News

23/1/22

New Channel 5 documentary series release – ‘Secrets of the Royal Palaces’ (Viacom)

It was a pleasure to contribute an interview to Series 2 of ‘Secrets of the Royal Palaces’. A particular highlight was talking about the Palace of Versailles featured in episode 3 (aired 22/1/22), which is a stone’s throw away from where I now live in France. Versailles – probably the greatest royal palace in the world – stands today as a symbol of the extravagance, imagination and joie de vivre of King Louis XIV (1638-1715). Known as the ‘Sun King’ (le Roi Soleil) for the way he imparted warmth and life to his various projects, and for the way France came to revolve around his personality, Louis’ key legacy was the centralisation of French political power, which he wielded from his court at Versailles. Louis was king for more than 72 years which makes him the longest reigning monarch of any European nation (1643-1715) to date. His reign was also notable for his successful military campaigns, the expansion of the French empire, and the king’s personal patronage of French art and culture.

If you are based in the UK, you can watch the Versailles episode here and find the other episodes that are currently available on ‘My5’.

Vue aérienne du domaine de Versailles par ToucanWings – Creative Commons By Sa 3.0

17/10/21

New Channel 5 documentary release – ‘Marina of Greece: The Forgotten Royal’ (ITN)

In this interview, recorded over summer 2021, I discussed a figure who has fascinated me since I began researching the changing role and public image of the House of Windsor more than a decade ago. Princess Marina of Greece had a genuinely transformative impact on the monarchy. As explored in the first chapter of The Family Firm and as I explained in the interview, her arrival into the royal family was marked by a number of crucial innovations that she helped to introduce through her more candid, informal style of royalty. She was the first member of the British royal family to popularise the ‘wave’ as a way of engaging with gathered crowds (see below) – something we now widely associate with the Windsors. She was the first member of the family to engage in filmed interviews and, with her future husband, Prince George, Duke of Kent, she delivered a novel film ‘greeting’ to British cinema-goers following the public announcement of her engagement. She was also a trendsetter: famed for her ‘chic’ Parisian dress style, she established a new fashion for hats and the colour ‘Marina blue’ among female consumers. Notably, her royal wedding in November 1934 would also be the first broadcast live to listeners in Britain and across the world by the BBC – something that has been repeated for every major royal wedding ever since.

Much like her younger cousin, Prince Philip of Greece (later Duke of Edinburgh), Marina recognised that monarchies must ‘move with the times’ if they were to survive. Marina and Philip’s shared appreciation of this fact doubtless stemmed from their experiences as exiled members of the troubled and unstable Greek royal dynasty.

If you are based in the UK, you can watch the episode here whilst it is available on ‘My5’.

‘London’s Warm-Hearted Welcome’, Daily Sketch,
17 September 1934, p. 1. Copyright: The British Library Board

29/8/21

New Channel 5 documentary release – ‘Princess Alexandra: the Queen’s Confidante’ (ITN)

In this interview, recorded at the start of summer 2021, I discussed the life of Princess Alexandra, daughter of Prince George and Princess Marina of Kent. Alexandra is today something of a forgotten figure and exists on the fringes of the royal family. However, as the title of the documentary suggests, she has enjoyed a very close relationship with her cousin, Elizabeth II. Although the queen’s junior by ten years, Alexandra and her cousin were part of the ‘inner sanctum’ at the heart of the British monarchy following the Abdication Crisis in 1936. Much like her parents, the duke and duchess of Kent, Alexandra played a key role in helping to promote and stabilise the crown in the decades that followed the turbulence created by Edward VIII’s abandonment of the throne in order to marry the woman he loved. Alexandra’s privileged position and knowledge of the secretive behind-the-scenes goings on at court have ensured she has remained a close confidante of Elizabeth II through to the present day.

If you are based in the UK, you can watch the episode here whilst it is available on ‘My5’.

Princess Alexandra (1961). Courtesy of Harry Pot. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.

25/7/21

New Channel 5 documentary release – ‘Meghan at 40’ (ITN)

In this interview, recorded at the start of summer 2021, I discussed Meghan’s entry into, and exit from, the British royal family. I talked about why the duchess of Sussex represented a new kind of royalty and how her profile as a mixed-race woman brought with it opportunities for the House of Windsor, particularly in terms of how the monarchy continued to engage with a multi-racial Commonwealth. I also touched on how her innovative approach to life as a young royal challenged expectations and ultimately led to difficulties arising as she and her husband, Prince Harry, sought to carve out their own unique public roles as part of the Windsor dynasty. I argued that the couple’s desire to do things differently, and the often poisonous response that their attempts at innovation met with from the British tabloid press, made life increasingly hard for Meghan and Harry, which can in turn help us to explain why they ultimately chose to give up their roles as full-time royals at the start of 2020.

If you are based in the UK, you can watch the episode here whilst it is available on ‘My5’.

24/7/21

New Netflix documentary release – Vox Media’s Explained on ‘Royalty’

In this interview, recorded at the end of summer 2020, I discussed how the British monarchy has managed to survive the political and social upheaval of the last 150 years. This included how the royal family carefully developed a new public relations strategy over the course of the twentieth century ‘in order to make its natural enemies, the working classes, its allies’. I also talked about the monarchy’s historic role in the British empire and its contested position today at the heart of the Commonwealth.

If you have a Netflix account, you can watch the episode here.

Courtesy of Vox Media.

18/5/21

On the death and funeral of Prince Philip, duke of Edinburgh

Over the course of the eight days from Prince Philip’s death on 9 April to his funeral at Windsor Castle on 17 April 2021, I contributed more than thirty interviews to UK and international news outlets in which I reflected on the duke’s long life and his historical significance. While many people thought of him as a slightly outdated and sometimes controversial figure in later life, he was widely celebrated for his modernising qualities when he became a member of the British royal family in 1947. I also stressed in these interviews that his proactive approach to public relations, and his deep-seated belief that monarchies needed to keep up with the times, stemmed from his early life. He was born in 1921 into a world shaken by a war that had witnessed the toppling of the major continental dynasties. And the turbulence that characterised the Greek royal family’s existence similarly acted as a constant reminder that modern monarchies must not take their positions for granted: they had to work hard if they were to remain popular and relevant in the age of democracy.

You can read the book chapter that I wrote about Philip’s marriage into the British royal family here.

Courtesy of Allan Warren (1992). Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

14/3/21

On ‘Oprah with Harry and Meghan

Before and after the now infamous Oprah Winfrey interview with the duke and duchess of Sussex, I spoke to a number of media outlets about similar moments in the history of the monarchy where royals had ‘gone public’ with exposés, as well as the impact these kinds of revelations have had on the crown and the wider media audience. One thing that came out of the interview was Meghan’s reference to ‘the firm’ – i.e. the shadowy group of individuals that exists behind the throne and who shape its public relations strategy, exercising control over what individual royals can and cannot do publicly. A number of interviewers who I spoke to wanted to know exactly what ‘the firm’ is and where the term comes from historically speaking. This is something I had learnt about during the research conducted for my book. You can read more about the origins of the term here.

A particular highlight following the Oprah interview was being able to contribute to an online discussion hosted by Professor Anna Whitelock at Royal Holloway’s ‘Centre for the Study of Modern Monarchy’ (where I am an Honorary Research Fellow), during which the panelists opined on the past, present and likely future of the House of Windsor.

You can watch the discussion via the YouTube video below.