Could a monarchy be a good fit for California?

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Britain's Prince Harry and Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle sit down for an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Photo by Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

Forget about that whole American Revolution thing. Zocalo commentator Joe Mathews says California could benefit from a monarchy. And he has someone in mind to head that new royal family: the unborn second child of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, also known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. For Mathews, it’s not just the fact that the royals now reside in Montecito and maintain a kind of California-cool, outlaw status in the royal family. Mathews says a monarch would take pressure off political leaders to allow them to focus on policy.

Read Mathews’ column below:

To Your Unborn Royal Majesty,

Please forgive the protocol breach of writing you in utero. 

But after watching your parents — the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — tell Oprah Winfrey that you are expected this summer, I’ve been thinking how much Californians need you. 

Because our next great start-up here should be a monarchy. And you would be perfect as our first queen.

I’m usually no fan of monarchies, but many Californians are. Indeed, regal characters are a durable California export. Disney manufactures fictional princesses more animated than any real-world royal. Your great-grandmother, the Queen, has no more loyal subject than California-based Netflix, which distributes “The Crown” and gave your parents a $100 million production deal. 

Unfortunately, Californians pay far more attention to fictional monarchies than to real governance. So, I wonder if installing a queen might encourage us to participate more in governing and improve our democracy.  

California suffers under America’s presidency, which dangerously combines two different roles: the head of state, representing the whole country, and the head of government, handing politics and policy. Other countries split these jobs between monarch and prime minister, but the U.S. doesn’t. So, one autocratic president can cancel the democratic choices of 40 million Californians.  

To reinforce California’s assertions of greater policy autonomy from the feds, we should take the symbolic step of making you our unifying head of state, with ceremonial powers, leaving the politics and governing to elected officials. Your monarchy would be more than just a protest against excessive federal power. Your presence might curb California’s own destructive tendencies, as well.

California administrations focus obsessively on short-term problems. A monarch could remind us of the long term. California is dogged by excessive partisanship. Monarchs are non-partisan. California treats ballot initiatives like irrevocable royal edicts. A permanent royal family might give us the confidence to finally amend Prop 13 or Prop 98. 

A monarch, by handling all the ceremony, would allow our governors to focus on actual stuff. Our last three governors tended their regal public personas when they should have been governing: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austro-Californian king of the box office; Jerry Brown, callow princeling-turned-monarch/sage; and Gavin Newsom, with his taste for the food of Versailles. 

You might ask why the Queen of California has to be you. Fair question. We have other royals: Queen Latifah, King James of Laker Nation, and Beyoncé. But they are transplants from New Jersey, Ohio, and Texas, respectively. While California leaders can come from anywhere, a brand-new monarch should be born in the land she rules. 

Unlike your brother Archie, born in the U.K., you’ll be a native. Your parents are perfect for the roles of Queen Mum and Queen Dad. You’ll be the child of an interracial Hollywood actress, and of a member of the royal family with whom Californians are most familiar. The fact that the British regime considered them bad seeds only makes them better Californians. We are often our families’ departed bad seeds.

Your father’s foreign citizenship means that you, like half of all California children, will have at least one immigrant parent. I also like the idea of you starting some royal work at a young age. California might invest more in its children if they had more power. 

Your monarchy would be new, but not without precedent. California was once ruled by 18th century Spanish royals. The only real downside of making you queen is that other states might jealously follow suit. Texas would surely want its own sultan.

Perhaps you prefer a commoner’s life. Fine. But being California’s first queen could be a sweet gig. Your parents have already established a home base for you in magnificent Montecito. For a northern outpost, you could build a Balmoral-style retreat in Lassen County, where the locals share the Windsors’ taste for hunting.

As for the name you take as queen, I have a suggestion. Our state’s name comes from the story of Califia, a fictional queen ruling an independent island of Black pagan women in Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo’s 16th-century epic, “The Adventures of Esplandián.” The queen’s island was called California. 

So, let me be the first to say: God Save Queen Califia II! Your kingdom awaits.

Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.



Joe Mathews