From the inception of the monarchy, those at the top of the pile have been afforded a certain air of celebrity in such a way that predates any other, perhaps with the exception of the great statesmen and thinkers of the classical world. Their position can be explained fairly easily by factors such as wealth, strength, religion and intellect, however, with the rise of representational government and separation of monarchy from state the Royal family has had to adapt in order to justify the retention of their copious tax-funded wealth and enormous land holdings.
Putting aside the obvious arguments, such as generation of tourism and continuation of tradition, we see that something far more sinister is at play in the upholding of the monarchy. The public are thirsty for the blood of royalty. They want to see scandal after scandal, fall from grace after fall from grace, they want nothing to be private and all to be public. As someone fairly apathetic towards the Royal family, I have no particular loyalties to the monarchy, however, they are still people just like you or I (despite historical claims to the contrary). Now that they have very little real power and are just enacting a deep and rich tradition, they owe the continuation of their relevance to modern media. The relationship between the two parties has been notably toxic. From the continual hounding of Princess Diana to the intrusive media presence at the birth of Kate and Will’s first child, the family has been afforded little in the way of privacy and respect. This is to be expected, it can be attacked and questioned, but ultimately it is an unavoidable symptom of celebrity culture- a culture in which the Royal family have found themselves transferred into.
Without a mandate from God to seek subservience and ultimate loyalty from the British people, the Royal family have fallen in between the two spheres of those who are deserving of their fame and those who will do anything to gain five minutes in the limelight before dropping into the nebulous oblivion that is Christmas light turn-ons and saturday night club appearances. They neither seek fame, nor have they done anything to actively warrant the spotlight being thrust so vigorously on them. There are obvious exceptions to this, Prince William’s philanthropic work, his brother’s creation of the Invictus Games and the Queen’s commitment to acceleration of decolonisation are all examples of good work deserving of acknowledgement. The automatic thrust into the world of celebrity places the responsibility on the individual in question. A responsibility to use the wealth, influence and power entrusted and afforded to you.
The new generation of Royals are growing up, they’re normalising, the recent engagement of Prince Harry and Megan Markle typifies such a change. I don’t wish to highlight the overplayed faux-progressive checklist that many attempt to tick off when discussing Megan Markle’s past life and character, however the inference is there. It is more telling of Harry’s character, the ‘ground-breaking’ firsts that are reported are hardly such, they are indicative of the person she is marrying not a momentous shift in the attitudes of the Royal family. For some reason, the media cannot believe that Prince Harry is simply a normal person, capable of making mistakes and also of marrying someone he loves without setting a massive historical precedent and marking an era of sweeping radical social change. The Royal family are not capable of such a thing, their relevance lies in the individual, not in the institution.