Republic Analysis

The British Royal Family: A cult of obsession

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

Support for an Australian Republic referendum is persistently stifled by the mainstream media's obsession with treating the Royal family as celebrities, writes Rosemary Sorensen.

THE BRITISH ROYALS’ public relations department – no doubt numbering more workers than the entire workforce of an average-sized hospital – must be currently working very hard to prop up the expensively-maintained image of a family that is, in reality, beset by rather a lot of strife.

Following the death of the mild-mannered matriarch, King Charles III and his Queen Camilla are a tough call for the most inventive image-masseurs — what with his impatience towards the underlings and their lack of that graciousness that Elizabeth II was able to display, seemingly at will.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are another fly in the ointment – and Edward more than an embarrassment – so it’s not surprising that, of late, the PR people are going hard on Prince William, Kate Middleton and their offspring.

There must have been conniptions in the PR bunker when that weird poorly manipulated photo of Kate and children was disseminated, presumably in a disastrous attempt to reassure people she was okay, given the leakage of gossip about her cancer diagnosis.

William is pretty "bland" and Kate is "pretty", so it appears they decided to turn photo-gate to advantage. Oh, look, images of William dad-dancing in the Royal Box at a Taylor Swift concert. See here, a “peek” into the family album full of Kate’s snaps of her lovely family. Nice. Normal.

There’s just a hint that the attempt to make these rich, powerful and protected people into an ordinary-style happy family is not quite the vote-winner it used to be.

The ABC dutifully reproduced the family snaps and the dad-dancing video was popular on news sites, probably because it gave another opportunity to report on Taylor Swift.

It’s become such a handy cliché to boast grade-A-parenting by reporting that someone moved small mountains in order to get Swiftian concert tickets for young family members. Lucky them, eh, but as the schmaltzy photos sit on news sites alongside the awful images coming out of Palestine, such attempts at reputation massaging ring off-key.

The intensity of the Royalty-media campaign against Harry and Megan might have done lasting loyalty damage — not to those who do royalty like a religion, but to those who thought it was okay and maybe even a good thing, those who enjoy a bit of pomp and ceremony.

Prince Edward is so not a good thing, however and nor is the cruelty towards a perceived outsider. Takes something of the gloss off the brand, despite all the glittering jewels.

Apparently, our King and his Queen are planning to grace our shores in October, to coincide with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Samoa.

Will reports that the visit will now be limited on account of the King’s health upset many people? If a Roy Morgan survey of 1,000 people conducted in 2022 can be trusted, it will.

That survey claimed 60 per cent of Australians want to retain their allegiance to Britain’s monarchy. It’s worth noting they asked people if they preferred the Monarchy or a Republic 'with an elected President', which was the detail with which John Howard’s Coalition Government scuttled the Republic Referendum for a generation.

If the role of royalty is not undergoing revision here, in the home country, it is. Britain’s National Centre for Social Research reports that support for the Monarchy is just over 50 per cent — so it’s lower than in Australia, supposedly!

No wonder the PR Office would rather pin its hopes for a rise in Royal fortunes on the Future King William and can see merit in this fantasy that they’re special people but also ordinary — privileged but not without charm, aloof but accessible.

Almost feel sorry for them trying to maintain that illusion.

When this reporter was at school, we were bused to stand beside a highway and given little flags to wave for when Queen Elizabeth II was driven by.

It occurs to this reporter all these years later that we were not actually given the option not to be bused out to stand for ages with all the other schoolchildren of Adelaide to see our nominal Head of State.

Cavalcades were a thing back then and we were subservient subjects. It would have been good if the school had given us all a basic history lesson about British colonialism prior to the parade — but, as the staunch monarchist Howard was wont to opine, that would have been “black armband” history.

The message was and still is, that we must not look back in anger. Keep waving your tiny flags, kiddies. As a reward, we get to see those “adorable” pictures.

Rosemary Sorensen was a newspaper, books and arts journalist based in Melbourne, then Brisbane, before moving to regional Victoria, where she founded the Bendigo Writers Festival, which she directed for 13 years.

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