Many of us grew up hearing fairy stories about kings and queens, princes and princesses, castles and palaces. Well, here in the UK, they don’t just appear in the pages of storybooks but are real people living in real castles and palaces. You can see for yourself by visiting Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Balmoral or Windsor Castle.
Despite scandals (abdication, divorce, death and adultery), the Royal family with all its wealth and glory, pomp and ceremony is still very much part and parcel of life in the UK. At the ripe old age of 91 and with 66 years as queen under her belt, Queen Elizabeth is the UK’s longest reigning monarch.
How Do People Feel About The Royal Family?
You could say that here in the UK we have a complicated attitude towards the monarchy.
The readers of certain magazines and tabloid newspapers have always been spellbound by royal hats, hairstyles, outfits, pregnancies and affairs. These royal figures provide an escape from the messy reality of wars, recessions, and personal ups and downs. So obsessed with the monarchy were some devoted fans that many of them named their children (or their pets!) after members of the Royal Family.
However, the rest of British society is often either indifferent about the Royals or even anti-royalty, often because of the expense to the taxpayer of maintaining the royal family.
Following the untimely death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, there was an upsurge in anti-monarchy feeling because it was felt that the princess had been badly treated by the other royals and that, although she was divorced from Prince Charles, there should be some official recognition of her death. However, the Queen eventually made a public appearance to recognise Diana's death - even though this went against the status quo for the royal family.
But recently the Queen and her extended family have enjoyed more popularity. Why? Well, Princes William and Harry (sons of the late Princess Diana) have shown themselves to be human beings with real lives and real feelings, not so different from those of ordinary citizens. The marriage of Prince William to Catherine Middleton in 2011 was a public holiday in the UK, and millions came to see the newly married couple.
And with the upcoming marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with weekend (19th May), royal wedding fever is raging, especially as the bride to be is not from royal stock but is an American, of mixed race, and a TV star commoner!
Royal Films and TV Series
For the past year or so, the Queen’s popularity has also rocketed partly because we’ve been bingeing on The Crown, an addictive Netflix series, which is watched avidly by even the most diehard republicans.
As well as a rundown of 20th century British history, The Crown presents the Queen as a sympathetic person who has experienced loneliness, isolation and marital problems. Due to her father’s premature death, Princess Elizabeth was wholly unprepared for her role when she became Queen at the early age of 25.
There are many more TV series and films you can watch to get a quick and easy introduction to the British Royal family. Please note - these are not always 100% accurate so be careful to check your facts later!
The Crown (2016-present)
The King's Speech (2010) - which is about George VI, our current Queen's father
The Queen (2006) - which sheds a lot of light on how the Royal family works with the Prime Minister and the crisis caused by Diana's death
More to watch:
Yes, but what does the Royal Family actually do?
In case you’re wondering whether the members of the Royal Family spend their days lounging around in luxurious palaces being waited on by an army of staff or dressing up in eye-wateringly expensive outfits to attend lavish lunches, let us crunch some numbers for you:
2,000: the number of official engagements carried out by the Royal Family each year in the UK and overseas.
70,000: the number of people entertained each year to dinners, lunches, receptions and garden parties at the Royal residences.
100,000: the number of letters received and answered each year by the Royal Family.
So, maybe royal life is not quite as relaxed as it may appear!
The Queen’s English
We often call "correct" English "The Queen's English" and hold this up as the best of British speech. Technically speaking, "The Queen's English" refers not so much to accent and pronunciation as to grammatically correct English and correct vocabulary.
Generally, the Royal Family adopt a formal, old-school English with a "posh" accent, but the younger members of the extended family tend to use more informal, down to earth language, making them more approachable to ordinary citizens. Also, the way the Queen pronounces some words has changed slightly over the years and William and Harry have slightly more "Estuary English" accents than the older members of the family.
The Queen is unfailingly diplomatic in her speech but Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband, has a reputation for putting his foot in it – making inappropriate remarks. Prince Charles, the Queen’s eldest son and heir to the throne tends to speak very bluntly, and he speaks out about issues he cares about, such as climate change. On account of their way of speaking, both Prince Philip and Prince Charles have caused controversy over the years.
If you were invited to Buckingham Palace….
Supposing you received an invitation to a royal garden party or another royal event, you might stress about what clothes to wear for the occasion. But chances are, you may also be unsure how to address members of the royal family correctly because, after all, you probably don’t encounter such people very often!
So, here’s a quick guide to the proper form of address:
The Queen herself: ‘Your Majesty’, subsequently 'Ma'am,' pronounced with a short 'a,' as in 'jam'.
For male members of the Royal Family: 'Your Royal Highness' and subsequently 'Sir'.
For other female members of the Royal Family: 'Your Royal Highness' and subsequently 'Ma'am'.
Quite straightforward, right?
So, there you have it – royalty is very much alive and well in 2018 UK. Believe it or not, the Royal Family even has a Facebook page with 4.1 million likes! Despite being bastions of British tradition, they are trying hard to show that they are modern and able to adapt to life in the 21st century.
You can watch the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle live online at the BBC!