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How Do The Royals Persuade The Public To Love Them?

The British Royals seem to be everywhere nowadays. They’re permanent fixtures in the tabloids and social media, with discussion topics ranging from fangirling over Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement photos to debating whether Prince William looks better with a shaved head (the answer is yes—half a head of hair looks good on no one, Wills).

Despite not liking a lot of things (commuting, Americans, fuzzy dice), the Brits love the Royal family. And they have for a long time: public support has held at a steady 82% since the ‘60s, according to data from Ipsos Mori. It may seem obvious why the public loves the Royal family: they represent a long-standing tradition; they’re a national symbol; and they’re absolutely, unequivocally British. However, what many don’t know is how the Royals adapted over the century to retain the public’s approval.

While today the future King of England is referred to as “the Dude” by his brother, when the Queen was coronated in 1952, the public thought of the Royal family a tad differently. “Apparently, one-third of people thought [the Queen] had been chosen by God,” constitutional expert Vernon Bogdor told the Telegraph. To those familiar with Royal history, this comes as no surprise—Kings and Queens were thought to obtain their “divine right” to rule from God. Now, things have changed, and the Royals obtain their right to rule from the people.

Prominent historian David Starkey noted, “In the age of democracy the Crown has to be like any other brand. It has to win the respect of the people.” It’s true—the Royals are a brand, one with similar PR rules to your favourite corporation. As religion is currently much less influential in forming public opinion, the Queen can’t exactly say, “But God told me to!” It might cause a few raised eyebrows. But they can convince the public that they deserve to be in the position of power they’re in.

The Royals are currently judged on how much service they provide to the community. They also foster diplomatic relations and serve as a symbol of national unity. They’re also more transparent: they offer glimpses into their homes, and regularly conduct interviews. However, for years, behind the walls of the palace was a mysterious, “magical” place, a world completely separate from a normal “commoner.” But a series of crises in the ‘90s caused them to reevaluate their brand.

The ‘90s were a time of grunge, scrunchies, and girl power, but only ‘90s kids remember the Royal scandals that plagued the decade. Prince Charles’ and Princess Diana’s divorce in 1996 shattered the image of the Royals being the ideal, nuclear family. And Princess Diana’s death in 1997 caused public outcry against the Royals, labelling them out of touch with the people.

The problem with fame is cultivating and keeping public trust and approval. Let’s say, a man called Donald establishes from the get-go that he is loud, brash, outspoken and narcissistic. If he were to act that way on the record, the public wouldn’t bat an eye, and it would take a lot for them to be startled. However, the Royal family have a very different public image: they’re powerful, reserved, traditional and uphold family values. The ‘90s scandals contradicted this image, and that’s when the public got angry.

So, how did they recover? Well, when a famous person’s real self is “discovered,” they admit it, but invite the public into their private lives, and establish a new sense of authenticity. The Queen and Prince Charles promised transparency in the Palace’s finances and committed the Crown to more public service. They showed emotion in a heartfelt tribute to Diana, and contrary to Royal tradition, made a public appearance at Diana’s memorial. Their brand changing from a “magical” palace to a “people’s” palace was due to public demand.

Contrary to the ‘50s, today the people love to believe a famous person is real. Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle exemplify the Stars: They’re Just Like Us! aspect of the Royals which has kept the public captivated over the past few years. While maybe you don’t care about what coat Meghan is wearing, you’ve got to admire the Crown’s steady dominance of public conversation.

At 65 years on the throne and 91 years of age, old Liz is now the longest reigning monarch ever. Despite the scandals, the Royals have maintained a somewhat steady favourable public image, displaying flexibility when needed, but always winning in the end. Whether it be simply excellent PR or a true national symbol, the Brits love the Royals, and show no sign of stopping.

Finally: Wills, don’t grow the hair back. Seriously.

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Ella is proud to be HC Western's President for the 2017-2018 year.
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