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The Royal Treatment

God save the queen—of Indiana.
The Royal Treatment for a black queen of indiana shaking hands with Phil Gulley illustration

Illustration by Ryan Snook

IN 1958, WHILE living and working in London, my grandparents shared a meal with Queen Elizabeth. Not a hamburgers-on-the-grill-with-a-few-close-friends kind of meal, but a formal banquet with 500 other Americans. My grandparents marched past the queen, curtsied and bowed, then were made to eat English food, which is to food what the polka is to music. Nevertheless, for my grandmother, it was like the birth of Jesus, a line of demarcation cleaving her life in two: Before Queen and After Queen. For the rest of her life, she dated every event by that wondrous evening of royal treatment.

Given my family’s close, personal friendship with the Windsors, you can imagine how difficult it is for me to admit that I’m hard-pressed to name a bigger bunch of non-contributing grifters than the queen and her kids. The concept of royalty is a fraud perpetrated on the masses by a handful of families who have persuaded said masses that they should be given the finest real estate a nation has to offer and enough wealth and servants to maintain it, in exchange for venturing out once a week to celebrate the opening of a grocery store or christen a ship. The rest of their time, from what I can tell, is spent cheating on their spouses. The smartest thing our founders ever did was kick these parasitic reprobates to the curb in 1783.

Despite my contempt for royalty, a wise and benevolent king might not be a bad thing for Indiana. Let’s be honest, we’re not faring all that well compared to other states. Whether it’s air quality, education, or public health, if we’re not at the bottom, we can see it from where we are. Since every governor of Indiana has been a white male, I think our king should be a queen, preferably a Black one. I know lots of accomplished Black women who call Indiana home and would make great queens, one of whom is Dr. Leah Gunning Francis, the dean of the Christian Theological Seminary. Our state would be whipped into shape in no time at all if Dr. Francis were in charge. Plus, she doesn’t have a big head like another queen I know, so we wouldn’t have to call her “Your Majesty” or curtsy or bow. She’d just shake our hands and say, “Call me Leah.” I like that in a queen.

I’d expect an Indiana queen to feel just as at home in Paoli milking a cow as she would at the Palladium listening to a harpist. We Hoosiers don’t like our royalty to flaunt their wealth, so while queens typically live in palaces, Indiana’s version would have to make do with a modest home of 1,742 square feet, the average house size in Indiana. If our queen wanted to rent a condo in Florida for the month of February, she could, but we wouldn’t want her to post Facebook pictures of her sitting on the beach. If the queen’s husband wanted a three-car garage, we could probably allow that, provided he didn’t brag about it. We Hoosiers can’t stand our royalty lording it over the rest of us.

There are some fancy churches in Indianapolis full of rich people. But if our queen expects to win the hearts of Hoosiers, she should attend a simple church, probably a Quaker meeting, maybe the one I pastor, so I could tell everyone the queen of Indiana attended my church. Knowing Dr. Francis as I do, I think she’d make a fantastic Quaker. We have two cleanup days at our Quaker meeting, one in the spring, the other in the fall. She’d be expected to show up and work like everyone else. We Quakers are serious about our cleanup days. I could stand in the pulpit and renounce God and probably keep my job, but if I skipped cleanup day, I’d be in serious trouble.

It does no good to have a queen if you don’t also give her the power to do what needs to be done, even if it meant lopping off a head every now and then to show she meant business. Head-lopping has gotten a bad name over the years, but there’s nothing like a headless legislator to make the rest of them fall into line. Now that I think about it, if we had a queen, we wouldn’t even need our state legislature, which would put Indiana at the top of the heap statewise, where I am sure God intended us to be. 

Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor, author, and humorist. "Back Home Again" chronicles his views on life in Indiana.

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