The “Fairy Tale” Royal engagement, announced yesterday, prompted an outpouring of joy in this morning’s papers. The red tops in particular are euphoric, filled to the brim with jubilant headlines and rapturous copy. I suspect the coverage arouses hope that the event will provide succour to their declining readership and influence. Past trends suggest papers do sell on these occasions, but beware the thread of over-optimism.
Hypnotised by the acres of print and online clamour, I have become absorbed by the stratagems and apparatus of the rejuvenated Royal PR pixies. This was not a unrehearsed, impromptu public announcement. The manoeuvre was contrived and pre-planned and immensely successful. Gobbets of positive content were distributed by sources close to the couple as well as the disconnected, well-prepared Royal experts. There was no vacuous emptiness on display. The proceeding nine years of official and off piste snapped moments, images of the couples’ courtship were all recycled and resulted in a gluttonous feeding frenzy. In the information age, nine years is a lifetime, generating a huge amount of detritus to reprocess and attribute.
Back in 1981 two thirds of the great British unwashed thought a Royal wedding was a good idea. Can the same be said now? Will they be put off by the fact that, just as we see the flowering of sensible Royal PR, we are also enduring the PR cliche, the spew and slew of endless opportunist press releases, cashing in on the euphoria?
Kate looks like the Harmony Hairspray girl, William the clichéd royal who would not look out of place in a walk on cameo in Downton Abbey – the soldier/king, the defender of the realm – an Action man with flock receding hair and moveable eagle eye action via a switch in his back. The announcement signals a new age of Royal PR. Despite the odd photographic clanger (who can forget Kate’s see through fashion corrigenda?) the future King and Queen did not create any negative PR courtship hiccoughs. Even the separation was a dignified non media moment.
The image of Kate is nothing less than that of virgin queen in the making. Very much like her deceased mother-in-law to be, before she was corrupted by the internal politics of the Firm, who were desperate to cast her as a whore. Kate is of fine middle-class stock and nine years have resolutely failed to throw up any closet skeletons. Past beaus seem discreet, tight-lipped, serenely old-fashioned and a little Tony Snowdonesque.
A consequence of his mother’s untimely death is that William has been thrust into an uncertain PR limelight. Luckily, he has a good-time brother desperately in search of a purpose. Harry’s boorish, laddish pursuits and inappropriate fancy dress have plagued his brand – but it has made William’s stronger.
Every magician learns that the real skill is the art of distraction. William has developed an arms length policy to the media and a healthy indifference. Maybe this will be the way forward, a new PR disposition. I predict a steadfast dignity, a positive working relationship littered with controlled sound bites and pooled interviews with carefully chosen journalists. Move aside impertinent journalistic zeal, bring on Holly Willoghby!
Don’t expect Its a Royal Knockout. There will be an elevated dignity and style with a nice touch of the un-ostentatious commoner. I have laid a bet with Ladbrokes naming the month and year Kate will be labelled the New People’s Princess.
Will Kate be the first queen to run a twitter account? Somehow, I don’t think so. They will be closer to a modernised 1950s household. This might be the age of open dialogue on and off line but they feel quaintly traditionalist despite the modern – and occasionally see through clothing. I believe the future king and queen might set a new PR high tide mark. They might even (just) be able to corral the voraciously gossip hungry horde. The way their future is being planned suggests that a lot of hope is being placed in their ability to rejuvenate the House of Windsor. Strong genetics suggests that William may have a long wait before he can sit on the big seat, though.
The only PR black spot was the fact that they will be using Diana’s ring. I hope this emblem of divorce and death does not become the ill-fated atavistic metaphor.