I love following the royal sagas of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
I am a little embarrassed at admitting that.
I was raised to be more serious, analytical, and scientific, hence my PhD. Anything related to gossip in pop-culture, in fact pop-culture itself, was considered not an effective use of time. As a child whenever we visited any palaces turned into museums, my parents would always make sure to point out the senseless extravagance of these places by saying things like ‘look, how much they stole from people.’
But I LOVE castles and palaces.
I LOVE histories of monarchies.
I loved the history of the Persian Empire when I was a school-kid in Iran and I never stopped loving the history of other monarchies, especially the monarchies of Europe. I read books, listen to podcasts, and watch documentaries.
My daily routine now includes my morning exercise while I watch a documentary on the Romanov Dynasty of Russia. And when I say I watch a documentary, I am talking about a 7-hour-long documentary of the 300 reign of the Romanov family. Did you know that prior to WWI, there were exchange of letters between King George V of England, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia each pleading with one another to not start a war while each were preparing their troops for the front lines? Did you know they were all grandchildren of Queen Victoria and most of them didn’t like their cousin Wilhelm and his brutish attitude even though he was a favourite of his grandmother?
I find it fascinating. I am intrigued by how people wielded power, how they negotiated change with the other powerful aristocratic families, how they engineered the rise to power with their religious leaders, how women in particular used their positions in court, and above all what ultimately contributed to the demise of many of these powerful families: the Romanovs, the Bourbons, the Medicis, the Tutors, the Windsors! Oh the Windsors.
Our pop-culture is full of tales of the Windsor family, a family drama being played out on an international stage. But my history lessons tell me that if your family is powerful enough any family drama will have national and international ramifications. And I follow their news with a great passion.
Like many other racialized people, I was very excited when a racialized woman married into the Windsor clan and I watched the saga unfold with an added fascination of how things would play out with the history of colonialism and racism of the British Empire and this new addition. Well…I think we all know how that ended.
With Brexit, we have watched the rise of isolationism and nationalism come to a head in the UK but the racist and the sexist gas-lighting of Meghan Markle continues with this week’s latest round of the British papers talking about their upcoming interview with Oprah and the Queen’s fury. Of course such schemes to frame someone, to exile them, and to punish them aren’t new. But what people forget is that schemes such as these are never done by the monarch alone, in fact if my research has taught me anything is that the monarch can often be quite powerless in such situations.
I am fascinated by power.
I think power is a thing of the senses and is never purely cerebral; it exists within people and among them; it circulates between people and things and at times in grows through that circulation; it shrinks and expands; it can colonize people’s bodies and lead to their demise; it can be fantastical and lead to liberation; it can be harvested and co-opted for different purposes. And all the while the fascinating thing about power is that it speaks to one’s senses.