The Queen Mother had a famously simple rulebook: ‘Never complain, never explain, and rarely be heard speaking in public.’ The young royals instead are choosing a relentless PR campaign.
Don’t complain and don’t explain, the mystique of the monarchy! Is this a lost art?
The Queen Mother had a famously simple rulebook for members of the British royal family to follow if they wished to preserve their dignity and popularity: ‘Never complain, never explain, and rarely be heard speaking in public.’
She followed this maxim to the letter for 101 gloriously successful years, and died a deeply beloved and deeply respected woman without most Britons ever having heard her speak a single word.
I thought of her today, the late great Queen Elizabeth – mother of Queen Elizabeth II – after feeling myself drowning under a tsunami of competing media blitzes from the current crop of younger royals.
And I suspect she is looking down with a disapproving frown, saying to herself: ‘One’s had enough already!’
I don’t know what’s really going on in the reportedly feuding Palace life of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but I do know they’re behaving like they’re in a royal reality TV show where the winner gets most press coverage in a short period of time.
Leading the charge, naturally, is the Hollywood actress who seems to view publicity as a giant tiara-adorned tap from which she wishes to determinedly control every single droplet.
You’d think Meghan might have cooled the self-promoting jets after the recent birth of son Archie, given how much attention it attracted.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, at 5am, she and Prince Harry bombarded us with 14 photographs on their ‘Sussex Royal’ Instagram page to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.
The carefully selected images, all personally approved by the couple to show them in a ‘perfect’ light, formed part of a gushing video montage accompanied by the song This Little Light of Mine that was played as they left St George’s Chapel, Windsor on their wedding day.
It included a message to their 8.2 million Instagram followers: ‘Thank you for all of the love and support from so many of you around the world. Each of you made this day even more meaningful.’
All 8.2 million of these complete strangers made their wedding day ‘even more meaningful’?
I’d love to ask Harry and Meghan to name any one of the 8.2 million random people they believe made their day ‘even more meaningful’. Especially as some of Harry’s closest long-time male friends were not even deemed ‘meaningful’ enough to get an invited to their star-studded evening wedding party.
There’s also a delicious irony in them being so aggressively self-promoting on social media, just weeks after Harry launched a campaign to stop people using social media so much because of the mental health damage he believes it causes.
Just as with his unfortunate tendency to preach about saving the planet as he uses helicopters for 100 mile journeys, I’m afraid it all smacks of ‘do what we say, not what we do..’
The whiff of hypocrisy stretches wider.
Harry and Meghan’s wedding anniversary photos appeared at the same time as some of her closest friends gave interviews to a US TV documentary airing on CBS in America, hosted by Gayle King, her new good friend and Oprah Winfrey’s old best friend.
She was never a friend to MM until she married Harry
The friends, led by her tearful long time make-up artist Daniel Martin, lined up to say how fabulous Meghan is, what a ‘low maintenance and hands on’ mother she will be, how unfair all the negative press about her has been, and how she is categorically ‘NOT A DIVA!’
(Pro tip: whenever people repeatedly have to get their friends to deny they’re a diva, you know they’re a diva)
This is the second time Meghan’s close friends have gone public to defend her – on the previous occasion it was in People magazine to counter adverse headlines over the father she’s shunned – and both times she briefed the press that it had nothing to do with her.
To which I say: poppycock.
Of course she approved her friends to talk out.
You think any of them would risk her freezing them out, as she has so many other people in her past including her own father, if she hadn’t?
Meghan’s an actress who is very used to spinning favourable media coverage. And spinning it she most definitely is.
But this is a very dangerous game to play when your husband has made such a song and dance about demanding privacy from the media, especially in relation to his wife.
I was already exhausted by the relentless Sussex PR onslaught in the past couple of weeks.
But then came the Cambridges.
Not to be outdone by their Kensington Palace rivals, Prince Williams and his wife Kate raced to post their own photographs, of their three children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis at the Chelsea Flower Show.
The images, which appeared on the Kensington Palace Instagram page at 10pm last night, were intimate family pictures but taken in a very controlled manner.
No chance of any paparazzi getting an ‘unapproved’ shot.
The message from the photos was clear: ‘We’re also great parents, and also a great couple too!’
Just a few minutes later, in a BBC TV programme, Prince William appeared in his latest mental health initiative, using soccer to encourage men to speak about their emotions.
With all due respect to William, barely a week goes by these days when either he or Harry isn’t beseeching we men to gush about our emotions, even if many of us don’t want to thanks all the same.
His latest entreaty meant that in the space of just a few hours, the media that both Princes profess to dislike, were deliberately bombarded with a torrent of photos, quotes and stories – all competing for attention from newspapers, television and radio.
That’s not the way the carefully coordinated way the royals usually do things, and it’s not a way they should do things.
It smacks of both royal camps trying to get one over each other, which if true will just further fuel all the feud rumours.
Meanwhile, there’s another problem that I think is important to highlight: more senior members of the Royal Family are seeing their hard work virtually ignored by the media.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, both septuagenarians, just finished a very successful tour of Germany that barely registered on the media spectrum due to the latest PR blitz from the younger royals.
In March, Charles and Camilla also performed 50 engagements on 10 different islands during their equally successful tour of the Caribbean, including Cuba.
Yet that too was virtually blown away by incessant Meghan, Harry, Wills, Kate news.
That’s hardly surprising given how intensely personal and touchy-feely these younger royals prefer to be.
Of course, it was Princess Diana who sparked all this new style ‘emoting’.
She was the Queen of Hearts who never stopped complaining, explaining and speaking in public.
I loved Diana but the royals have never been quite the same since she detonated onto the global stage as a genuine A-list celebrity superstar, but also as someone who very publicly wore her heart on her sleeve.
Old-fashioned decorum is now frowned upon, a stiff upper lip even more reviled, and silence most definitely not considered golden.
Yet the biggest royal star of them all, Her Majesty the Queen, is universally revered – just like her mother before her – for behaving in exactly that way.
There’s a balance to be struck between being a proper royal and being relatable – and right now, I think the Sussexes and Cambridges are missing it.
It’s time for them to stop their silly PR war, and to stop overloading us with so much self-promoting ‘stuff’.
As William and Harry’s great-grandmother would tell them if she were still alive: stop complaining, stop explaining, and stop speaking – and emoting! – so much in public.