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Americans have a love-hate relationship with Britain.
During the early days of our republic, they were our mortal enemies -- in two wars. In the Revolutionary War, they occupied New York City and routed Washington’s troops in Brooklyn and Long Island. In the War of 1812, they burned the White House.
But, in more recent history, the British have been our staunch allies. In World War I and World War II, we fought shoulder to shoulder against common enemies. We consider them our best friends in this tumultuous world. And we are as entranced as the British are by the royal wedding.
I remember the first time I realized how emotionally involved with the British royal family we were. I saw how fascinated my mother was by the drama that was playing out in England in 1936 when Edward the VIII gave up his throne for love. Every radio in the Bronx, it seemed, was turned on to the farewell speech being made by the King of England.
“You must believe me,” the voice from Britain declared, “when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.”
My mother’s eyes filled with tears. Her three sisters were upset too.They realized they were witnessing history, the sad end of Edward’s reign. The romance captivated them -- and tens of millions of other women throughout America. It was a storybook scenario.
This nation has long been linked emotionally to Britain. They are, in a sense, our cousins. They gave us Magna Carta and other glorious traditions. And. for many decades, we have followed the fortunes of the royal family. During World War II, we became aware of the royal princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret.
We witnessed the coronation of Elizabeth as Queen of England, in 1953, the first such ceremony to be televised. We mourned with the British the death of Princess Diana in a car crash in Paris in 1993. And now we have found a warm spot in our hearts for the latest royal newlyweds, Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Our feelings toward our British cousins have varied over the decades. But, in a way, they have been like family. Some of us who are old enough remember when Elizabeth and Margaret were children during World War II. We empathized with Elizabeth about the marital troubles of her children, Princes Andrew and Charles and Princess Anne.
Some critics of the monarchy would say it’s a dysfunctional royal family. But in America we have many dysfunctional families. And an abundance of divorces.
I guess we Americans, brought up on fairy tales of princes and princesses, yearn to be involved in real fairy tales.
That’s why we look wistfully across the ocean at the latest royal wedding -- and hope that the couple will be happy and have a long life together.