Topless royals talk about their lives
“We must not let daylight in upon magic,” 19th-century constitutionalist and editor of the Economist Walter Bagehot once wrote, discussing the need to keep some mystique for the monarchy.
There’s daylight, of course, and then there’s daylight.
Bagehot would be choking into his whiskers if he were to see just how much daylight has been let onto the royals over the past generation.
The latest round of tabloid-driven frenzy – Duchess Kate's topless sojourn and Prince Harry’s naked partying – might lead the casual observer to conclude that the current generation of royals has discarded their mystique along with the rest of their kit.
The world has been delighted with these matters before in recent times:
- Princess Diana being snapped at her gym back in the mid-1990s.
- Fergie being caught on film sucking the toes of some dubious millionaire.
- And, of course, Prince Charles being recorded telling his then mistress, now wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, that he wanted to be reincarnated as a tampon.
Has the latest round of paparazzi-clicking, tabloid driven frenzy damaged the Royal brand? Is this going to diminish the monarchy in the eyes of the public?
So far, it does not seem to have done so.
Prince William and Duchess Kate seem to sell a lot of newspapers and draw the eyeballs to screens, whether they are being snapped on a private beach or – as they were this week – dancing at a ceremony on Tuvalu.
“No publicity is bad publicity”, is how Professor Rod Brodie, head of marketing at Auckland University business school, puts it.
But Professor Brodie, who has specialised in brand management, among other marketing disciplines, goes further than that.
The current generation of young royals – Prince William and Duchess Kate, along with Prince Harry – are “revitalising” the royal brand, he told NBR ONLINE.
That applies to the planned public appearances, such as the current tour around the Pacific, and even to the unplanned events like the naked photos.
“I think the younger generation will just see this as part and parcel of living in the world today and not worry all that much about it.”
Although he does not quite put it this way, Professor Brodie’s view can be summed up by saying that many younger people know what it's like to have an embarrassing moment of themselves posted on Facebook or somewhere else on the internet, and would not be too concerned about such trivia.
Any opprobrium will probably be reserved for the people who took the photos.
The head of Monarchy NZ, Sean Palmer, sees the fuss over the naked photos as a way of drawing attention to more serious matters and does not see it as damaging "Brand Windsor" or the monarchy in general.
“The monarchy has always adapted rather well to the times. That is how it has survived,” he says.
“We’re in a constitutional monarchy, and it is a very stable system – many people in the world would dream of having our system of government. We don't think about it very often, and that's a good sign.
“But because it runs so well most people don’t think about it very much.
“A constitutional monarchy running well doesn’t make the news: a topless photo does. But I think that taking a lengthy view, this will only be a blip on the radar.”