LONDON – Britain’s royal family and television have a complicated relationship.
The medium has helped define the modern monarchy: The 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was Britain’s first mass TV spectacle. Since then, rare interviews have given a glimpse behind palace curtains at the all-too-human family within. The fictionalized take of Netflix hit “The Crown” has molded views of the monarchy for a new generation, though in ways the powerful, image-conscious royal family can’t control.
“The story of the royal family is a constructed narrative, just like any other story,” said Phil Harrison, author of “The Age of Static: How TV Explains Modern Britain.”
And it’s a story that has changed as Britain moved from an age of deference to an era of modern social mores and ubiquitous social media.
“The royals, particularly the younger royals, have moved from the realm of state apparatus to the realm of celebrity culture in recent decades,” Harrison said. “That’s worked well for them up to a point — but celebrity culture takes as well as gives and is notoriously fickle.”
So anticipation and apprehension are both high ahead of Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan — the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — a year after they walked away from official royal life, citing what they described as the intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media toward the duchess, who is biracial. A clip released by CBS ahead of Sunday’s broadcast shows Meghan, a former TV star, appearing to suggest the royal family was “perpetuating falsehoods” about her and Harry.
A look at some other major royal television moments, and their impact: