Tom Sykes at the Daily Beast – he’s their Royalist guy – had a very, very interesting piece about Buckingham Palace’s new “Magnificent Seven” branding. The first time I heard that name for the seven royal figures was in conjunction with their thrown-together Commonwealth Day BBC special. The Magnificent Seven are: QEII, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Earl and Countess of Wessex
and Princess Anne. They’re all being trotted out for the pre-Commonwealth Day thing to compete with the Sussexes’ Oprah interview. We’ve heard before about Buckingham Palace’s scramble to try to rebrand the working Windsors following the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s exit, but the problem has always been that the remaining working royals are dull and free of charisma. They desperately needed Meghan and Harry’s sparkle and glamour. Sykes’ point – and he uses quotes from other people to make that point – is that the Sussexit represented the monarchy’s fundamental inability to modernize, and that inability will lead to their demise. Some highlights:
The British monarchy “is a patient that is sick and has long been getting sicker.” The arrival of Harry and Meghan on the scene promised a dusting of humanity and glitter to distract the punters from the essential absurdity of a 21st-century monarchy, not to mention its irrelevance to their lives. Their untimely departure has only served, however, to reveal the royal establishment’s dire, possibly terminal, condition in an even starker light. Senior courtiers’ and aides’ answer to this, so far, seems to be that they will throw the other royals at the problem.
The stupidity of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ branding: Critics would say it’s harder to think of a paler and staler representation of Britishness. And it’s not entirely clear whether William and Kate fancy the rest of their lives being a never-ending treadmill of opening civic centers and gyms. They have long been criticized for their lowly work rate, which tends to hover at around 150 public engagements per annum (this sounds quite a bit, until you factor in that they’ll often do three or even four engagements on one day).
Crisis management: Mark Borkowski, the British crisis management veteran who has a longstanding fascination with the branding of the royals, told The Daily Beast that the departure of Harry and Meghan need so be seen in the context of “the bigger question” which is what happens when the queen dies. When things have gone wrong for the royals in the past, he pointed out, it has always been the queen who has “put everything back on track.” Charles, who is not held in the same affection or respect, won’t be able to do that as easily.
Young people don’t care about the Windsors: Borkowski also says, “The William and Harry project was shaping up to be something that was presenting royals in a touchy feely way. Harry and Meghan’s departure accelerates, to a young and mobile audience, the impression that the monarchy cannot truly modernize.” Borkowski does not see the monarchy, which has “an inbuilt ability to protect itself” falling, but he said it risks becoming a “heritage brand.” Meghan and Harry’s departure should be “a wake-up call” to the monarchy to start thinking how it can stay relevant. It is time to start thinking about the future again, and, he suggested, “the future is Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.”
Robert Lacey agrees that the monarchy is in significant danger: “We have already seen a coming to the fore of not just Prince George but of all the Cambridge children. Two years ago, I suspect that William and Catherine would never have foreseen their children being interviewed on television at such a tender age, albeit in the context of a friendly chat with ‘Uncle’ David Attenborough. They probably would not have imagined putting their children on Instagram either, but needs must…. Prince Charles’ vision of the slimmed-down monarchy depended on his two sons with their wives and families providing the twin pillars of the monarchy—to the exclusion of the various Kents and Gloucesters and Yorks. The departure of Harry and Meghan has left a big gap to fill.”
When you think about it, the Windsors find themselves in a perfect storm of self-defeating crisis. The Queen is too tone-deaf, tunnel-visioned and set in her ways to change. Charles has spent his entire life fearful of being forgotten and overshadowed, so he can’t stand when other people in his family shine brighter than him. William and Kate are lazy, petty and vindictive, and they could not stand it when they were so easily overshadowed by Harry and Meghan. None of this is a branding issue, it’s all a dysfunctional (even psychologically abusive) family issue, and one which has no simple answer. So… I mean, it’s going to get so interesting in the next decade. Whew.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid, WENN.