By Dr George Venturini
The death of Princess Diana might have been a turning point for the House of Windsor. Recollection of that event gave Ms. Rita Clifton an opportunity to say: “From those ashes, a lot of lessons have been learned. There’s obviously had to be more deliberate management about how people behave, what they’re saying, what they’re wearing.”
‘The Palace’ negotiated a deal with the British press to leave Diana’s boys alone. The Royal media team worked with the Press Complaints Commission to create the strictest media regulations in Europe – banning the use of long-lens photography.
Patrick Jephson: “It’s worth remembering that inside palace walls, the media are pretty much regarded as the enemy. The next task was what to do about the Prince of Wales’ mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles.”
Stephen Bates: “[The media] had to sell her to the royal family as much as to the British public. They still had to go about it fairly discreetly, they still had to convince the Queen that she was someone who could be met with, be seen in public with. That was something that took a little while.”
Subsequently, the Queen was exposed to the cameras in a series of stunts and other occasions of unusual and difficult physical acts requiring a special skill, performed for artistic purposes usually on television. Such new moves were designed to endear the Queen to the British public, and make it believe that the Queen was some kind of a different person.
Emily Andrews confirmed: “Prince Charles appointed some very experienced PR professionals – such as Mark William Bolland, a British public relations executive who became Deputy Private Secretary to Prince Charles from 1997 to 2002, and Patrick Richard Harverson, L.V.O. who became Communications Secretary to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, in addition to being Official Spokesman to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Until then, their major duty was really that of really rehabilitating Camilla Parker-Bowles. Emily Andrews thinks that had been successful because “certainly in the United Kingdom now she is quite popular.”
The reporter: “Project Parker-Bowles, as it became known, even won a PR Week Award for Royal media minder Mark Bolland. The judges noted that Bolland had overseen a massive sea change in the relationship between Prince Charles and the press.
As ‘The Palace’ spin doctors continued to win PR awards, they steered the hulking royal ship back on course.”
Interestingly, Stephen Bates and Patrick Jephson agreed on this: “It is a very professional operation in spin management, media management, media operations” which “has got into the bloodstream of the way Royal people do business.”
The media minders were helped by the natural charm of Charles’ son, Prince William as he grew up. And met his telegenic princess, Kate.
Omid Mio Scobie observed: “William and Kate became of interest and they were young and they were good-looking. Their lives were very interesting and Kate, this very normal girl, was about to take on an incredibly important role marrying the future king of the country. I think that was really the beginning of the rejuvenation of the Royal brand. The Queen has referred to it as ‘The Firm’ herself. It is a business.”
Next to be ‘rebranded’ was Prince Harry, who was transformed in the public eye from party boy to charismatic, modern prince.
And Ms. Rita Clifton was fully confident that the ‘re-branding’ would be successful. She should know. To give her full credit, she is Rita Ann Clifton, C.B.E., a British advertising professional and a former United Kingdom Chairman of Interbrand. She currently works as a speaker, facilitator, writer, and non-executive director of a portfolio of companies. Clifton has been called ‘The doyenne of branding’ by Campaign Magazine, ‘Brand guru’ by The Financial Times, and The Daily Telegraph described her as ‘The brand leading the brands’!
So Rita said: “I think what’s fascinating about the way that Harry and his advisors have developed his brand, his profile, is that he’s used some of the difficult background, some of the challenges that he’s had in his life, and made that feel like a proper, feeling, human being. It’s much more difficult to have a problem with a human being than an impersonal institution.”
Omid Mio Scobie could not help himself interjecting: “Now we have Harry and Meghan almost ushering in Phase Two of this modernisation of the monarchy.”
Rita Clifton: “In many ways, they’ve brought innovation. They’re brand innovators to the Royal Family.”
The reporter: “Every time Meghan Markle leaves the Kensington Palace gates for events like this one at the Royal Academy, the cash registers start ringing. In an age of social media, the young members of the Royal Family are the ultimate influencers.”
Rita Clifton: “It’s the most amazing thing! Particularly during the build-up to the wedding, I mean whatever Meghan wore, it was picked up, it was followed. Katherine wears a dress, the children wear whichever clothes they are, usually there’s a sell-out with days or weeks, sometimes within hours with some of the examples of what the children have worn.”
The reporter: “On a production line on London’s outskirts. My First Years is pumping out personalised children’s clothes. Everything changed for the fledgling clothing company in April 2016. When little Prince George was pictured wearing one of their dressing gowns while visiting former U.S. President, Barack Obama.”
