Two of the Western World’s most venerable institutions are the Holy See and the British Monarchy. Love them or hate them, between them they encompass a large chunk of religious, cultural, and political history; without them, our world as it is would be unimaginable. At the moment, however, the one is led by an avowed lover of “shaking things up.” The other is being challenged by an actress-consort of one of its junior members. Without wanting to judge either their motivations or their conscious intents—and even less desiring to blame or justify either of them in their actions—it would be useful to see what unites these two figures, the Princess and the Pope.

Of course, what is most obvious about Princess Meghan and Pope Francis is how they differ—in age, gender, nationality, appearance, and trade. But culturally, they have one important thing in common, which for our purposes outweighs their differences: they are both Americans! Now, I am using that word in the sense that Spanish-speakers do—as opposed to Europeans. Those of us from the United States of America tend to arrogate that word to ourselves, where our Latin brethren describe both us and themselves with it. In exploring the commonalities between two denizens of the Western Hemisphere who find themselves in leading positions at centuries-old European institutions, the superior accuracy of the Latin use of the word shall jump out at us.

Regardless of language, the American character has been forged by two major historical realities. The first is the settlement of the frontier (be it the American West, the Amazon, or the Pampas), with the original pioneering stock reinforced by immigrants from Europe. These latter were religious, economic, or political misfits, and they were as anxious as the pioneers to carve out niches for themselves, and as keen at establishing their own identities and destinies. The second was the political origins of both Anglo- and Latin-American republics in violent rebellion against constituted and traditional authority. This was done (as far as the leadership were concerned, anyway) in pursuit of some abstract idea of freedom.

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