The Royal birth
“Politics is about what divides us,” one of Queen Elizabeth’s former courtiers was once reported to have said, adding: “Monarchy is about what unites us.” In the Brexit-weary UK, news organisations greeted the birth of a Royal baby this week with relief and glee. The Daily Mail devoted no less than 23 pages to celebrate the birth of Master Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. He is seventh in line to the remarkably successful ‘firm’ that has re-invented itself in recent years, particularly since the three royal divorces and the death of Princess Diana in the 1990s.
Response? If this was a company product launch, it was executed impeccably. For a brand that always sells well in America, GB Royals plc is sure to have a blockbuster with its latest merchandise, which has more than a hint of Hollywood about it. A soft unveiling made maximum impact in the Commonwealth when the pregnancy was announced during an Australia tour, shoring up the firm which faces stiffer competition there than in the home market from a more practical but less glitzy brand: republicanism. Style and celebrity pages were duly filled with pregnancy and baby-related ephemera during the build-up to maintain levels of interest and excitement. Dramatic tension was created in the stories that Meghan had caused a rift in the strong relationship of the Royal brothers. The final pre-launch campaign artfully paved the way for a set of post-launch stories around a possible move to Africa by the couple after the birth.
Impact? The news of the delivery itself displayed a highly choreographed and high-camp positioning and imagery that befits the Instagram generation, echoing this week’s Met Gala that had Lady Gaga changing four outfits in less than three minutes. Prince Harry puzzlingly announced the news of the birth in front of a stable of horses – perhaps it was to bring home the impression of the fact that their lives are very different to the rest of us? The couple walked along St Georges Hall in Windsor in all its gilt glory, Harry wearing a formal suit and leading lady Meghan in Manolos, looking glamorous in white. The photo of the smiling Queen and Prince Philip, with Meghan’s mother looked strangely stiff and stage managed. And despite all this proactive comms, they seemed to deliberately hold back on the due date and when and where Meghan went into labour.
But – it all landed beautifully, because it gave the public what it wanted. If Kate and William are your middle class neighbours in a Surrey village, then Meghan and Harry are stars who live in a Malibu ocean-fronted villa, metaphorically speaking. The public holds dear in their hearts the affection for the two boys who suffered divorce and death in the claustrophobic glare of the world’s media. They could be easily have been justified in retreating away from the spotlight, but they clearly think they need to do their bit to help the family business. This week demonstrated the firm’s ability to refresh the brand, and its continued strength as a UK export.