Richard Palmer has written an excellent article for the Express calling for Prince William, Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry to step up their royal game lest the British Monarchy go the way of the dodo.
The piece is quite long, so I cannot quote the whole thing here (even taking out chucks, it’s still long), but it’s well worth it to read the whole thing – go here to do so. Some highlights:
Kate no longer sells: “The Duchess, the nation’s darling since her engagement to William in November 2010, has been heralded as a fashion icon and has taken on charity work to focus public attention on the long-neglected areas of children’s mental health and addiction. But hampered by a natural reserve, she has struggled at times to get her message across and the same themes every month have made it difficult to maintain interest. A thoughtful, intelligent but private person, she comes over as bland and dull. There are signs that the public are getting bored with her. Newspapers carrying front page pictures of her now often see sales dive and hits for online news about her particularly and the royals in general are plummeting despite an overall rise in internet readership.”
Kate choosing the HuffPo over UK papers backfired: “Kate’s judgement has proved questionable too. Many of Britain’s journalists are up in arms about her decision last week to guest edit the UK version of a US website, The Huffington Post, which relies largely on an army of 13,000 unpaid bloggers – or people paid by others to get their message across – to fill its pages. […] If Kate and her advisors at Kensington Palace had wanted to stick two fingers up to the mainstream British newspapers that follow the Royal Family week in week out, publicising its work with charities, the Armed Forces and others, they could not have picked a better method than championing an upstart online rival that does not appear to value professional journalism.”
William, Kate, and Harry’s attempts to control the media are hurting them: “It was the culmination of years of tension between press and palace, which has alienated newspaper editors with its attempts to control everything and prevent off-duty photographs of William, Kate, Harry and their children being published in Britain. Those censorship efforts… have gone way beyond traditional royal territory. But they rarely extend abroad, certainly not to Australia, for example, where pictures of Prince George and Princess Charlotte out with their nanny appeared again in a glossy magazine a few days ago. It is those sort of images that the public often wants to see. It is the public’s interest in how the royals live, how they get on together, who their friends and lovers are, and what they do in their spare time that has traditionally given the media the reason to cover the charities and other good causes the Queen and her family represent.
“William and Kate, and to a lesser extent Harry, have tried to smash apart this traditional pact with the Devil but the result is fewer and fewer people are interested in what they are doing. Even on official engagements, William has masterminded an attempt to put many of the veteran freelance photographers who have followed the royals for decades out of business by excluding them from the best picture opportunities. […] In addition, the Royal Household’s efforts to use Twitter, Facebook and other social media aggressively to get its message across have left the mainstream media struggling to find something new to say other than the negative. Again, it seems there is a strategy to put journalists out of business. ‘It will all go to social media eventually,’ one member of the Royal Family told me over a drink a while ago.
“If that has left journalists increasingly hostile, anecdotally, the public too seem fed up with the younger royals’ aggressive attempts to control the message via spin doctors. […] The problem for the royals is if media coverage dies and they cease to be a part of the national conversation, the writing may be on the wall eventually for the monarchy but, rightly or wrongly, the belief is growing in royal circles that William might not be too worried if that were to happen.”
Royal aides are even sick of William’s light work schedule: “In some parts of the Royal Household, where they work for the older royals, there is growing disdain for [William] and Kate and their light workload, based around their desire to hide away in the country at Anmer Hall, their 10-bedroom mansion on the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk. ‘It’s clear that the whole job with air ambulance was created for William because he wanted to live the lifestyle of a gentleman Norfolk farmer, like his friends,’ one senior source said. When [William] and Kate moved to North Wales in 2010 as a service couple, it was easier then to buy the argument that they needed time together out of the spotlight to bed in their marriage and enjoy a couple of years of relative freedom before the burdens of State. Six years on, the argument is wearing thin.”
William, Kate, and Harry need to rethink their current plans for the sake of the Monarchy: “The Royal Family remains a popular institution but a rethink is needed now. A first step should be for William, Kate and Harry, still huge assets for Britain, to change their plans, step up their number of royal duties, stop complaining about interest in their wider lives, and find some additional interesting, varied projects to champion. They remain a huge asset for Britain but they are squandering their popularity. I write this as a critical friend with a vested interest in preserving interest in the British monarchy. It would be a shame to see the job of royal correspondent go the same way as the newspaper labour correspondent of the 1970s or the zoological gardens correspondent of the 1950s.”
I don’t have many words, because Palmer said them all. But I will offer up my own experience as a blogger to echo some of what Palmer said. One of the most annoying things as a blogger is when I don’t have anything to write about, and by that I mean two things: 1) When the royals straight up don’t do anything; and 2) When they give me nothing during their engagements.
For every one of Kate’s engagements, I write the line “Kate visited [such and such] and talked to children/parents/staff/volunteers”. And a lot of the time, that’s all I have to write. It really sucks not having anything to write about other than clothes and what I can glean from (increasingly limited) photos. William, Kate, and Harry stepping up is not just about doing more appearances to me, it’s about actually saying or doing something so I have more to write about than “Kate visited such and such and talked to people while wearing a coat”.
One could argue that it’s selfish of me (I want the royals to step up so that I have a better time writing about them) and of Palmer (he wants the royals to step up so he can keep his job) but at the same time, most of the people of the UK will never meet the royals, so all they have is the press reports. If the press reports are boring to read and offer nothing new, then the public will stop caring about the royals. And if the public stops caring about the royals, then they will wonder why they have to keep funding them, and then… bye bye Monarchy.
I know some of you think Kate should be called out more by the press, and that Kate should be judged harsher for not working since she chose to be a royal and knew what she was getting in to. But the reason I think William should be called out more is because the hierarchy starts with William and goes down. William is the blood royal; he is the heir. A defense of people calling for Kate and Harry to work more is “But William doesn’t work that much either, so why should the spouse and non-heir work more?” If William worked more royal duties, then Kate and Harry could work more royal duties without “outshining” the blood heir. Then maybe all the work Harry supposedly does that doesn’t get counted in the court circular would get counted and I wouldn’t have to criticize him.
Keeping on that same train, I have thoughts about a quote from William during his engagement in Cardiff yesterday. William was in Cardiff for a reception with injured rugby players and to watch a Wales rugby game. During the reception he said this about Prince George and Princess Charlotte:
“No broken bones yet, but they’re trying. Running around, pushing things, jumping. Please tell me it gets easier. Charlotte is very easy, very sweet, but all the fathers say ‘just you wait, when you get to nine, 10, 11, they go crazy’. I’m looking forward to it, there will be some drama.”
Reading these quotes, I found myself not caring at all about what William had to say about George and Charlotte. While William and Kate periodically say stuff and release photos of their kids, I have no connection to George or especially Charlotte. It’s hard enough to build a (one-way) connection with someone you have never met, will never meet, and who lives a completely different life to yours through photos and videos of engagements, quotes, interviews, and speeches (which is what we do with the royals), but it’s even harder when it’s a child with a limited or no discernible personality and you so rarely see them.
While the train wreck that is the Cambridges’ relationship to the press is interesting to watch, I’m really getting apathetic to the whole royal thing. I thought it would be better once Kate started working again, but it hasn’t. They are just too boring. And neither William, Kate, or Harry have anything non-tour related scheduled so it doesn’t look like it will get any better.
As Palmer said, step up your game, William, Kate, and Harry. Because while some random American losing interest in you means nothing, the British people losing interest in you means a lot. Some things to keep in mind the next time you complain about your royal duties or the press/public interest in your and your kid’s lives while living the high life off of other people: The American, French, and Russian Revolutions.