Interviews by celebrities great and minor is a business for many magazines and talk shows. It brings viewers or readers and it boost attention to a person with a public profile. It’s good PR if you know how to spin the message. The following is based on my own observation and experience while in the Foreign Service over 35 years.
The Canadian and British Royal Family knows how to spin a good tale and the Palace has a team of experts who always present the right message or image to the public.
Nothing new really, if you want to be a popular King, Queen, Emperor or Prince you need to justify your existence every day, this is what Lord Louis Mountbatten the uncle of Prince Charles use to tell him.
Queen Victoria cultivated the image of the happy housewife and mother, she had 9 kids. Then when her husband Price Albert died in 1861, she transformed herself into a professional widow supported by her children. Most of it was rubbish but the public lapped it up. The government cultivated that image, so that by the end of her life, she had become an iconic image of mother of the Empire. An image that had been carefully fabricated and endures.
Examples of Kings who did not care much for public opinion, King Charles I of England who lost his head to a rebellious Parliament under Oliver Cromwell. Louis XV of France who was an old débauché who had to be secretly buried when he died in 1774.
King Georges VI who became king after his brother renounced the Throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, he was keenly aware that the public was not happy with the Royal Family and during the time of his reign did all he could to build up his image with the public, staying in London during the raids on the City and then visiting neighbourhoods after bombings to speak with the people and show solidarity during the war years. His daughters Elizabeth and Margaret were encouraged to also give this example of service to the Nation. Again the government and the Palace cultivated this image carefully.
Since the early 1980’s the Queen and Prince Philip have cultivated a less formal image of Royalty, Palace advisors were keen to present the Royal Family as modern and not as museum exhibits.
Last week Prince Harry, the younger son of Diana Princess of Wales and Prince Charles, gave an interview to Newsweek. It made a sensation, he too is being groomed to give interviews at various moments in his life to show that as a young man now 33 yrs old, he can be approachable and almost a normal person, whatever that means for a Prince.
His brother William who one day will be King is groomed differently because he is closer to the Throne and because of his destiny. Their father Prince Charles now 68 belongs to another generation and his image has been cast a long time ago. He never fully recovered from the damage the accidental death of his first wife Diana and the ensuing media frenzy created. Though the Queen at the time was seen as unfeeling or even mean, this image was pure fabrication by the media and Prime Minister Tony Blair who wanted to increase his own image with the public, calling Diana the People’s Princess. In many ways Diana created her own problems, she forgot that when you marry the Heir to the Throne you have to play the part no matter what happens. Her first duty and that of Charles was to produce an Heir, the second duty was to keep up appearances so as not to damage the image of the Sovereign or the Royal Family. Yes Charles had a long time mistress Camilla and that was known in Royal Circles, he certainly was not the first Prince or Heir to have a mistress, many before him had mistresses and were also married with children and everyone played the game. Diana thought she could use the media against the Royals and win. If she was still alive today, she would probably be discredited and living abroad with some lover pensioned off. Instead she is no more than a distant memory, Tony Blair is discredited and the Queen is celebrating the first ever Sapphire Jubilee in British history. Prince Charles married the Princess Consort Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and obtained for her titles never given to Diana, the two boys William and Harry have lives of their own.
What often the public fails to see is that the Royal Family is not at our level and they live in a world totally removed from ours. A world difficult to imagine, where everything is choreographed and scripted to the last detail. What you wear everyday, the honours you receive, your salary, how people address you, where you will live, your daily program of activities every day of the year, what you say, even private family functions are programmed completely. You don’t have to think, everything is done ahead of time all prepared by advisors and counsellors, just follow the instructions. Much of it is controlled by the Queen and her advisors, she decides who gets the helicopter, there is only one, what car will be put at your disposal, what honours and titles she will bestow upon you, what apartment you will get at this or that Palace, all of it based on rank in the family.
Per example Prince Harry like many Royals lives at Kensington Palace, he has a small flat, nothing fancy but quite nice. His brother William who is married and has children and being that he will succeed Charles one day as King, gets a much nicer living space befitting his station in life, he also has a Duchy with a generous revenue. Same for Prince Charles who has Heir gets to have his own palace in London on the Mall, Clarence House.
Can you imagine living like that all of your life, you can’t quit and you cannot tell the Sovereign who happens to be your grandmother off.
The interview in Newsweek was very interesting in how it re-enforced stereotypes and myths about the Royal Family. Prince Harry said the wished for a life other than the one he has now. This is a nice thing to say because it gives the people the impression that he wants to be just like all the other commoners.
He then went on to say he wanted to do his own shopping and live his life as normally as possible. I had a good laugh on that one, again it is exactly what the media wants to hear. You see he is a normal bloke and he like his mother wants to escape. In reality that is nonsense, the only life he knows is that of the Palace, with all the privileges which comes with being the grandson of the Sovereign and a Prince of the United Kingdom.
He went on to say that no one wants to be King or Queen, but we will all do our duties. Well yes, he is a decorated Officer in Her Majesty’s Army and he owes allegiance to the Queen as his Sovereign. His life is one of service to the Crown and duty is what governs his life. It is also treason to say that you would like to be king or that someone else should be, saying this would imply you wish for the death of the Monarch.
Currently he is still single, but apparently he could marry this TV model Meghan Markle, really? Even that question is controlled and governed by his grandmother. It is very unlikely that permission would be given at this time. The big concern for the Queen and the Palace advisors is if Ms Markle is suitable, no one wants another blow-up like the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson or another Diana. Other events that could play are the old age of Prince Philip at 96 or the death of the Queen and Charles becoming King, any and all family events can have an impact on him and on all other members of the Royal Family, Brexit may also be another factor.
Eventually as years go by Prince Harry will be so far from the succession line that no one will care who he marries or his shacked up with, the Palace will focus their attention on Prince William, Catherine Duchess of Cambridge and his children George and Charlotte. Harry is destined to be like Princess Margaret (1930-2002) in the shadow of his sibling William. Let’s hope he does not start drinking and carousing. Let’s hope that Palace advisors find a role for him which is meaningful but that is not likely given the history of the family.
So yes Harry is a nice guy and has a nice public image and the press and the public love those interviews, they are so much fun and in the end gives a good image of the Royal Family.