When the queen was crowned in 1953, lawmakers in the House of Commons argued about whether or not it was appropriate to subject so august an event to something as plebian as television cameras. They were afraid the increasing media presence would tarnish the royal family.
Yet in 2013, with nearly a half-million followers, “The British Monarchy” – the queen’s official Twitter account – is one of a steadily increasing number of official social media channels shaping the royals’ public image.
In today’s world, virtually no public appearance by the British royals is undocumented by the royal public relations machine, a tight-lipped group tasked with conveying the regal touch through tools designed for the masses.
The name- and gender-neutral @BritishMonarchy handle can be passed along to future rulers as easily as the crown itself, making future monarch transitions a smooth and easy process for the Twitter world. It currently covers the official engagements of the queen, her husband Prince Philip and their four children.
But it should not be confused with “Elizabeth Windsor”, a popular parody account in which a sardonic and hard-drinking monarch serves up dry witticisms to more than a million followers.
The Queen has been on Twitter since 2009; Her Majesty’s official Flickr and Facebook accounts came out the following year.
The Queen follows only two other Twitter accounts: Clarence House and an account dedicated to the journals of Queen Victoria.
A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace and Clarence House declined to comment on the workings of the royal family’s public relations strategy, other than to describe their various social media outlets as “something we use very much when we’re making announcements in conjunction with traditional methods of communication.”
The point of all the sharing, observers say, is to make the royal family seem like normal people, key for ensuring the British public will want to keep them around.
However, the royal tweets do not comment on personal or controversial topics.
“The queen is the unsung PR genius behind all this,” historian Robert Lacey told the Guardian last year. “She’s apparently stuffy but nimble, and very responsive to how society has changed. She is rebranding the royal family from behind the scenes to ensure it survives.”
Let’s hope that Her Majesty continues to expand her Twitter knowledge with the posting of baby Cambridge photos when the new addition to her family arrives.