What if America had a Royal Family?

What if America had a Royal Family?

Ballrooms, backstairs corridors, secrets, scandals, and stories of love and heartbreak. Everyone would know them, and they would play out their lives on the biggest stage of all. What if George Washington hadn’t refused the offer to become king? What if things had gone differently? What if the United States of America had a royal family?

In the Battle of Yorktown, Colonel Lewis Nicola fell to his knees before General George Washington and asked him on behalf of the whole nation to become king. George Washington refused and became the First President of the United States. However, what would have happened if Washington had accepted the offer? How different would the world we live in be? Would there have been positive gains? 

Though it’s hard to know exactly what would have happened, the novel American Royals by Katharine McGee imagines a world in which the Washingtons have been on the throne for two and a half centuries, and are the most famous family in the world. Although they are most often compared to the British royal family to help the reader understand what exactly they do in this made-up world, the differences between real life and the novel are countless.

In McGee’s book, the reader follows Beatrice, the heir to the crown and soon to be first queen of the United States. Before Beatrice, women weren’t allowed to rule due to law. This story takes place during present-day, which is interesting as Bloody Mary (Mary I) was the first English queen in 1553. The fictional America in the book is supposed to be more modern than Britain which makes this contrast in McGee’s book stand out. 

Additional differences include that monarchs crown themselves since there is no official religion like there is in Britain, the American royal family has never experienced divorce (unlike the British), the Romanov dynasty from Russia continues, and that if the heir is to become queen, they should get married. Though it is impossible to know if these things would have happened in real life, the book does a good job of painting a picture of what exactly the American royal family would be doing in present-day.

Jennifer Weiner’s article “Why America Needs a Royal Family” states that the American royals would have “ceremonial roles” and would have the “world’s longest-running reality shows”. Though Weiner continues to mention that the British royals do the same thing, she explains how it is needed to separate the spheres between “ceremonial tasks” and “governmental tasks”, while discussing what it would mean to have elected royals. Though a monarchy would have to continue through several years like the Washington dynasty does in the novel, the article’s idea of what the monarchs would do is highly different from McGee’s. In “American Royals”, the royal family is much more involved with the public and helps the prime minister with aspects such as economics and law. Just one question remains: which reality would the royal family have followed?

In the book, the American royals are portrayed as necessary and essential to keep a stable society; however, the reader is constantly wondering what good the royals provide to the world. Questions such as “don’t royal families live off of taxes?”, and “isn’t the monarchy part of an obsolete elitist system?”, are things the reader constantly thinks about, since the knowledge is based on the information we have about current royal families. American Royals completely rebuilds that theory and creates a world where positives outweigh the hatred and drama in the royal families lives.

The American royals create unity, peace, and happiness for the citizens of both the United States and the world. Though the reader is inclined to think about the fact that this is a utopic world, with a unified nation, one can’t help but wonder if all of that harmony could have been real if Washington had given a different answer. 

The question of “what if America had a royal family?” cannot be truly answered, but stories like American Royals certainly help to imagine how the future could have been. Would there really have been more unity? How would this have affected other monarchies in the world? How different would the world be today? How would education, thoughts, and action be different? These are all questions that will likely never have an answer, but would have affected the way we view the world today.

If Washington had said yes instead of no, history would have been radically different. However, history cannot be changed. We are always living history, and history goes on forever. One thing is for certain, though, as McGee says, “erasing the past—or worse, trying to rewrite it—is the tool of despots. Only by engaging with the past can we avoid repeating it.” We don’t know if there should be something to learn from Washington’s actions; nonetheless, the question about the American royals should be something to remember.