The prince, the media and a Markle debacle
Is The Firm fit for purpose? All week, Kensington Palace has struggled to keep up with a run of bad press stories surrounding Meghan Markle’s family. Aren’t they supposed to be good at this?
For months, Kensington Palace has been tightly controlling the narrative around tomorrow’s royal wedding. Small details have slowly been drip fed to the media: a lemon elderflower cake; locally sourced vegetables at the reception; an invitation to 1,200 members of the public.
In the last fortnight, that grip on the press has started to fall apart. First, Meghan Markle’s half-brother penned an open letter to Prince Harry calling their nuptials “the biggest mistake in royal wedding history”.
Then there was the debacle over her father’s staged paparazzi shots, followed by days of speculation about whether he would go to the wedding. In the end it emerged that he will not attend for medical reasons.
Meanwhile, relatives from both sides of the family complained about being “snubbed” from the guest list. Although it is rumoured that three Spice Girls and two ex-girlfriends will be at the service, Meghan’s mother is now the only one of her relatives attending. The rest of her family, most of whom are estranged, have flown to the UK anyway.
“Every well-laid plan of the palace is consumed by the soap-opera drama playing out well beyond its control,” wrote the BBC’s royal correspondent.
Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine was less patient. Yesterday she published 10 questions about the wedding’s “PR disaster”, the biggest being: “How did the Palace get it so horribly wrong?”
“There is arguably no organisation on this planet with more experience of staging public weddings, pageants and general pompery than the Royal Household,” she wrote. “So why did they completely fail to see the problems inherent in the complex Markle family dynamics?”
The royal relationship with the media has always been strained. Prince William and Harry are particularly concerned about privacy due to the death of their mother, Diana; only one reporter will be allowed inside the church tomorrow.
Has the royal family lost its touch?
A firm hand
Yes, say some. With lots of money and no political power, the royals are already remote from most people’s lives. Big events like weddings and jubilees are supposed to bring the country together. But if the princes insist on shutting out the media, and the palace can no longer organise a wedding without chaos, what is the point of keeping them around?
No wedding is without its stress and surprises, others point out, but they will all be forgotten tomorrow once the celebrations begin. The majority of the British public still think the monarchy is good for the country, and they are right. The royals represent history, unity and stability — and they have survived much worse than this week. If anything, the mishaps only help to make them seem more relatable.
- Does Britain still need its royal family?
- Has the media covered the royal wedding well so far?
- Imagine you are a journalist who has been given five minutes to interview Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on the eve of their wedding. What questions would you ask them?
- All countries have an official head of state. Britain’s is the Queen and the US’s is President Donald Trump, for example. Split into groups and imagine you are starting a new country. Design its political system by answering the following questions: How is the person chosen? How much power do they have? How long do they keep the job?
Some People Say...
“The deviation from monarchy is tyranny; for both are forms of one-man rule, but… the tyrant looks to his own advantage, the king to that of his subjects.”Aristotle
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- In total, 600 people will attend the wedding service in St George’s Chapel at 12pm tomorrow. The service will be filmed by a single pool camera, with that footage broadcast on television networks around the world. Just four photographers are allowed to take pictures outside. This is significantly fewer than those who attended and reported on Prince William’s wedding in 2011.
- What do we not know?
- Who else is attending. Several family members have spoken out about not receiving an invitation, including most of Meghan’s family and the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson (who used to be married to Prince Andrew). Kensington Palace has reportedly confirmed that the youngest royal, one-month-old Prince Louis, will not be there.
- Kensington Palace
- The residence, and the press office, of the younger royals (William, Harry and their families.)
- On Sunday, The Daily Mail published evidence that Thomas Markle had staged paparazzi photos of himself reading about Britain, getting measured for a suit and looking at pictures of the couple online.
- Thomas Markle had surgery on Wednesday morning, following a heart attack the week before. TMZ reports that he is alert and recovering.
- Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton and Geri Halliwell, if you are interested.
- The Princess of Wales died in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997. She was being chased by photographers at the time, and it is believed that Prince Harry privately blames the media for her death.
- Although the Queen is the UK’s official head of state, all political decisions are made by the democratically elected government.
- In 2015, a YouGov poll found that 68% of Britons thought the monarchy was good for Britain.