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The royal fight for relevancy during a global crisis

Caitlin McBride


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Kate Middleton launches her 'Hold Still' photography competition on May 07, 2020 in London, England

Kate Middleton launches her 'Hold Still' photography competition on May 07, 2020 in London, England

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King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Letizia of Spain visit the 112 emergency center on April 27, 2020 in Pozuelo de Alarcon, Spain. (Photo by Casa de S.M. el Rey Spanish Royal Household via Getty Images)

King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Letizia of Spain visit the 112 emergency center on April 27, 2020 in Pozuelo de Alarcon, Spain. (Photo by Casa de S.M. el Rey Spanish Royal Household via Getty Images)

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Sweden's Princess Sofia visits Sophiahemmet Hospital

Sweden's Princess Sofia visits Sophiahemmet Hospital

Screengrab from a video @SaveChildrenUK by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, taken by the Duke of Sussex showing the Duchess of Sussex reading "Duck! Rabbit!" to their son Archie who celebrates his first birthday today. Picture: Duke of Sussex / @SaveChildrenUK

Screengrab from a video @SaveChildrenUK by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, taken by the Duke of Sussex showing the Duchess of Sussex reading "Duck! Rabbit!" to their son Archie who celebrates his first birthday today. Picture: Duke of Sussex / @SaveChildrenUK

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Meghan Markle with baby Archie on his first birthday

Meghan Markle with baby Archie on his first birthday

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King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Letizia of Spain visit the 112 emergency center on April 27, 2020 in Pozuelo de Alarcon, Spain. (Photo by Casa de S.M. el Rey Spanish Royal Household via Getty Images)

King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Letizia of Spain visit the 112 emergency center on April 27, 2020 in Pozuelo de Alarcon, Spain. (Photo by Casa de S.M. el Rey Spanish Royal Household via Getty Images)

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Kate Middleton launches her 'Hold Still' photography competition on May 07, 2020 in London, England

As someone who regularly reads, writes and dissects royal families, even I admit there is a fight for relevancy in royal representation during a time of global crisis.

The celebrity construct is being re-evaluated by fans, consumers and pop culture aficionados sick of seeing celebrities share 'we're in this together' messages from the confines of their palatial estates.

The Internet, 'the great equaliser', is now a medium through which fans facing dire economic uncertainty have unfettered access to how the other half lives.

For years, royal families have been able to pull the wool over the eyes of people regarding their public and private personas, but a stay-at-home order makes that illusion more complicated.

There's a big difference between knowing someone lives in a palace and seeing gilded wallpaper in the background of their Zoom conference call.

Britain's royal family have utilised Kate Middleton and Prince William to full effect, promoting their contributed presence with their patronages.

And they have been careful to continue with the down-to-earth image they have spent years building: while others have made an art form out of the background of their video calls, the Cambridges always report from a modest corner of their home at Amner Hall (a 10-bedroom mansion) with only a door and simple picture hanging on the wall as visible decor.

The duchess has been careful to wear repeats of previously worn looks and has mastered the art of DIY hair and makeup. Most notably, she even made a 15-minute appearance on This Morning with Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield, a softball interview in comparison to rival programme Good Morning Britain hosted by Piers Morgan.

But that much screentime with Kate under usual circumstances is unheardof. Like her appearance on the Happy Mum Happy Baby podcast last year, she shared enough tidbits about her home life to satiate royal watchers without revealing very much at all; a masterstroke in effective communications.

Access to the duchess, arguably the most popular member of the royal family, seems easier than ever as the bulk of the workload falls to the Cambridges while Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip will be self-isolating 'indefinitely' due to their age and Prince Charles and Camilla are mapping a safe way to return to public life.

Elsewhere, royals are still finding their feet in the new normal. Spain's Queen Letizia and King Felipe have returned to their usual work, wearing facemasks and practicing social distancing. Letizia has made three public appearances in the last week, volunteering on Monday at the Cruz Roja Espanola (Red Cross) centre in Madrid.

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King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Letizia of Spain visit the 112 emergency center on April 27, 2020 in Pozuelo de Alarcon, Spain. (Photo by Casa de S.M. el Rey Spanish Royal Household via Getty Images)

King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Letizia of Spain visit the 112 emergency center on April 27, 2020 in Pozuelo de Alarcon, Spain. (Photo by Casa de S.M. el Rey Spanish Royal Household via Getty Images)

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King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Letizia of Spain visit the 112 emergency center on April 27, 2020 in Pozuelo de Alarcon, Spain. (Photo by Casa de S.M. el Rey Spanish Royal Household via Getty Images)

Last week, she and Felipe visited the 112-emergency call centre and the Electricity Control Centre headquarters, both of which are under significant pressures as a result of the pandemic.

Holland's Queen Máxima and Belgium's King Phillippe have also made select appearances in the last week, teasing out a return to public life reflective of their country's public health advice.

Earlier this month, Norway's top-tier royals made their first appearance in months to commemorate Liberation Day and the National Veterans Day in Oslo, while Denmark's Crown Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederik have been sharing some behind the scenes images on their Instagram account.

Given the sole purpose of a modern monarchy is simply to endure and the short length of people’s memories, it’s unlikely that there will be too many long-term ramifications of how they handled the COVID-19 crisis, whether good or bad.

But public perception is changing, and the royals have been intertwined with celebrity culture for decades, so the role they play in remaining relevant is as uncertain as the rest of our collective futures.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, now one month into their new lives as private citizens, have been busy working on the ground in their new home city of Los Angeles and demonstrating actionable commitment to philanthropy.

Within days of touching down in the City of Angels, they were delivering food to vulnerable citizens with Project Angel Food and celebrated their son Archie's first birthday with a fundraising effort for Save the Children UK.

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Sweden's Princess Sofia has volunteered at a Stockholm hospital

Sweden's Princess Sofia has volunteered at a Stockholm hospital

Sweden's Princess Sofia has volunteered at a Stockholm hospital

The Sussexes on-the-ground work is reflective of the personal appearances being made by Europe's royal families; namely Sweden's Princess Sofia who became an overnight icon when it was announced she would be volunteering as a care assistant washing dishes and cleaning to support frontline staff at a coronavirus-struck Stockholm hospital.

And all the at-home bouncy blow-dries in the world can't compare to volunteering your time and risking your personal health to help those who need it most.

Online Editors