04th Jun 2012

Royalty and the Media: a 3-G Model

The Diamond Jubilee River Thames Pageant wasn’t really spoilt by the wet weather. For the million or so people lining the banks of the river it was a damp squip - but for the billions of people watching the event worldwide on television or the web, the spectacular camera shots from above, across and below would have looked much the same come rain or shine.

Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether the Monarchy has a role to play in twentieth-first-century Britain, I’d like to propose a 3-G model for understanding the relationship between members of the Royal Family and Her Majesty’s Press/Broadcasters. By 3-G I refer to the three generations of accession to the throne (we await the fourth with baited breath – and no, Tweeters, she’s not pregnant yet!).

First up, and highest of them all, the Queen herself - and the Duke of Edinburgh, still smiling after all these years. Quite rightly, their relationship with the media can be summed up in one word: indifference. The Queen rarely smiles, when she does it’s genuine and not put on for the cameras, and most of the time she looks downright unimpressed. Good on Her Majesty! In these days of PR-spun-media-plasticity, it’s deeply refreshing and reassuring to witness this great Queen, in her nineth decade, caring little for public opinion… and even less for the tabloids.

Second in line – still waiting after all these years – is Prince Charles, the Crown Prince (if only he had his hands on it). Charles and his faithful companion Camilla are more conscious of press intrusion than their elders. Both have had their fair share of media and public criticism, the ghost of Diana forever haunting their communion, but their actions in front of the camera remain, to all intents and purposes, reasonably authentic. Indeed, a series of recent media appearances show Charles looking happier and more relaxed than ever before. His BBC Weather forecast is one such example. He enjoys the carnival atmosphere and plays up to the orchestra – a true man of the theatre, though not of the National Theatre (which he famously likened to a nuclear power station).

For the third generation, however, authenticity of action is closer to the televisual than the theatrical. For William and Kate (and Harry, sort of with them, but not quite knowing where to stand) the whole emphasis is on the body, or the dress, or the gesture – but movement and audience-participation are strictly controlled. No street-partying and public hugging permitted here. These royal junveniles hand-pick their encounters and work hard at doing not very much at all – except looking great and smiling on cue.

So that’s the 3-G model: genuinely media-oblivious (first generation); theatrically authentic (second); televisually spun (third). If the Monarchy is to survive and retain the respect it enjoys today, the youngsters must learn from the grandparents this basic rule… that appearances are everything, and nothing. After all, an unelected Monarch can do whatever she or he likes – so let’s keep things aloof!

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