The British Royal Family's Circumcision Tradition: Genesis and Evolution of a Contemporary Legend

    This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to our Cookie Policy.

    • The British Royal Family's Circumcision Tradition: Genesis and Evolution of a Contemporary Legend

      by Robert Darby and John Cozijn:

      This account is fascinating as an archetypal instance of how an urban (or contemporary) legend emerges and spreads.
      First there is an oral tradition within a defined community; then there is hearsay as the story is passed on to others (Dr. Sifman heard it from Dr. Snowman; he told me; Snowman believed that . . .); next the story is put into print by somebody with sufficient intellectual authority to get away with not giving a source; and finally the information is cited as a fact by others. All the elements of a classic urban legend are present, including absence of a definite source; prima facie plausibility; and deep significance for those circulating it—in this case, prominent members of the Anglo-American Jewish communities who would appear to feel that a royal tradition validates their own commitment to circumcision and confirms their status as respected insiders (Pfeffer, 2012). There is even an implicit moral: If circumcision is good enough for the royal family, it is good enough for everyone. Indeed, in a subsequent book Schoen suggests that “universal newborn circumcision is becoming an achievable goal,” because the Chinese could simply order everyone to be circumcised, and it would happen...

      It is thus clear that there is no tradition of circumcision among the British royal family. If Prince Charles and the sons of George V were circumcised, it was not because Victoria believed herself descended from King David, and certainly not because a family circumcision tradition was introduced by George I. If Snowman or another practitioner performed the operation on them it was because circumcision was a common practice among the British middle and wealthy classes from the 1890s to the 1940s, widely recommended as a sensible hygienic precaution, and the monarchy was following middle class fashion and the prevailing medical wisdom. That the palace doctors were able to call upon the services of so distinguished a surgeon is not evidence of any tradition, but simply another instance of the royal family’s privileged status.
      • Die Vorhaut kann mit einer Rosenknospe verglichen werden. Wie eine Rosenknospe wird sie erst blühen, wenn die Zeit gekommen ist. Niemand öffnet eine Rosenknospe, um sie zum Blühen zu bringen (Dr. med. H. L. Tan).
      • Alle Wahrheit verläuft in drei Stadien: Im ersten wird sie verlacht. Im zweiten wird sie vehement bekämpft. Im dritten wird sie als selbstverständlich anerkannt (Arthur Schopenhauer).
      • Toleranz wird zum Verbrechen, wenn sie dem Bösen gilt (Thomas Mann)