MEDIA: Why the Royal Family would not want to go Dutch

nullnullLast week in Italy, I was in a modest motor boat when its local owner suddenly realised that we were trailing behind a substantial, but not grand, vessel owned by the Dutch royal family.

Last week in Italy, I was in a modest motor boat when its local owner

suddenly realised that we were trailing behind a substantial, but not

grand, vessel owned by the Dutch royal family.



On board was Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands: only the discreet

prescence of two security boats gave the game away. But as both boats

entered Porto Ercole where she has a villa, no-one showed the slightest

interest. Queen Beatrix is regarded as just another visiting foreigner.

She shops in the market. Her privacy is not invaded.



There was no mention of her or her family in the pages of the

extraordinary Italian scandal sheets, which bulged with long lens photos

of Italian starlets in various states of undress in seaside locations -

and still managed to make space for photos of Princess Diana and Fergie.



It is now pretty clear that the Royal family, led by the Queen, want

their privacy back, and that the Dutch model would suit them fine - most

of the time. How to tame the media is a key issue in the now continuous

review of the future being undertaken by the monarchy.



The Queen’s hawkishness in dealing with individual grouses is apparent,

whether it is manifested by punishing the BBC for the Panorama interview

with Princess Diana by sharing the Christmas broadcast with ITV;

disputing, through the channels of the PCC, Business Age’s sloppy

assessments of her wealth; or trying to ban certain press photographers

from the public footpath perimeters of Balmoral while she is on her

summer holiday. There is no easy answer. Other photographers will

materialise to take the places of those removed. The monarch of a

country cannot hide away and simply pop up to deliver a moral lecture

at Christmas. And it is impossible to wipe the slate clean, to return to

a state of media virginity.



The problem is that the monarchy made a decision to use the media in a

controlled way during the 1960s to forge a link with the public and

fudge the real issue of the loss of Imperial power. It miscalculated

badly in the image it offered.



I recently viewed the first Royal film made 27 years ago: its folksy

focus on the family at Balmoral is amazing. The country has been rightly

mesmerised by the unravelling of the myth, assisted by years of accurate

tabloid news reporting. But the best way to avoid unwanted coverage is

to be low key and boring. If the Royal family is pared down there are

fewer to misbehave. The tentative policy of privatising the monarchy

could form the basis for a greater distinction between Royals as rich

private citizens and Royals performing public duties.



But will the price be too high? Prince Charles, after all, has already

complained of the media ignoring his official engagements. Would he

really relish the day the British public just shrugs when he cycles by?



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