I’m happily reading Carolly Erickson’s Royal Panoply: Brief Lives of the English Monarchs, a delightful jaunt through British history, as viewed through brief bios of its Kings and Queens. (Erickson is one of the absolute best writers about early British rulers, by the way.) I’m up to Richard II, who ruled around the turn of the 15th Century.
So far, the book has been a compelling reminder of the dangers inherent in holding power too long. Without exception, even the most effective of these early British monarchs, from William the Conqueror on forward, became weakened through ruling too long. Part of it was that age slowed them down, but a lot of it was that the trappings of wealth and power, and the sycophancy that goes with those attributes, destroyed their ability to approach situations rationally. These long-term rulers began to believe their own press, so to speak, and became careless. Additionally, most had alienated a lot of people along the way, only to see those people turn on them with a vengeance later, when their power had diminished. Since I’m fairly familiar with later British monarchs, I can already say that this pattern didn’t change much until Victoria’s constitutional monarchy, when real power was in the hands of an elected, not hereditary, government.
I was thinking of all this when I watched the following HotAir video about Rosie O’Donnell’s little foray into racist speak. Rosie has elevated herself to a position where she too believes her own hype. She’s beginning to act with the type of impunity that only those who have gone unchallenged for a very, very long time can experience. Of course, if the British monarchs are anything to go by, the pattern is (i) power, (ii) success, (iii) hubris, (iv) abject failure. I wonder whether Rosie will go this road and, if so, how long her ride will be: