Policy

How Queen Elizabeth changed the British monarchy

Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away on Thursday after being placed under medical supervision, was a stabilizing force for her country and the world during her remarkable 70-year reign.

She worked alongside 15 prime ministers, met every U.S. president since Harry Truman, with the exception of Lyndon Johnson, and was the second longest reigning monarch in world history.

But she was also at times a transformative influence while steering the British royal family through rapidly changing times. Here are a few of the ways that she reshaped the British monarchy.

Use of social media

FILE – Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II waves as she watches the flypast, with Prince Philip, to right, Prince William, centre, with his son Prince George, front, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge holding Princess Charlotte, centre left, with The Prince of Wales standing with The Duchess of Cornwall, and Princess Anne, fourth left, on the balcony during the Trooping The Colour parade at Buckingham Palace, in London, on June 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland, File)

During her time on the throne, the royal family utilized technology to stay engaged and grow their brand beyond Britain’s borders.

From Prince Harry’s viral mic drop with his grandmother as part of a challenge to the Obamas promoting the Invictus Games to photos of the youngest royals that routinely melt the internet’s heart, social media has played a critical role in the monarchy’s ability to keep up with changing times.

In addition to helping the royals better connect with their followers, social media has also transformed the family’s ability to break news, control the narrative about them and get ahead of negative news.

Currently on Twitter, the @RoyalFamily account has 4.8 million followers, the @KensingtonRoyal account has 2.4 million followers and the @ClarenceHouse account has 1.1 million followers.

Stance on divorce

FILE – Diana, Princess of Wales, left, and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II smile to well-wishers outside Clarence House in London on Aug. 4, 1987. (AP Photo/Martin Cleaver, File)

For hundreds of years, marrying a divorced person was considered out of the question for members of the British monarchy.

Over time, Queen Elizabeth allowed divorces and remarriages within her family in an unprecedented split from tradition.

Her sister, Princess Margaret, split up with divorced air force officer Peter Townsend in 1953, partly due to the fact that she would have had to give up her royal status if she married him. However, she later got a divorce from her husband, photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, in 1978.

Three of Queen Elizabeth’s four children — Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne — also ended up getting divorces. The queen famously marked the end of 1992, which saw the splits of Prince Charles and Princess Diana as well as Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, as an “Annus Horribilis,” Latin for “a horrible year.”

Prince Charles ultimately married Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, in 2005. Earlier this year, Queen Elizabeth announced in a letter commemorating the 70th anniversary of her reign that she wished for Camilla to assume the title of Queen Consort when Prince Charles becomes king.

Television addresses

An image of Queen Elizabeth II and quotes from her historic TV broadcast commenting on the coronavirus epidemic are displayed at Piccadilly Circus in London, Wednesday April 8, 2020. An estimated 24 million people in the UK watched Sunday evening’s TV broadcast when the Queen addressed the nation. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)

Although the queen’s televised addresses were rare — she only delivered TV addresses five times outside of her traditional Christmas Day messages and her Diamond Jubilee message in 2012 — they had a notable impact in allowing her to connect with people around the world in ways that monarchs before her had not been able to do.

Her special addresses included one about the Gulf War in 1991; perhaps her most famous address, about Princess Diana’s passing in 1997; a tribute to the queen mother after her death in 2002; and her latest address in 2020, about the coronavirus.

The queen’s coronation was also the first to be broadcast live on television and was viewed by 20 million people, according to the BBC.

Walkabout

FILE – In this file photo from April 2, 1970, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II chats with children in Hobart, Australia. The Queen narrowly escaped disaster in 1970 when a large wooden log was placed on a railroad track in an apparent attempt to derail her train as she traveled across Australia, a retired detective said Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009. (AP Photo/File)

During an official tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1970, the queen transformed how members of the British royal family interact with the crowds of people who gather to see them.

On a 1970 tour, Queen Elizabeth walked alongside the crowds instead of waving at them from a protected distance, as had been the norm for royals up until that point. This change helped create a new standard for how the royal family interacts with crowds both in Britain and around the world, as the “walkabout” is now a regular practice for royals at public events.

Tags British Royal Family Harry Truman queen elizabeth Queen Elizabeth II

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