The Magazine

Pathology of Power

Sally Bedell Smith and the many forms of monarchy.

Oct 8, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 04 • By NOEMIE EMERY
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And so, where are we now? Oddly enough, it is the one man without government office who comes closest to the stereotype of the brute and tyrant. The presidents rank somewhere in the middle, and the genuine monarch, descended from a long line of monarchs, the most modest and plain of them all. 

The word used by Smith again and again to describe Paley is “spoiled” (which she uses for nobody else in her canon), and for the modern equivalent of the Henry VIII type of despot, he comes closest to filling the bill. 

On a descending scale, Paley and Clinton fit the stereotype of the king with a wench in one hand and a turkey leg in the other, JFK has the wench minus the turkey leg, and Elizabeth is much more like Queen Victoria, her more immediate forebear who, in her palaces, exemplified the model of bourgeois, or (upper-) middle-class, life. 

From this, the moral is self-evident: If you want symbolism, be a modern constitutional monarch; if you want genuine power in the historical sense, then be a president. But if you want to live like a king on the old-fashioned level, don’t be a queen, or even a president. Be a modern tycoon.

Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and a columnist for the Washington Examiner.