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Prince William and Kate Middleton royal wedding: Do monarchies still matter?

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Is monarchy anachronistic? You bet.

Is it necessary? That depends on the culture and the country.

Yet monarchy remains relevant, whether as fodder for tabloid stories and fairy-tale dreams for those in Britain and the United States, or for wielding real power over peoples and nations like the absolute monarchs who preside in Brunei and Saudi Arabia.

The British, at least, even when they're indifferent to the goings-on in the royal family, would probably have it no other way.

"It's easy just to say, 'tear it all down,' isn't it? But what are you going to replace it with?" asks Mary Thomas, a newspaper vendor who sells royal souvenirs near Green Park in London. "I think most people would say that they trust the queen a lot more than [they do] the politicians who run this country."

The British Empire may not be what it once was, but the House of Windsor holds symbolic sway. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state of Britain and 15 commonwealth realms, including Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

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