‘The greatest show on earth’
Monarchy and media power
in Running the Family Firm
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This chapter focuses on the ‘frontstage’ of monarchy and regimes of visibility in media culture. The royal image has always been mediated, and royal history is a history of representations in different forms. Queen Elizabeth II has reigned over rapid technological expansion and socio-political change. From the emergence of television, through tabloid newspapers and paparazzi, to social media and citizen journalism (processes related to democratisation), the Firm has consistently faced new challenges in public engagement with monarchy. We now, arguably, have more access to monarchy than ever before. This chapter is interested in the effects of this access.

The chapter maps representations of monarchy from the Queen’s coronation in 1953, through other notable media/monarchy moments, including the Royal Family documentary (1969), It’s a Royal Knockout (1987), Princess Margaret’s and Princess Diana’s engagement with paparazzi cultures, the Netflix drama The Crown (2016–) and the development of royal social media accounts. What differences do particular media forms make to the (re)production of monarchy? And what challenges might these new media forms pose to royal representation? For example, how does royal representation play out when new media cultures offer increasing ‘intimacy’ with royalty, from live television to direct, public contact on social media? The chapter argues that the visibility of royal representations is carefully balanced with a paradoxical but co-dependent invisibility. The Firm cannot be too visible to public scrutiny, or it loses its mystique and its operations are unmasked. Therefore, visibility has to be tightly stage-managed and controlled.

Running the Family Firm

How the monarchy manages its image and our money

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