Daniel Price: “So it was just incredible, I had 165 messages on my phone. I clicked on the link and I thought oh my god! That is our, that’s our dressing gown! I went on and I went into the office and we made sure that everybody was talking about that robe. So before Prince George met Obama, we had about 30 employees, altogether. Now, we’ve got about 110.”
Asked by the reporter: “So what figures did you put on each of those children?” David Haigh, C.E.O. and founder of Brand Finance plc. said: “Well I think some years ago, we said that in their lifetime, they would be adding something in the order of a billion pounds to the UK economy, but that’s in their whole lifetime.” David Haigh’s firm Brand Finance was credited for an analysis of the money the Royal Family injects into the British economy.
David Haigh went on: “Well in the case of the UK as a whole on a rolling annual basis, we estimate something in the order of two billion net to the UK economy. That’s pounds. It definitely seems to have an economic benefit to the UK economy. It’s almost undeniable.
The Royals are also patrons to more than 3000 charities … The Queen’s charities alone have raised 1.4 billion pounds.”
At this point Rita Clifton added: “Frankly, Britain needs the Royal Family right now and into the future. It has got the most extraordinary impact on tourism, on products and services that are in any way associated with the Royal Family.
The reporter: “Even when you think about it, global TV series. There’s endless amounts of interest in the stories of the Royal Family. The Netflix series, The Crown, only enhanced the brand.”
Robert Lacey: “There’s evidence that millions of people stay up all night, certainly in this country, to watch it end to end to end. I was talking to a member of the Royal Family, who has to be nameless, that’s the way it is, when you get close to them. They said, “We were very worried when we heard about The Crown coming along.’ There was anxiety in the Palace as to what a probing insight, dramatic account, of the family might do, but as this member of the Royal Family said to me, “it’s really turned out quite well” !
The reporter added: “Kensington Palace, home to the young royals, is capitalising on the fact that they are back in fashion again. Bypassing traditional legacy media with a sophisticated social media strategy. It has 6.7 million followers on Instagram – almost 13 times the number of Prince Charles’ account, Clarence House.”
Emily Andrews commented: “They film a lot of their own content, they take a lot of their own photographs, they even write a lot of their own stories and put them out through their social media channels, so through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, they even do snapchat.”
Patrick Jephson: “The control over what we read about the royal families is pretty much controlled by them. And they do that through heavy investment in digital media, through a very sophisticated series of trades and favours with their favourite news outlets.”
The reporter commented: “While the young royals seem very natural, everything is highly stage-managed by Palace minders.”
David McClure, a television producer and freelance writer and journalist, who is responsible for an interesting documentary on the royal finances, contributed: “ ‘The Palace’, like all organisations, like to control their image, but I think ‘The Palace’ is more controlling than most, because the royal family, it’s not really about formal power, it’s about image. And therefore, it’s very important to project that image.”
The reporter noted: “Palace courtiers go to great lengths to protect the reputation and privacy of Brand Windsor. We’ve spoken to Royal Correspondents who say they’ve received an extraordinary dressing down from Royal spin doctors for seemingly innocuous stories. And they get threatening legal letters from the Queen’s London law firm, Harbottle and Lewis.”
Stephen Bates specified: “Harbottle and Lewis are probably the Praetorian Guard of the Royal Family. The Royal Family is an institution which has very little accessibility. I guess it rivals the Vatican. It’s very constrained, the access you get. So there is a certain degree of resentment, because ultimately, they’re an opaque body of people.”
To which the reporter added: “It’s often argued that the royal finances are also too opaque. London’s Regent St. is the city’s premier shopping district. It’s also owned by the Crown Estate. The Crown Estate owns huge tracts of land across the British Isles. And 25 per cent of its profits are paid to the Queen to fund running of The Palace and official royal travel through what’s known as the Sovereign Grant.”
Dani Beckett, deputy chairperson of the campaign group Republic joined in: “In the past five to ten years, we’ve seen cuts to education funding, to domestic violence centres, we’ve seen cuts to libraries and the arts and the police and the national health service at the same time the Royal Family’s Sovereign Grant, which is the official money that they get from the government, which actually only amounts to about a quarter of the money that they get every year, keeps increasing and increasing.” … “I think there’s a great element of spin and Brand Royal is certainly being updated and the people doing that are very clever. But at the heart of it, it’s an archaic institution that is terrified of the general public knowing just how much power and wealth they actually have.”
