As I’ve written in this blog before, I’ve been fascinated by royalty a big chunk of my life. I never quite realized who was Queen or King of what country until Princess Diana married Prince Charles. (Yes, I know, Lady Diana Spencer became Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales and, after her divorce, Diana, Princess of Wales. Royalty experts are quick to point out that her correct styling was never Princess Diana.)
I even was once married to a baroness, or at least the granddaughter of one. Technically, the title passed on to her. We did not live in a castle. We looked for bargains in supermarkets. I did notice, though, that she had a far more relaxed approach to money than I did.
After all, I am the first son (of three children) of the first daughter (the oldest of six children) of the first son (the oldest of 16 children — yes, my grandfather had 15 siblings!) and many men in my family hunted deer to feed themselves and their children. I wore hand-me-downs. I paid for a decent chunk of my college education, one of the reasons why I made it my goal to finish college in three years. (I succeeded.) To this day, I have never owned a credit card. I live only on what I know I have.
But to relax late in the evening, I read about royalty, castles, who is related to whom. I subscribe to a German version of People magazine, Bunte, and have read it faithfully for decades. My cousins in Bavaria, some of whom still live on the small farm that has been in our family for centuries, used to tease me royally (no pun intended) about my reading Bunte or speaking fondly of Queen Silvia of Sweden. Don’t get me wrong: I have also read Nietzsche, Schiller, and Goethe, and not just to make my cousins happy! But to this day, nothing feels better than cozying up with my Bunte, a nice beverage, and a leisurely half hour!
So one of the many unexpected pleasures of living in Hawaii is discovering the omnipresence of royalty. Museums have entire wings devoted to past kings, queens, princes and princesses who once ruled the islands. Schools, hospitals, and streets bear their names. A few short miles from where we live, a palace has been restored to honor Hawaiian national identity. Real-life princes and princesses still play a prominent role in Hawaii.
A few weeks ago, my family and I met Hawaii’s last queen or at least a wonderful teacher and actress who represented Queen Lili’uokalani in an anniversary celebration of her life. We spoke with her for about five minutes. During that brief time, she quickly realized and encouraged my daughter’s ability to speak three languages and her potential for contributing to society. I’ve met a pope, and current or former barons, baronesses, even a few earls and countesses. When I was a tennis journalist, I had an extensive interview with Evonne Goolagong who is true tennis royalty. But I had never met a queen.
Just like after my conversation with Evonne, I felt lighter on my feet after meeting Queen Lili’uokalani, as though I had traveled to a more noble form of consciousness. I wanted to go out into the world and do better. My daughter was also a bit transformed. We went to her favorite museum in the afternoon and looked at the permanent exhibit about royalty. For two hours, my daughter was poised and radiant in her pink dress. Later we went home to our tiny castle where we live so close to the neighbors we can hear them sneeze (and say “Bless you” through the window, after which they usually say “Thank you, neighbor), dined on fish sticks and chicken nuggets, and fell into a gentle, resplendent sleep.