The British people's interest in the Royal Family varies from being totally obsessed by them to being highly ignorant about them.
The British Royal Family is well known all over the world, partly due to the fact that Britain once ruled large parts of the world, but also because of all the scandals and difficulties that have made bold and sensational newspaper headlines nationally as well as internationally.
World War II
During World War II the Royal family gained immense popularity. Even though Britain was exposed to sustained bombing from Nazi Germany, the family did not flee the country. The present Queen Elizabeth's mother declared: "The children won't go without me. I won't leave without the King. And the King will never leave." Just before the 21 year old Elizabeth married Prince Philip in 1947, she announced in a broadcast from South Africa: "I declare to you all, that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong."
Queen Elizabeth II and Her Family
Five years later Elizabeth II was crowned, making her one of the longest-reigning British monarchs. Her four children have all caused some trouble. Prince Charles, her first born and heir to the throne, married Diana Spencer (20) in 1981. Di's wedding dress set the trend for thousands of brides throughout the 80s.
In spite of the glamorous wedding, the marriage all too soon proved to be a failure. The British tabloid press and the infamous paparazzi instantly took an interest in the young bride, and the marriage with its many difficulties was exposed to the whole world. Before the divorce in 1996, Charles had publicly admitted to having an affair with Camilla Parker- Bowles, and Diana on her side described the marriage as somewhat “crowded”. After the divorce, the paparazzi did not lose interest in Lady Di, quite the contrary, and when she died in a car crash in Paris, the most plausible explanation of the crash, was that the chauffeur attempted to out-drive the long tail of photographers. Di's death caused a national mourning never before witnessed in Britain with 10 hour-queues to sign the condolences books and Elton John paying his tribute to his friend Di by singing "Goodbye England's Rose" in Westminster Abbey. (See if you can find any good video clips by searching for Elton John and Englands Rose.)
The one person that everyone expected to come forward on this occasion and join the mourners, was Queen Elizabeth. She took refuge in her favourite castle, Balmoral in Scotland. For the first time her popularity dropped radically. However, presumably aided by the newly appointed Prime Minister Tony Blair, she finally changed her mind and returned to London to mourn in public.
The New Generation
Now Prince Charles' and Lady Di's offspring have picked up the family tradition and are subject to gossip and scandals.The youngest prince, Harry, caused big headlines when he entered a dress party in a Nazi uniform and had to apologise in public. His popularity increased somewhat when it was discovered that he had secretly served as a cavalry officer fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2008. To his great disappointment he was pulled out of the battleground due to media attention and the potential danger that he might expose himself and his regiment to. Apparently, the media never sleep, and the princes were constantly matchedwith royals and celebrities. Their amorous dates were scrutinised and ranked by glossy magazines world wide.
Prince Harry represents the monarchy in a number of official events, but also continues to be the subject of of sensational newspaper headlines. Prince William and his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Middleton, were married 29 April 2011, watched by an estimated British audience of 24.5 million. Kate and William are popular subjects for media coverage.
In 2007 Prince Charles married his long-time mistress Camilla Parker-Bowles after years of public and family disapproval.
There is more to the picture, though. The Royals are also credited for their charities. Lady Di earned her immense popularity due to her effort to ban landmines and to fight prejudice against AIDS sufferers. Her ex-husband, the Prince of Wales, Charles, runs an organic farm and is spokesman against the adoption of genetic modification in farming, seeing it as "the biggest environmental disaster of all time". At a flower show in May 2009, his mother presented her son the Victoria Medal of Honour as a recognition of his commitment to gardening. On this occasion he was also honoured through the cultivation of a new red rose. The income from this rose will benefit Charles' charity organisation.
A Never-Ending Story?
And so it goes on and on. This debate is neither new nor of any particular threat to the present British monarchy. Experts say it is not very likely that there will be a change as long as Queen Elizabeth II reigns. After her death– maybe, but pessimists say there will be no time for any referendum right after her death, which in return will mean: Long live the King!