Austin Vernon Mitchell, who was a British Labour Party member of Parliament between 1977 and 2015, added: “We don’t know where the money is invested. We don’t know where it’s spent. We don’t know what the income is. We only know what they tell us. But nobody really knows. We don’t have the figures.”
Challenged by the reporter “Should we know?”
Mitchell confirmed: “Yes, we should. We should.”
Austin Mitchell served eight years on the United Kingdom Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, which in 2013 had an inquiry into whether the Royal Family provides value for money. The Committee recommended that the Royals could help save money by opening up Buckingham Palace to the public all year round, instead of just two months to pay for 369 million pounds in renovations.”
And what was the Palace’s response to that?
Mr. Mitchell replied: “No. I think the Queen thought it would be inconvenient to have all these people trekking around, ‘hey, look at that! What lovely pictures’ when she got up in the morning in her dressing gown and came down for breakfast. So I think it is personal. It should be open all year round. The public own it, it’s a public palace, and it’s the public’s art, really. It would be monstrous to exclude them.”
The reporter brought the viewers up to date: “The Royal Family’s personal income comes from its private land estates. Prince Charles’ Duchy of Cornwall was established in the 14th century to fund future kings. It’s enormously valuable … with land and business holdings worth 940 million pounds. The Duchy pays for the lifestyles of Prince Charles and his family. But while it funds the modern young royals, The Duchy has some antiquated traditions – as we discovered on the Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall. We travelled to tiny Bryhar Island to meet Tony Berkeley, a hereditary peer in the House of Lords, who is critic of the Duchy.”
Interestingly, Anthony Fitzhardinge Gueterbock, 18th Baron Berkeley, OBE, CEng, MICE, FRSA, FCIT, Hon FIMechE, Hon DSc, otherwise known as Tony Berkeley, is a British aristocrat and Labour parliamentarian.
Holder of an ancient English hereditary peerage title created in 1421, Lord Berkeley sits in the House of Lords by virtue of being created a Life Peer in 2000. Plain Tony Berkeley had this to say: “Very artificial. Very anachronistic and totally unsuited to the 21st century. It should have changed a hundred years ago or so.”
The reporter explained: “Lord Berkeley wants to reform the Duchy of Cornwall … which returned 22 million pounds to Prince Charles [in 2017], but doesn’t pay 19 per cent Corporations Tax.
Instead, Prince Charles chooses only to pay income tax at a rate nominated by him. Lord Berkeley has moved a private members’ bill in the British Parliament to see the Duchy pay Corporations Tax.”
“The Duchy – Lord Tony Berkeley jumped in – should pay tax like any other organisation in this country. Now, because the Duchy is calling itself a private sector body, it really can’t go on with this kind of ducking operation. It’s got to stand out like any other private body and pay its taxes pay its taxes and obey the law like everybody else does and it chooses not to at the moment. There shouldn’t be any special privileges or special arrangements.”
The reporter added: “Lord Berkeley’s wife Marian has lived on Bryhar, which is almost entirely owned by the Duchy, for decades. She’s spent hundreds of thousands of pounds improving her property with no help from the Duchy, which, when the lease runs out, has every right to take it over.”
Asked by the reporter: “What would you like to see change?”
Marian Berkeley said: “I would like to see, to be perfectly honest, I’d like to see the Duchy removed from the Isles of Scilly. There’s no reason why places like this should be run as big estates and have that hold over the inhabitants.”
At this point the reporter moved to a related subject: “The investment decisions by those responsible for the Queen’s private land holdings and wealth have also come under some scrutiny in recent years.”
David McClure, investigating writer: “The private wealth of the Queen is shrouded in mystery.” confirmed David McClure. “We don’t know how much she’s truly worth. A tiny glimpse was provided with the release of the Paradise Papers. … [The Paradise Papers was a massive data leak that occurred in 2017 from a law firm [see A.B.C., Four corners, 6 November 2017: Paradise Papers, What is the leak and who is behind the firm Appleby?] in Bermuda which advised clients on how to invest their money overseas, and particularly in tax havens. Now among the documents, it was found that the Queen’s private estate had invested over 10 million pounds in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. It’s slightly embarrassing to find out that the Queen had been investing in tax havens.”
Well, yes, when the Paradise Papers scandal broke, the Queen’s advisors said she was not personally aware of the offshore investments made on her behalf. What are the aides-de-camp good for, otherwise?
Continued Saturday – Terminal adolescents (part 5)
Previous instalment – Terminal adolescents (part 3)
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.email@example.com.
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