“I think it’s fair to say that the American people are quite fond of the royal family,” Mr. Obama said during a White House visit from Prince Charles. “They like them much more than they like their own politicians.”
(Prince Charles politely disagreed, but a survey by the polling firm YouGov suggested Mr. Obama was right, depending on which American politician and which British royal the respondents were asked about.)
So what is the appeal? Observers of American Anglophilia say it is complicated.
Tom Sykes, an Englishman in Dublin who writes about the royal family for The Daily Beast, described the royals as the ultimate celebrities, albeit ones with “some meat on the bone.”
“I do think if you’re going to be interested in celebrities you don’t know,” Mr. Sykes said, “the royal family are probably more interesting people to be interested in than the Kardashians, say, because of the thousand years of history behind them.”
The era of prestige television has helped cultivate and encourage these trans-Atlantic tastes by making escapist fare instantly, and repeatedly, accessible in a way that rental VHS versions of “Howards End” were not for an earlier generation.
Streaming services have helped introduce Americans to shows like “Downton Abbey” and “The Crown,” turning them into critical darlings and bestowing American celebrity upon their British stars, like the actors Michelle Dockery and Claire Foy.
Not all successful British shows in the U.S. focus on the elite (Hello, “Fleabag” and “Chewing Gum”). But the interior lives of the aristocracy, especially the royal family, have been particularly popular, from 1990s films like “The Remains of the Day” and early 2000s hits like “The Queen.”
Glamour and escapism are a big part of the allure. It also helps that the British royal family — which received $57.6 million in taxpayer money during the 2016 to 2017 fiscal year — does not play any formal role, ceremonial or otherwise, in American life.
And while the monarchy may be the most popular institution in British public life, some in Britain criticize it as out of touch, said Suzanne Mackie, the executive producer of “The Crown,” whose second season begins this week.
“There would probably be an apathy, an ambivalence, and some people would even be ill-disposed to them symbolically in what they represent,” said Ms. Mackie, who is British. “So it’s always interesting to us to counter that with the American relationship with the royal family and interest in the royal family.”
Ms. Mackie attributed the royal family’s appeal, in part, to “the mystique, the mythology around the throne and the monarchy.” But for Americans, not just any royal will do. The August wedding of Prince Phillip and Danica Marinkovic in Serbia made barely a ripple in the United States.
“Americans are particularly interested in the British monarchy, it’s not just monarchy in general,” said Arianne Chernock, a historian at Boston University. “You don’t see the same kind of interest directed at the Japanese Crown. I think it is about this special relationship, at root.”
And so the engagement of Prince Harry to a biracial actress (Ms. Markle’s mother is African-American) was celebrated as a moment of inclusivity, even though the House of Windsor is not even the first in Europe to welcome a black princess or duchess into the royal family.
Anglophilia in the United States dates back to “almost immediately after the American Revolution” ended British rule in the 13 colonies, Ms. Chernock said. “There is a desire to retain that strong cultural tie, and I think that persists to this day.”
It is a feeling that has long cut across the social divide. In 1860, when Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, visited the United States on the eve of the Civil War, hundreds of thousands gathered to see him in cities from Boston to Richmond, Va., which would soon be the secessionist capital, said Elisa Tamarkin, a scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.
“The love of this 18-year-old traveling prince was described as a universal feeling,” Ms. Tamarkin said. “South Carolina had committed to secede if Abraham Lincoln wins, his winning was assured, Wall Street was in a panic, but the Prince of Wales was actually on the cover of Harper’s Weekly five times in six weeks.”