The British royal family has been the source of numerous conspiracy theories throughout U.S. history. The late colonial and Revolutionary War eras in America were the most prolific periods for conspiracies involving British royals. The bitter struggle for independence established a context in which the general popular opinion in America at this time held, as one pair of historians recently noted, “chronic suspicion of all things British” (Elkins and McKitrick, 432).
Figures like Benedict Arnold (who fought for the Americans in the War of Independence but then defected to the British) represent the very real danger faced by loyalists for their unpatriotic actions, which often fueled popular intrigue. Yet, during this time there existed substantial loyalty to Britain throughout the colonies, and in some this was the majority sentiment. In 1766 in Delaware, for example, about half of the 37,000-strong population were in opposition to war with Britain. This group of loyalists was important because it formed a political and cultural countercurrent that would come to dominate politically after the war.
The British royal family has been viewed as a source of conspiracy and intrigue since the early years of the republic, and in particular the attitude of King George III toward the colonists has long haunted the American popular mind. Reparations for loyalists and British creditors were among the important negotiating points for John Jay in his securing of the 1783 Treaty between the United States and Great Britain. But in the partisan debate over the treaty, opponents made clear their perceived collusion of Jay and the Federalists with the English Crown and wealthy British interests, such that Fisher Ames, in defense of the treaty, asserted that not even a treaty that “left King George his island” and “stipulated he pay rent on it” would suffice critics (qtd. in Hancock, 1).
The publication of The Address of the People of England to the Inhabitants of America by Sir John Dalrymple revealed the explicit design of the Crown to develop an aristocratic strata of American society loyal not only to the King’s government but to the Tory social order as well. The historian Gordon Wood noted the effect was that “every successive step by the Crown, under the guise of a corrupt and pliant Parliament, only confirmed American fears of a despotic conspiracy against freedom” (Wood, 42). And during his presidency, George Washington held serious reservations about British motives surrounding subversive and secretive policies designed to negatively impact American interests. Examples include British Order in Council 6 in November 1793, Pinck-ney’s dispatch to Randolph on 25 November 1793, and the Dorchester speech in March 1794. Ironically, it would later be the partisan opposition of the Federalists that would echo these same concerns for conspiracies emanating from designs by the British Crown, but allege the Federalists with complicity.
One great conspiracy during the Washington administration involved the allegation that John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and others in the Federalist Party were secretly planning to institute a monarchy modeled on the British Crown in America. The issues of monarchy and aristocratic titles continued to be controversial and the source of continued conspiracy speculation during the presidency of John Adams. Adams was so impacted by these allegations that he made distinct statements to clearly demonstrate his loyalty to existing
American constitutional institutions during his Inaugural Address. Adams was responding to charges such as those made by the journalist James Callender, who authored The Prospect before Us, and for which he was later convicted under the Alien and Sedition Acts. In The Prospect before Us, Callender accused Adams of “being a toady to English interests, and of wishing to install a monarchy in the U.S.” (qtd. in Rhenquist, 48).
After the early nineteenth century, the British Royal family and British interests and society generally became a less attractive subject of paranoid partisans or conspiracy theorists. The “special relationship” between the United States and Britain developed and their shared language, common heritage, and cultural, political, and economic interests made them natural allies—indeed the closest of allies, as the United States replaced Britain as the hegemonic power in the West, and assumed maintenance of Western order in the international system. The British royal family have become popular media figures in the United States and a major U.S. tourist asset for Britain.
This relationship has not precluded the continued development of extremist conspiracy theories at the margins of American society today. Among the most bizarre conspiracy theories to emerge in recent years is the claim by A-Albionic Consulting and Research, based in Ferndale, Michigan, that the British royal family is in a secret struggle with the Vatican, dating back to the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth, when Protestants and Catholics were in conflict all over Europe. A-Albionic alleges that the British royal family and their Jewish internationalist allies are controlling the world supply of drugs and money, and wielding subversive influence over world affairs. Additionally, the political organization of Lyndon LaRouche has echoed these British royal conspiracy plots in their political communications in recent times.