ANALYSIS: Palace PROs have no time to relax - Buckingham Palace communications secretary Simon Walker tells Alastair Ray that many PR challenges remain for the Royal Family

While it's possible to argue with hindsight that it would have been impossible to botch such a massive event, it didn't seem that way at the start of the year.

Newspapers were running pieces about public indifference and highlighting the unspectacular number of planned street parties. The prospect of the Jubilee turning into a damp squib was very real and comparisons were being made with the Millennium Dome.

The reality has proved very different although the Palace says it has always been keen not to overhype the event. 'I think we've been very anxious not to raise expectations, not to hype up the Jubilee,' says Simon Walker, the Queen's communications secretary who is on secondment from the top PR job at British Airways. 'That included holding our nerve when negative stuff ran earlier in this year.'

The aim has been to be seen playing a straight bat over the nine or ten months in the run-up to the official events. 'I think we've been straightforward and factual about what's happening when. It's been more public information than spin in that sense,' he says.

And, Walker adds, the Palace team had an earlier example to encourage it to ignore the nay-sayers: 'At the beginning of the year I went back to 1977 and found a Guardian article from March (that year) that predicted what a ghastly flop the Silver Jubilee was going to be.'

Walker now argues that such stories actually helped build the Jubilee's profile by giving it extra publicity.

Others add that they also forced councils to revisit their rules to see if it could be made easier for people to hold street parties.

This early pressure was followed by a series of more personal blows as first Princess Margaret and then Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, died. The size of public sympathy was immense and the atmosphere around the Jubilee celebrations certainly benefited as a consequence.

Many have argued that the sight of the nation celebrating the Queen's 50 years on the throne has enabled the Royal Family to put the bad years of the 1990s behind it. Walker's team's key messages have been to highlight the duty and service of the Queen - and her mother - ahead of the quasi-celebrity lifestyles of some of the other family members.

That's not the way Walker sees it. 'I'd say it was a chance to look back on a good period for Britain as well as the monarchy but also to look forward, which is why we have gone to such lengths to involve young people. It's seen in that context rather than as a PR opportunity,' he says.

In the name of inclusivity, official events pulled in names from outside the traditional Royal Variety Show guest list with the likes of metal legend Ozzy Osbourne and Eric Clapton playing at the Palace. Although there were still the traditional church services and formal dinners, pop concerts appeared on the agenda in 2002.

'There was a feeling the Jubilee needed to have something for everyone - it needed to have the widest possible audience,' he comments.

A further string to the Palace's communications bow has been the extensive regional tour, literally taking the Queen close to communities across the country, and by implication helping to counter allegations that she is aloof and distant.

Regional press coverage of such visits tends to be more favourable than that in the national press. When the Queen opens an old people's home, that's what gets coverage, not the celebrity angles often featured in the nationals, Palace sources say.

The challenge now will be maintaining the positive public perception of the Windsor family. This year has been very much the Queen's year.

The rest of the family have taken a back seat - they've taken on the role of 'gophers' says an aide to one senior royal, good-naturedly.

Although it would seem the Jubilee represents a hard act to follow, plans are already afoot for forthcoming major events.

Next year is Prince William's turn in the spotlight as he celebrates his 21st birthday. Other anniversaries are also in the offing, such as the Queen and Prince Philip's diamond wedding in 2007, Prince Charles's 60th in 2008 and the prospect of a Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

In the short term it seems likely that after a summer in the spotlight - the Queen is also opening and closing the Manchester Commonwealth Games - there will be a period of lower profile adoption.

But will the Palace's communications operation be taking a breather?

Not according to Walker: 'I think there'll probably be a relatively quite period for a while, but I don't think anyone here's going to relax.'

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