Wednesday, 19 Jun 2024

The Windsors now face an even bigger threat than Meghan Markle

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As a global brand, you’d suspect you’re in strife if the most headline-making thing to happen in a week is one of your senior execs has his finger sucked by a baby.

People, I give you the current marketing dilemmas of the British royal family.

King Charles III will sit on a gilded throne and read out the King’s Speech during the opening of parliament at Westminster. The speech will be a list of planned laws drawn up by the government and likely aimed at winning over voters ahead of an election next year.Credit: AP

Courtesy of a social media video, we had Prince William lobbing at Singapore’s Changi airport. In town for his worthy Earthshot Prize, William picked little Albane Costa out of the crowd – and the kid honked onto the royal fingie.

The heir, beneficiary of the best education money can buy and tonnes of public speaking training, showcased his line in sparkling repartee. “Very sweet,” he said of piranha baby.

Hmm, what to say next, what to say next? Think, William. Right. “Is he sleeping OK?” he asked the woman hefting Albane. “Good. I need my finger. I need my finger back!”

So the writers for The Crown won’t be too worried a real royal will steal their jobs, but the interesting part is William’s digit drama was more gripping than the actual main event for the Windsors: King Charles delivering his first King’s Speech since becoming monarch.

There were the usual traditional accoutrements – pantomime coach, gussied up Queen, loyal minions galore – but minus the magic fairy dust of the late QEII, the effect was more “for our next trick, we will now slowly bore you to death” rather than time-honoured pageantry.

Lord knows I adore Charles (sheesh, that man can dress), but he looked less like a king in his pomp, more like a character actor on the set of a Johnny English remake. Right down to the dusting of face powder and hint of lippie.

Catherine, Princess of Wales, was commended for her driving during a royal outing. Credit: Getty

There he was in the fluff-lined crown, pledging investment in transport and laws to stop kids smoking. And suddenly, after decades of being obsessed by everything the royals do, say and wear, of writing countless magazine covers and newspaper stories about their intrigues, I started feeling …. Nothing.

Started wondering if their required, smart push for modernisation has backfired and made them less relevant rather than more. Started wondering if it’s time to call last drinks and let them just go off and garden, fly choppers, ride horses, raise kids.

Next day, photos of the Princess of Wales decked out in helmet and military gear to drive a seven-tonne armoured vehicle. She looked like Rambo in that bit in Rambo II where he camouflages himself as a tree and sets all the unlikely booby traps.

Normally seeing Kate out and about earning her keep lifts my spirits, although the trouser-suit-serious-working-lady thing is getting a bit meh. But here I was almost scoffing at her driving escort’s comments that she was “a natural” at fanging it in the little tank.

Course she was. Imagine telling the truth, ever, about the royals. i.e. “They sucked at hockey”, or “Their dance style was reminiscent of Kramer in the shrunken jeans.”

It’s definitely the Charles Effect – male, pale, stale – although there’s not much they can do about that for a decade or two. They’re stuck with a PR dud.

But it’s also that as a team, the Windsors’ new strategy of showing their cards seems to be to the opposite of Queen Elizabeth’s “never complain, never explain”.

William, Kate and Princess Anne have podcasted with Mike Tindall. Fergie posts updates on her breast cancer battle. We’ve heard from Kate that William thinks she’s “crazy” for her love of cold water swimming. Fabulously, we know about Harold and Willy’s kitchen wrestle that claimed a necklace and dog bowl as casualties.

The mystique is being leached away. A contemporary approach and not the worst thing ever, but surely being relatable is fundamentally at odds with the British public paying squillions for their royals to be special?

It would be ironic if The Firm survived the explosive crises of the Montecito Two and Prince Andrew, only to be stymied by a more silent one. People immune to their status. Irrelevance.

Kate Halfpenny is the founder of Bad Mother Media.

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