Special Comment: Monarchy, Magic, and the Modern Romance of “Game of Thrones” (Episode #62)

Two secret informants and I continue our conversation stemming from Game of Thrones, wherein we consider the relationship of monarchy and magic to the malaise of modern life. Why did British rulers claim the power to heal the sick by the touch of a hand, and why did a group of Scottish students in the 1950s break into Westminster Abbey to steal a 300-pound slab of sandstone called the “Stone of Destiny”? More broadly, why are modern people still obsessed with stories of kings and queens, and why do we tune in by the millions to see a royal wedding? The furor over Game of Thrones is just the latest demonstration that monarchy serves as a symbolic anchor in a chaotic world, and the desire for such an anchor is just as strong today as it was in the depth of the Dark Age.

Suggested further reading: Paul Monod, “Jacobitism and the English People”; Marc Bloch, “The Royal Touch”; Ernst Kantorowicz, “The King’s Two Bodies”; Victor Turner, “The Ritual Process”; Hobsbawm and Ranger, “The Invention of Tradition”

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