1.4 Media Coverage of Kings, Queens, and Royal Families

Monarchy (mono means one) is a system of government where a single leader -- a king or queen -- inherits political control by birth and family membership and rules for life. A royal family refers to the immediate family members surrounding a ruling monarch.

Importantly, England whose ideas about and practices of democratic government influenced the American colonists and the political institutions that developed in colonial America has had kings and queens for more than 1,200 years. The current royal family traces its lineage back to William the Conqueror. Not surprisingly, whatever the British royal family does generates an enormous response in print and online media.

Image of the Buckingham Palace Buckingham Palace by dimitrisvetsikas1969 is under Pixabay License

Elizabeth II, who passed in September 2022 at 96 years-old, was the longest reigning British monarch, serving as Queen of the 16 countries of the Commonwealth realm with a population of 150 million people. She was also head of the 54 states in the Commonwealth of Nations that comprise 20% of the world's land and almost one-third of the world's population.

At her passing, her oldest son Charles became King Charles III. Throughout his adult life, Charles has been widely covered in tabloid media (notably his marriage to Princess Diana and his affair and subsequent marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles who is now the Queen Consort of the United Kingdom).

But behind the scenes, Charles has been a hugely successful businessman, using tax breaks, offshore accounts, and real estate deals to acquire huge multi-million dollar assets. The royal family's wealth is estimated at more than $29 billion, an issue in a country where poverty levels have grown significantly and the use of food banks has doubled in recent years (King Charles Inherits Untold Riches and Passes Off His Own Empire, New York Times, September 13, 2022).

Image preview of a YouTube video
Watch on YouTube https://edtechbooks.org/-gssk

In the following activities, you will explore how the media covers and portrays influential individuals in the British and U.S. government, specifically the British royal family and United States Presidents.

Activity 1: Analyze Media Coverage of the Death of Queen Elizabeth II and the Business of the Monarchy

The death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, 2022 immediately became a huge media event. There was coverage of the Queen's passing, the public mourning, the ascension of Charles to the throne, and the multiple funeral events.

At the same time, the Queen's passing also called attention to the wealth and business of the royal family, the "Crown Estate" - consisting of palaces, jewels, artwork, land holdings and investment portfolios - that have been estimated at some $15.6 billion. The Queen herself had her own personal wealth, including the Royal Philatelic Collection - stamps valued at $100 million.

Enormous wealth is a political issue in England where some 14.5 million people (22% of the population, including one in three children) are in poverty (Overall UK Poverty Rates, 2020).

Activity 2: Analyze Media Coverage of Harry and Meghan's Interview with Oprah

In early 2021, Oprah Winfrey's much-anticipated interview with (Prince) Harry and Meghan Markle aired on television in Great Britain and the United States, creating a huge media event. Online and print media devoted extensive coverage to stories of palace intrigue and family conflict, including revelations about racism within the royal family. The interview followed Harry's and Meghan's break with the royal family in which they voluntarily gave up their royal duties and their His/Her Highness titles.

Activity 3: Analyze Movie Trailers About British Kings and Queens and American Presidents

Activity 4: Investigate Media Coverage of the Independence of Barbados

The Queen of England's role in the country of Barbados changed dramatically on November 29, 2021 when she was removed as head of state and replaced by Sandra Mason, the nation's first democratically elected woman president -- 400 hundred years after English ships first arrived there and established one of the most oppressive and brutal of England's Caribbean slave colonies.

As Barbados shifted from a constitutional monarchy to a democratic republic, how did the media cover this historic event?

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Investigate Media Coverage of the Independence of Barbados by Eliza Kuppens, Ava Mullin, Abigail Ariagno

Additional Resources

Connecting to the eBook

Building Democracy for All: The Mayflower Compact, Colonial Governments, Who Voted in Early America, and a Rebellion Against a King

Connecting to the Standards