The Selling of the Royal Family

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

There was no real effort on the part of the royal family to make themselves popular with the common people until the reign of King George V and Queen Mary in 1910. The queen’s sense of thrift and self-control, coming on the heels of the previous king’s extravagances, endeared her to the public. She made use of the popular press to point out her anxiety as a wife and mother during the war years, thus making the monarchy seem more human, and she instigated her husband’s Christmas radio broadcasts to the nation.

Queen Elizabeth, the “Queen Mother” as she is known today, followed Mary’s lead in using the media to bring about a favorable public image. Because of her influence, her daughter Elizabeth was very popular when she ascended to the throne in 1952; the television coverage of her coronation gave the event the magic quality of a fairy tale. The new royal family, however, mistrusted the media and shied away from it. Not until the late 1960’s did they make an effort to use the media for public relations, when Prince Charles came of age and was invested as Prince of Wales, thus assuming a more public role.

Throughout the book, which is in itself a “selling” of the royal family, one is treated to glimpses of notoriety and scandal as well as great accomplishments. How the royal family manages to stay popular through some of the escapades is clearly a matter of how the problems are handled, both by the media and by the Crown. In spite of a few drawbacks, such as the use of nicknames that do not appear on the genealogical charts, this book is highly readable and very entertaining.