The British Monarchy is a Living, Breathing Monument to White Supremacy
Revelations that the Royal Family is intolerant and racist aren't surprising, but reminders that Western Civilization's power structures are built on oppression
I didn’t intend to watch to watch the interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Henry. I’m not at all fascinated with the Royal Family and am pretty disgusted by the palace intrigue they manufacture and cultures in both Britain and America continue to revel in. The rumors of who’s in and who’s out are distractions from the larger, more complicated problems that plague us and the spectacles are entertaining substitutes for actual, constructive discussions.
But I watched. I can’t lie and say that I don’t have the same voyeuristic tendencies others have. Our culture, both in its spectacles and entertainments, has conditioned us to want to know other people’s dirty laundry and to revel in the dispersal of secrets. Maybe the pull was too much. Whatever it was, I tuned in, and Markle’s revelations about how she was mistreated, how her son’s skin color was openly discussed, and how he was kept from his proper titles, hit me with the same hammer-like feeling of shock. Until it wore off.
Because of the popularity of soap operas like The Crown and the recent fascinatio made-for-TV weddings of the princes William and Harry, not to mention the hyperculture of celebrity we all languish in, the Royals have loomed larger in our collective imagination, and Meghan Markle’s introduction into the cast made, at least for a moment, this antiquated, revolting institution seem as if it were progressing or at least changing.
Sunday night was a much-needed reminder. The British Monarchy, and the decaying empire they represent, were built upon the most systematically oppressive regime and legacy the world has ever known. Its riches, influences, and power were made possible by the enslavement of human beings, the oppression and destruction of cultures, and bloody, rationalized murder.
We are the inheritors of that legacy, and it’s time we look that hard fact directly in the eye and learn from it before it’s too late.
Dispatches From A Collapsing State is the home for Jared Yates Sexton’s political, cultural, and historical writings, and represents an independent project to sort through our mythologies and find a semblance of truth and reality. This project depends on your support. If you enjoy Jared’s writings or have benefitted from them, please take a moment to subscribe to this newsletter. Subscribers will gain access to bonus content, including a regular Q&A mailbag where Jared will answer your questions. Thank you for your support.
As a lot of you know, I’m currently working on a new book tentatively titled The Midnight Kingdom, which is a reconsideration of the history of “Western Civilization,” or how we’ve arrived at this moment, in this skewed reality. It is both illuminating and traumatizing to discover not only the truth of how things have gotten to this point, how the structures of power were conceived and constructed, but also in how, as the research continues, to watch history unfold with a terrible desire to make it stop and prevent the unfurling disasters and tragedies.
The British Empire is one such terror. To piece together how England manifested the mythology of a “sacred empire,” a project that combined unabashed ambition with the mythology of religious, national execptionalism to produce an oppressive behemoth that would enslave millions, conquer populations through manipulation, misinformation, and abject cruelty, and then control those people via psychological and inhuman torture.
Like the myth of American Exceptionalism I covered in American Rule: How A Nation Conquered The World But Failed Its People, the sacred empire myth of Britain was anchored in religious narratives that laundered these cruelties through the lens of supernatural exoneration. Britain sold slaves, oppressed the peoples of the Americas, Asia, Africa, and all around the globe, helped create, operate, and dominated an economic system of inequality, all of it because, the story promised, God and the universe had seen fit to favor them as a people.
In America, this mythology has centered largely on military might and the individual, or rather “Great Men of History,” presidents like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but also tycoons and magnates like the Robber Barons or Henry Ford. This has much to do with the rebellion from Britain and the rejection of the monarchy, but in Britain the continued reverence, or at least fascination with, the crown has been a constant because the glory of the Empire has declined. Brexit was as angry a rejection of that undeniable fact as the election of Donald Trump was in America.
For it now to be exposed that the Royal Family harbors racist tendencies should be no more a surprise than that Trump or his supporters harbor racist tendencies. They are artifacts of the world that white supremacy helped build. Their alternate realities, dressed in American flags and Union Jacks, brimming with nostalgic promises of a return to glory and prominence that will never come true, represent a desire to return the world to a moment of their liking, a moment where white people - primarily exceedingly wealthy, white men - not only ruled the world, but everyone else was either too afraid to challenge them or subject to horrific tortures and violence that might snuff out their complaints.
It is an active, petulant, delusional anger fuels there movements, and any reverence to Trump or the Royal Family, both instances of white people who inherited great fortunes and influence through no means of their own talent, is rooted in a poisonous desire to erase the project of mass democracy and return the world to the ages of monarchs, blatant exploitation, and oppression without shame.
None of this is pleasant.
To wrestle with the fact that the British massacred people, starved them, stood by while they died of famine and exposure, that they popularized concentration camps with their mistreatment of the Boers, that it helped inspire the Nazis to perform their own atrocities - not to mention that much of the philosophy of the Third Reich was borrowed from American writers and figures and the eugenics programs directly influence by our own - is a hard concept, particularly in a post-World War II environment.
The fight against the Nazis and Fascism in the 1940’s, and eventually the struggle between America and the USSR in the Cold War, created a dichotomy of Good and Evil that American and Britain were always on the advantageous side. It legitimized so many atrocities, including planned economic inequality, undermined democratic elections, assassinations, and just dirty business on a scale it’s hard to really wrap your head around. And it has kept us from reckoning with some hard, uncomfortable truths.
One of the incredible, yet unsurprising things we’re watching today is how the Right is rallying around the Royal Family, decrying Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, and laundering blatant white supremacy. In this story, because Britain sided with the Allies and opposed communist Russia, nothing they have ever done or will ever do can be held against them. Unless, of course, they stand against America or the intentions of global capital, and that’s not very likely at all. It should be noted, though, how ironic it is to see “conservatives” who claim their entire ideology is based around the Founding and the Revolutionary Fathers fighting against the monarchy swooping in to help out when times are hard for the Royal Family.
That’s because it’s about power and white supremacy. It always has been, and it always will be. The “Special Relationship” between Britain and the United States is built on this fact, a shared tradition of believing God and the universe smiled on the white race, made it special in relation to all of the others, and gave it free rein to do what it must to assert its dominance and steer the world in a direction to its pleasing.
This is why we remained fascinated with the Royal Family, a living, breathing monument to white supremacy, a bloodline that’s capable of smiling, waving, carrying out its ceremonial function without anything approaching actual responsibilities and worthy simply for being born. It is a story unrelated to actual reality or truth, but comforting for those who need to believe the oppression and cruelty they carry out and benefit from is not only necessary, but valid, good, and, at the end of the day, ordained by something larger than themselves.