Leave the Royals alone? If only it was that simple

The monarchy has played the PR game for generations

Related Topics

Those bloody hospital doors. With the TV on at work all Tuesday, it was hard to ignore the brushed oak panels, Windexed windows and gleaming Brasso’ed accessories of the Lindo Wing’s entrance - in all their 1930s utilitarian elegance; framed splendidly, but restrainedly, in sandstone with the single, tasteful flourish atop the lintel - as the cameras of BBC and Sky panned in and out and in and out and in and out…

Clocking off, I went to the gym - and there, on the screens, were the same doors. I watched them some more. Charles and Camilla came and went, with the promise that the family would be out soon. Like waiting too long for a meal to be served, or for a package to be delivered, it was hard not to get tetchy about all this waiting; as much as I self-identify as pretty much indifferent. And there and then on the treadmill, as I wished on the Cambridges to appear, it struck me – I’d been coerced!

Grace Dent in Tuesday’s Independent, like many other commentators, beseeched the media to let the royals be. I couldn’t agree more, but this is to miss an important point: the royals don’t want to be left alone. The monarchy has put centuries of hard work into their public image, and they ain’t stopping now. Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1952 was, at the time, the most watched televised event in history. You think they’d have made all that fuss if it was just for those inside the four walls of Westminster Abbey? In fact, as historian Sir David Cannadine points out in his chapter in The Invention of Tradition, horse-drawn coaches were rented from a film production company to enhance the on-screen spectacle.

Forty years later the royals still had their nouse for PR. Shook by her ‘annus horribilis’ in 1992, the Queen assembled the ‘Way Ahead’ group, replacing the old military advisors at Buckingham Palace with savvy ex-journalists who advised on making the royals relevant. Out went Fergie, in came the slimmed-down, youthful and telegenic family we know today. Buckingham Palace threw its doors open to the public, the Windsors got a YouTube channel and the Queen parachuted out of a helicopter with Daniel Craig. And One’s popularity ratings soared.

With the easel, the town crier, and all the rest, they’re at it again. The royals know that their role is, in part, to provide international entertainment with a touch of the mystical.  They can give a comforting sense of permanence, especially welcome at a time of economic uncertainty and breakneck technological change. This is fine - but we shouldn’t let the fluff distract from the hand they hold in British politics, as, for one, Charles continues to enforce a media blackout over his involvement with parliament.

As Kay Burley is finally allowed to go to bed, there’s no doubting that the monarchy will bask in an antenatal popularity glow for time to come – as well as having secured their lineage for the foreseeable. And yes, they should be left to it of their own accord; but just remember they play as important a role as the media in frothing up the ‘national appetite’ for their marriages, deaths, births – and hospital doors.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Call Handler

£14500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a Sales Ca...

Recruitment Genius: Support Worker

£14560 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers unique pers...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Riyadh is setting itself up as region’s policeman

Lina Khatib
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor