Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Habit of Royalty

Perhaps you wonder why purple is the color associated with royalty.  Some relate that it derives from an old dye used in the ancient world, but how could that explain the persistence of the color as emblematic of a ruling class.  The vision of spring color, that fresh minted quality, that is unique to latitudes where there are distinct seasons, is what brought up the question. Spring denotes a rebirth, a reassurance.  There is also perhaps a sense of excess, of extravagance in the flowers and blooms of that season.  Darwin in fact, said that nothing puzzled him more than how to explain the fact of flowering.  Royalty in the past was an inherited status, and nothing was less compelling to one of royal birth than the expectation that he or she needed to explain, to justify, their right to power.  A sublime sense of entitlement was the result and the potency of their genetic heritage.  An example of this, that Jan Cox pointed out, though in a different context, was the way that dispossessed royalty merely grouped on the border of their former territory, waiting the opportunity to regain control----giving up was simply not an option--it did not cross their minds.  In the color of purple, so predominant in spring blooming,  we see this sense of unearned glory, sheer celebration, and it occurred to me that this was parallel to the attitude of royal folk and might explain their preference for the color. 

What such a class did not comprehend was the idea of another kind of royalty, a mental, self minted, royalty which was always individual, never a group label. Both kinds of royalty share a disdain for verbal justification. And both are ultimately transitory. Only, though, the mental self-minted royal, builds in an awareness of the transitory. This recollection, of the vanishing, is not as obvious as the royal class insistence on dynastic succession, but it is more realistic. More realistic, and the opposite of a group royalty in that it must be, invisible, to the world.

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