C.S. Lewis once said: “Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters.” He wasn’t entirely right.
Some 230-odd years ago the United States threw off the British monarchy and expelled its loyalists to the far corners of the empire. Now in 2014, King George III’s successors are adored by those millionaires, athletes, and film stars. LeBron James came off as awestruck when he said of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s attendance at an NBA game: “It’s a huge honor. The stuff that you read about, people like them are only in books growing up. And to hear that they’re coming to town to see me play and they want to see me do what I do best, it’s a huge honor.”
When the Cambridges met Beyonce and Jay-Z, the latter could be seen glancing around nervously, careful not to break royal protocol. And wasn’t President Obama’s smile a bit wider than usual? Piers Morgan’s prediction seems to have been spot-on: “When [the Duke of Cambridge] departs, President Obama will shake his hand and feel very grateful that he was able to bask, albeit briefly, in the reflected glow of his guest’s beloved VIP wattage.”
Don’t be mistaken: this isn’t mere stardom. I’ve seen receptions like this once before—for the same royal couple, earlier in 2014. Along with grave state engagements, like visiting the victims of wildfires and paying their respects at war memorials, the duke and duchess also took time to visit youth groups, local artists, athletes, and community leaders, and to pose for endless photos with their public.