by Tasha Alexander
…let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison’d by their wives: some sleeping kill’d;
—William Shakespeare, Richard II
When we think about the kings—and queens—of England, we generally consider the triumphs and failures of their reigns, the elegant palaces in which they lived, and the scandals of their courts. For monarchy to work, both the ruler and his or her subjects have to believe there is something that sets the royals apart from everyone else. Take the concept of divine right, for example, in which God grants the king his power, making the monarch subject to no human authority. The definition of aristocracy in the Oxford English Dictionary reminds us that nobles are supposed to be the best citizens, above everyone else. And the king sits at the top of the aristocracy. So it’s easy to see why many people are programmed to think these individuals are somehow better than the rest of us.