So, the British Royal family has managed to avoid the real possibility of a slump, precipitated by Charles’s behaviour, back into a Georgian paradigm of mad kings and their mistresses. But the price of their successful reboot into Royal Family 2.0 has been that the new Royals must now be celebrities. Uber celebrities certainly, but celebrities nonetheless. And celebrities live or die by the camera. The work of the celebrity is to control the supply and demand for their photographs by a constant, daily labour of withholding, release and spin. This applies to every celebrity, from Lara Bingle (herself now rebooted as Lara Worthington) to Prince George. Perhaps Royal family 2.0 telegraphed their intention to rewrite the rulebook too obviously when they got, with too obvious a strategic calculation, Kate’s father and George’s grandfather to ineptly snap the first official photographs of the tot. Michael Middleton’s domestic photography, complete with bleached backgrounds and murky shadows, was meant to authentically read across to our own baby snaps, as though the Royals had somehow stumbled across a Jo Spence article in an old copy of TEN 8 magazine from the 1980s, or been given a Martin Parr book for Christmas. But, as every tabloid was forced to ask, were the first official photographs of George pleasingly cozy, or just bad?. Was their strategic calculation a miscalculation?
Then this week we see another egregious swing where, not the cozy power of domestic Britain, but the global power of terrorist-target Britain, is brought into play. A Kensington Palace encyclical warns off non-British paps. The commonwealth ones are thanked for following the script and waiting patiently for regular releases of new Prince George material, they way that grateful Apple users patiently wait for software upgrades. But the non-British paps are warned, in the words of The Mirror, that ‘they could be mistaken for terrorists, and SHOT” if they stalk George. So, in a Royal-created market where new images of George are the most prized on the planet, impoverished international paps are told to accept the steady corporate diet of regular updates on George’s progress, or place themselves in the same extra-judicial category as terrorists or refugees,
Clearly this Royal reboot isn’t going to be all plain sailing, as the logic of celebrity culture and the global tabloid market for photographs clashes with the logic of state security. Could anyone at The Firm’s headquarters, Kensington Palace, have predicted these complications five years ago?