not. At any rate, in its stifled teenage years, the country was nauseated at the very sight, the mention, even the passing thought of that symbol for which the G and the R stood.

On with it! You might be saying to yourself. What exactly did “GR” mean? To the colonists, it meant not one but a variety of things. It came to be understood as an invigilating reminder of the old world and its illiberal past. “GR” was seen as the last vestige of their imperial progenitors. It was the tight noose girding their necks and keeping them hostage from a new day. It was, in seeking first causes, the primary reason for their current plight. Such as those letters stood out as sore thumbs, they were at the same time acknowledged to be the very thumbs under which our American forbearers lived. “GR”, in their minds, was the source of their exploitation, their subordination, their accumulated indignities, their perceived slights, and their decades of grief—all to which they’d been for too long subjected by a prince of German descent sitting on a throne on a dreary island floating unseen thousands of miles away.


In its Anglicized form, his name was King George, but in the haught Latin so de rigueur during his time, he preferred Georgicus Rex. Connotations with the dinosaur with whom he shared this surname (that dinosaur being, of course, none other than the harrowing Tyrannosaurus Rex) weren’t lost on the colonists. They especially weren’t lost on those who were somewhat learned, if only as dilettantes, in the constrained and esoteric study of paleontology. Such a polymath was to be found in the form of Thomas Jefferson, but not even he could count himself alone in noticing the obvious similarities between that tyrant King George and that reptilian overlord under whom every species writhed in fear. In fact, in the minds of the American people, the monikers Georgicus and Tyrannosaurus might as well have been swapped. The important difference was that George’s, unlike the dinosaur’s arms weren’t innocuously stunted and they were able to reach across the Atlantic and terrorize them from afar.


That name Georgicus Rex eventually came to mean something else. In time, it would become a synonym for non compos mentis, or mentally absent or impaired. Toward the end of his reign, King George would lose his faculty of mind and his unity of thought, re-affirming some of the more scurrilous claims levied against him back home that he was nothing more than an invalid with a crown, a rube in a robe. But before that time would come, King George did his best to ensure that everyone in his colony knew his name and knew it well. America wasn’t Jamaica, nor was it Antigua, nor a tropical Virgin Island. It was a colony of relatively literate Scots-Irish and German immigrants who were fervently independent and proud. Hence, his initials were etched everywhere one looked, if only to remind these ambitious souls—slightly more educated than the indentured servants and slaves populating the sugar plantations below—just who was in charge.


It took our founding fathers, under whose guidance, solicitude, and foresight a new nation was sired, at least eight years of hardship, scarcity, and war to erase from our branded skins the name Georgicus Rex. Surely they hadn’t a fear that future generations of Americans would besot themselves so eagerly with thoughts of the British crown. Certainly, our generation of modern-day Americans wouldn’t find themselves so enamored of all things having to do with a distant and obsolete monarchy. The revolutionaries, after all, had earned their hard-fought independence (which has today become something of a complacent sense of privilege) with no small amount of blood shed on the grounds, the rearguards, and the front lines between Lexington, Saratoga, and Yorktown.


It appears, though, that our founders’ greatest fear has come true. After rubbing off the ink of Georgicus Rex, we’ve voluntarily painted on our faces a Union Jack flag on whose field we’ve emblazoned Team Windsor for life! It bewilders me, but our country is absolutely fascinated, if not infatuated with the current royal family. And just to be clear, by “royal family” I mean the British royal family, the House of Windsor—not that equally royal family of nearby Spain, nor that of distant Lesotho nor that of Tonga still further afield (although, coincidentally, all but the first were at one time under British colonial rule as were we). Every wedding, every newborn, every peccadillo, every night on the town in which this family engages grips and arrests us. As though we hadn’t a sufficient array of celebrities all our own here in the states at whose feet we could grovel and treat like royalty (one need only flip the channel to see your highness at the House of Kardashian, the House of Osborne, or—my personal favorite—the House of Honey Boo-Boo), we feel compelled to look and marvel across the pond.


Between overlapping feelings of prurience and covetousness, we watched as William and Harry philandered their way into adulthood. With deference we watched as that nonagenarian head of the Church, the dour Queen Elizabeth, shuffled and scowled beneath her ostentatious hat. We watch now with an overwhelming sense of elegance as Duchess Kate and new sister-in-law Meghan join the family, so posh, slim, and sartorially well inclined. And no list of Windsors would be complete if it neglected to mention that enigma Prince Charles, the man patiently awaiting his chance on the throne and a day on the job.

My hope is that with this latest wedding, America’s auto-intoxication with this family and this monarchy is through. It’s time to sober up and to shuffle off the glue that binds us to this spoiled, otiose, state-sponsored triviality posing as a monarchy. It’s time to remove the British crown’s tattoo from our skin and send Windsor the way of Georgicus Rex and before him, Tyrannosaurus Rex. Royalty, after all, is extinct.

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