In Europe there are only ten monarchies left: The Kingdom Belgium, The Kingdom Denmark, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, The Principality Liechtenstein, The Grand Duchy Luxembourg, The Principality Monaco, The Kingdom of the Netherlands, The Kingdom Norway, The Kingdom Spain, The Kingdom Sweden.
The English Monarchy is of tremendous historical value to the world at large. Forget about whatever revenue may come from tourism. The Royals are a link to the grand past of the British Empire; they donate millions to charity and inspire a sense of true nationalism.
In the 1930s the BBC began to manufacture a new image for the British royal family. In 1932 George V made the first Christmas broadcast to his people. John Reith, the BBC’s Director General, made suggestions about what royalty might say, and in 1936 personally stage-managed Edward VIII’s abdication speech.
The funeral of one king, the abdication of a second and the coronation of a third within 16 months provided the BBC with marvelous opportunities for pathos and pageantry. The coronation of George VI in 1937 was the most elaborate outside broadcast yet undertaken, and arguably the first large-scale “media event”.
A very few of the king’s subjects, in southeast England, could watch it on television; for the next coronation, in 1953, more than a million television sets were sold. This was the world’ s first truly international television outside broadcast, relayed live to France, Holland and West Germany. Some 500 million people around the world watched the investiture of Prince Charles in 1969, and 750 million witnessed his “fairytale wedding” in 1981.
Although Britain has been most successful in exporting its royal occasions, the state ceremonies of other countries, too, particularly royal weddings, have been grand occasions for television around the world. The wedding of Crown Prince Akihito in Japan in 1959 became an occasion for the celebration of national unity. It also doubled the number of television sets in Japan in a year.
But television’s place in our homes makes it an “unheroic” medium; its most appreciated personalities celebrate their “normality”. In 1968, the BBC and ITV together produced a documentary, Royal Family, intended to “humanize” the monarchy. For the first time, viewers saw royalty talking to each other just as if they were ordinary people. Perhaps it was too successful.
Since then, media treatment of the royal family in the television age has become less reverential. Increasingly, they have been cast in the public imagination as characters in a soap opera, barely different from Dallas and Dynasty, the primetime sagas of endless internecine families.
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