This week’s cover of The New Yorker says it all: a cartoon of Prince William and Kate Middleton in bed, with Prince Charles and the Queen hovering over while the paparazzi photographs the young couple.
It’s undeniable that the House of Windsor has embraced the media. A piece of evidence? The ninety-six page media briefing made public by St. James’s Palace, which lists every detail about the upcoming wedding, for starters. Then there’s the official website of the British Monarchy, complete with an images gallery and a link to an official Facebook page. Though I can’t exactly see the Queen playing Mafia Wars.
For a family so traditional and conservative, the Royal Family plays up to the media to an extent that’s comparable to the Kardashians. I wouldn’t be surprised if Prince Charles and Camilla produce a unisex fragrance together. But there’s a method behind their media-madness: the Royals need to stay relevant. And the reason why is the same existential issue that plagues us all—if they don’t stay relevant, they will be nobodies.
Although they have tremendous influence on the United Kingdom, the Royal Family has no political power. In fact, they don’t even vote, and it’s not customary for a Royal to run for office, either. And, as the Vancouver Sun put it, the monarchy is “archaic, expensive, elitist, anti-democratic, discriminatory against Catholics and women, and prone to the most outrageous of scandals.”
But tradition is important to the English, and with a tradition going on nearly a millennium, ending it would seem tragic. It would be like that episode of Friends when Pheobe puts down the ball the gang has been passing around all day.
Former English politician Jeffrey Archer said, “We have very old traditional country, we like not to throw our history in to the dustbin quite that fast. Perhaps the next generation will say, well, enough is enough, but I know my generation would feel very safe with the strong royal family.”
It’s the “perhaps” in that sentence that’s keeping the Royals doing everything short of signing on for their own reality show. After Princess Diana’s death, the House of Windsor hasn’t gotten much attention, which leaves them an endangered species. To defend against a possible extinction, the Royal Family has thrust William and Kate into the spotlight—despite the kids’ desire to live a normal, private life.
After his own mother was killed while dodging the paparazzi, William has expressed his own indignation with the media, with his spokesperson saying, “What Prince William wants more than anything is for the paparazzi to stop harassing her (Middleton).”
The paparazzi might let up a bit, but it doesn’t look like the camera flashing is going to stop completely anytime soon. The Queen and Prince Charles will be there to make sure the monarchy stays as important and endeared as possible. So far, this thousand year-old tradition looks like it’s sticking.
Says Archer: “My own belief is that the royal family will survive.”