Olusaga speaks of “a fantasy version of the British past”. We stayed with the image of the white dream family of the 19th century, an image that the 96-year-old Queen has diligently cultivated since the beginning of her record reign. The renowned Italian aristocracy expert Paola Calvetti writes in her recently published biography “The Queen” that the life of Elizabeth II is inseparable from carefully selected photographs.
The Royals’ self-portrayal
From the beginning of photography to the three Instagram accounts with more than 30 million followers, the Royals present themselves as “a fantasy version of the British past”.
Production for 30 million followers
Calvetti was allowed to conduct numerous interviews with members of the royal family. But the “message control” prevented a real insight into private matters. Calvetti did not really get any closer to the distant monarch through conversations. You can only get an insight into the private sphere through photos, she says in the interview, but the photos are never more than the result of royal marketing strategies, from baby photos of the young queen to the three Instagram accounts with over 30 million followers, “@kensingtonroyal”, “@Theroyalfamily” and “@sussexroyal”, Prince Harry and Markle’s account, which has been inactive since last year.
There you saw the pregnant Markle, charity appearances, Markle petting a horse with Harry, plus pop songs, for example by Coldplay and Ed Sheeran. These photos were neither revolutionary nor avant-garde. But the overall staging at least reflected something like the present: people with different histories of origin who culturally locate themselves in the here and now.
Photo gallery with 6 pictures
Old school colonial rulers
Such moments are few and far between on the family account “@theroyalfamily”. The less you want to appear stiff there, the stiffer the staging will be. For example, when Prince William sits at eye level with a student in the schoolyard near the floor to signal that he takes part in the fate of children in times of coronavirus, it looks about as homely as the broad grin of the Queen on the profile photo of the account.
The many historical photographs in particular convey closeness to the people at the level of colonial waving from the limousine: You see white rulers, in whose empire the sun never sets, as it is from subordinates – 2.4 billion multiethnic people in countries of the Commonwealth – wrapped in set pieces of traditional robes.
Individual attempts to escape the image of the colonial rulers of the old days only make the staging of the royals on Instagram worse. Suddenly you see Priya Ahluwalia, who recently won the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, and pictures of children in Africa who are photographed as completely passive but happy recipients of royal charity. In its entirety, this creates the catastrophic picture that Olusoga traces in his “Guardian” comment: the royals in their dream castles, as they graciously share crumbs with the multiethnic rest of the world.
“Know exactly what you are launching”
Queen biographer Calvetti does not believe that any of this is a coincidence. The Queen knows exactly what she’s doing: “She admires photography and rejects filming. She has always gathered the most famous photographers around her, she feels that she is in good hands with her company. ”Aristocracy expert Lisbeth Bischoff also states that this has not changed in the days of Instagram:“ The royals are on all channels – but not because they are are so nice. For them, social media is a controlling body. When you launch something, you know exactly what you are launching. “
Paola Calvetti: The Queen. Piper, 336 pages, 22.90 euros.
Calvetti also sees it this way: “The technology has changed, but the intention has remained the same. You don’t want them to lose control. But the Queen still prefers to communicate through photography. ”Which you can see in the many old photos on the Instagram account. However, there remains a gap in the critical examination of the past, for example regarding complicity in the slave trade, writes Royals critic Olusoga. For him, the royals are trapped in their version of a “make-believe past”.