Yesterday, Donald Trump arrived in the UK for his Presidential state visit, which meant he got to have an official dinner with Queen Elizabeth and most of the Royal Family. Said events are lavish affairs, with fine china and detailed protocol achingly followed to the letter and literal tiaras. When people imagine the glitz of the monarchy, they’re probably thinking about events like this. A lot of attention has fallen on the House of Windsor over these past few days, with a heavy spotlight given to their every reaction to Trump’s behaviour. At one point, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, winked at the press after meeting the Trumps and it’s now become its own meme. Indeed, it’s probably done more to increase Camilla’s popularity with the British public than her many years of service since marrying Prince Charles. Every glance at last night’s dinner was proof of immense shade. Wow, did you see that casual sneer Princess Anne gave Jared Kushner? Look at Kate Middleton’s side-eye, we stan! Ohmigawd, the Queen’s tiara is a dig at Trump, what a legend, yaas Queen. That last one isn’t an exaggeration, as one popular tweet (in a now locked account) declared the importance of her tiara choice to be irrefutable proof that the head of state didn’t like Trump. What a hero, draping herself in jewels from the days of colonialism to make a point or something. Truly, the resistance lives among us.
Can we please stop projecting this nonsense on to the Royals like they’re some kind of “resistance” liberals instead of very rich white colonial symbols of power who care more about his bad manners and definitely share a lot of his bigotry https://t.co/A1c8sSbTQo— Wei Ming Kam (@weimingkam) June 4, 2019
oh my god…. the Queen received Trump in the Funtleburough Room and not the Sussleburey-Oxenflart Parlour 😂 and she seated the Marquess of Doombledendowndurredge two seats to Trump's right at the Saint Pheasantsmas dinner 😂😂😂😂😂 she is a messy bitch i am SCREAMING 😂— thomas violence (@thomas_violence) June 4, 2019
In this instance, “shade” is actually pronounced “colonialism”. https://t.co/MWk7hS3UNJ— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) June 4, 2019
I’ve written before about my very conflicted feelings on my nation’s royal family. I believe the monarchy to be an archaic and anti-democratic drain on our society who exist primarily to exacerbate the classism and racism that has crushed this country. I would happily do away with the lot of them in a heartbeat. However, I’m still pretty fascinated by the institution. When you live in a country for whom class is the fetish of choice, it’s hard not to be at least a little intrigued by their centuries of nonsense. Plus I’m always Team Meghan because f*ck all the racist misogynists who can’t get over her just trying to live. I get why monarchists exist, especially at a time when our political system is on sewer levels of polluted. However, I cannot get over the mental gymnastics it takes to turn this outdated and often deeply hostile institution, one built on colonialism and the notion that someone has the God given right to rule, into a cutesy symbol of political radicalism through the power of jewels.
The most softened and palatable images of Monarchy paint them as the voice of a nation, the true representatives of the people at our darkest times. There’s a hunger for the Queen and notorious racist Prince Phillip to be these beacons of normalcy in the face of the ceaseless chaos that is Trump. Surely they’re as irritated by his presence as we are? There must be ways for them to let the world know how not amused they are by this charade. They are supposed to be our safe port in a storm and there’s clearly no way they’d do anything to appease a fascistic bully who would have himself crowned King of America if there were means to do so, right?
The monarchy have in recent decades tried to find this balance between being ‘just like the rest of us’ and still special enough to warrant palaces and undemocratic rule. That means more public appearances, more carefully manicured displays of ‘authenticity’, the indignity of wearing an expensive outfit more than once, and so on. It’s been remarkably effective in many ways, given the sheer number of people who pledge allegiance to The Firm. It’s also a handy way to encourage people to overlook little smudges on the family’s history, from Prince Charles’s habit of meddling in parliamentary affairs to Prince Phillip’s racism to Prince Andrew’s friendship with Jeffrey Epstein to centuries of colonial rule. Yes, the Royals are supposed to be a symbol more than anything else, and I get the urge to project fantastical fairy-tales onto their aesthetic, but they are not and have never been radical allies in the face of such horrors. Maybe the Queen did sneer at the prospect of welcoming Trump to a lavish state dinner, but she still threw the dinner and didn’t really have an option not to do so. This is her job.
Painting a tiara as a symbol of political outspokenness rather than one of many emblems of the obscene excesses of colonialism lets us all down. Sure, it’s a fun fantasy, but it’s hard to pin meaning to such things beyond the reality that she owns dozens of these tiaras and a ton of them are bejeweled with pieces either stolen or ‘gifted’ from countries they used to run. Clothes and accessories can speak volumes in ways and situations when we ourselves can’t, which is one of the reasons we have fashion criticism in the first place. However, there’s a difference between what fashion can represent and what we want it to be, and the latter is more heavily being applied to the Royal Resistance than the actuality of their situation.
What this pseudo-ironic but still reductive and insulting meme has done is overlook the people in politics and activism who actually are taking a stand against Trump while he’s on British soil. Plenty of people right now, including tens of thousands of protesters, are out there doing the real work. The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has refused to mince his words in noting how Trump has helped to foster a dangerous right-wing bigotry in our political sphere and why it is important to stand against that. There’s a reason he said we shouldn’t roll out the red carpet for Trump: Because no matter how shady those tiaras are or how strong the royal side-eye, all Trump will see is himself being treated as the most important person on the planet, and that strokes his ego far more than whether or not the Queen doesn’t like him. He’s gotten exactly what he wanted out of this experience.
Header Image Source: Getty Images.