Speaking of his son, then Prince of Wales, George V said, “After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself in twelve months.” Well, he died, the Prince became Edward VIII, and within the year, the monarchy was embroiled in the abdication crisis of 1936. Or, as Queen Mary described it, a “pretty kettle of fish.” Not much in the way of support for their son, even if the lack of loyalty was justified.
Backing up to 1173, we find the English monarchy facing the Great Revolt, when the three eldest sons of Henry II instigated an uprising against their father with the encouragement of their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Loyalty to their father—well, not so much.
Move up to 1513, James IV of Scotland was killed in the Battle of Flooden after he had declared war on England. His blood-stained surcoat, which was worn over his armor, was sent to the Queen of England. She forwarded it to her husband, the King, suggesting he use it as a banner while in battle. Rather ghoulish of Catherine of Aragon, don’t you think? Of course, her husband was Henry VIII, the brother-in-law of James IV of Scotland.
Fast forward to today. Now I am willing to leave off speculating about what happened in the Trump campaign—I’ll leave that to the investigators. And I won’t guess about what will happen to the Trump presidency—I’ll leave that to the prosecutors and the Republicans in Congress. And I will grant that the fact of the Russian interference in the 2016 election is a real threat to American democracy.
But, there’s a part of me that is eating up this family drama. It’s that part that is fascinated by family dysfunction, particularly in royal houses and Southern families. (Not that the Trumps are royal, even if they do like to sit on gilded chairs. And they’re not Southern at all. Not at all.)
Sometimes, family loyalty begins to unravel when money is involved. And not even a lot of money. I’ve seen brothers and sisters sue each other to get $10,000 out of an estate. And the more money is involved, the nastier it can get.
Power and the pursuit of it can cause the unravelling, as our royal English cousins have shown us. And when potential criminal charges and the threat of a, gasp, prison sentence are on the table—well, let the show begin.
Donald Trump, Donny Jr. (I call him Trumpette) and Jared Kushner. What will they do—to themselves and to each other? Is there loyalty there? They’re all lawyered up—and any good lawyer will give advice that is focused on the best interest of the client. Not the client’s son, not the client’s father and certainly not an in-law.
And while we’ve been talking about fathers, sons and brothers-in-law, did you notice that each of our little royal vignettes has a Queen of England in the background? And have you noticed that the only one in our present-day family drama who doesn’t seem to have been touched by any of this (yet) is Ivanka? Is she just collateral damage in this scandal? Maybe, maybe not. Mary, Eleanor and Catherine certainly were not.
The Brits have always had their royal houses—Lancaster, York, Tudor, Windsor, to name a few. We, their American cousins, have only had House of Cards. And, I still haven’t finished the latest season of that, what with trying to keep up with House of Trump. Granted, House of Cards is better written and better acted, but there’s just something about reality television that keeps us coming back for more.