It was back-to-work week for some members of the Royal Family after spending the past three months trying to stay relevant online.
A declining COVID-19 infection rate in the U.K. has led to restrictions slowly being lifted, and that means the royals are also coming out of isolation.
Prince Charles was first out the gate with a physically distanced visit to a hospital in Gloucestershire on Tuesday. There he revealed to health workers that his sense of smell and taste are still not back, after he fought the virus in the spring.
Charles also welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron to London for a Second World War anniversary in London on Thursday.
Other senior royals, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, made public appearances this week — Prince William at a bakery joking about how many sweets he has been eating, and Kate visiting a garden centre.
For months, the Royal Family have traded in handshakes for hashtags to connect with their public during the pandemic. One social media expert says the pandemic strategy has been a success.
Royal Family ‘always trying to reinvent themselves’
“The Royal Family are always trying to reinvent themselves,” said Diana Young, a London-based marketing consultant.
By posting videos and taking part in video calls, the royals let people into their homes and it’s just what the public needed, said Young, founder of WeSocialis digital marketing agency.
“They want to see real people and realize they are going through the same thing we are going through.”
The younger royals have been using social media successfully for years but Prince Charles has only embraced it in recent months.
Prince Charles, ‘Instagram King’
The Prince of Wales has spent his isolation in Scotland filling up his Instagram feed with a range of posts, from serious messages to recipes for cheesy eggs.
The “likes” on his posts have gone from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. One British paper branded him the “Instagram King.”
“For me, the real takeaway is that the Royal Family are now able to manage their reputation online,” said Young.
The royals may choose to keep some things virtual because it’s easier to control than traditional media, she said.
And that’s just a small post-COVID change compared to what royal biographer Andrew Morton predicts — especially for the 94-year-old Queen.
“The brutal truth is that her reign is effectively over,” he said in a recent interview with The Telegraph.
Queen embraces Zoom
Morton believes it could be months or years before she will be able to carry out royal engagements in person.
“If she gets the bug it could be fatal and would put Prince Philip at risk as well. The brutal truth is that her reign is effectively over. COVID-19 has done more damage to the monarchy than Oliver Cromwell. Corona has practically put Charles on the throne,” he told the Telegraph.
But not everyone agrees that the Queen’s reign is over.
“There’s no need necessarily to start banding around words like Prince Regency and abdication simply because the Queen at the moment is unable to do some of the face-to-face work,” said Camilla Tominey, an associate editor with the Telegraph.
She said the Queen has been present during the pandemic. The monarch made a rare televised address to the nation in April and a appeared on a recent Zoom call in honour of Carers Week.
“I think actually they’ve managed to turn a crisis into an opportunity, shown that they’re up with the times. They’ve modernized. I think the digital output has been good and welcomed,” Tomeny said.
Scaled-back Trooping the Colour
The Queen was photographed recently riding a horse, then again last weekend at a scaled-back Trooping the Colour on June 13. The event marks the monarch’s official birthday, normally with crowds in London lining the streets to see the Royal Family on parade. This year, it was a small, private event on the grounds of Windsor Castle.
“Many people would look at a 94 year old who has perhaps been able to retreat from public life for the longest time ever in her reign and they would forgive her if she decided to just put her monogrammed slippered feet up,” said Tominey.
But that’s not the Queen’s way, she said.
Tominey predicted the Queen will be back when it’s safe to do so — pointing to the Queen’s motto that the royal family “must be seen to be believed.”