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The queen’s tweets

Free of snark, the British royal family markets itself in the digital age.

Queen elizabeth 06 07 2013Enlarge
Common touch? Tweeting makes royal family members seem like "normal people." (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON, UK — There are no “selfies.” No late-night rants or public feuds with foreign royal figures. No pictures of corgis with “LOL!!!” captions.

But with nearly a half-million followers, The British Monarchy — the queen’s official Twitter account — is one of a steadily increasing number of official social media channels shaping the royals’ public image.

When the queen was crowned in 1953, lawmakers in the House of Commons argued about whether or not it was appropriate to subject so august an event to something as plebian as television cameras.

Today, virtually no public appearance by the monarch or her progeny goes undocumented by the royal public relations machine, a tight-lipped group tasked with conveying the regal touch through tools designed for the masses.

The name- and gender-neutral @BritishMonarchy handle can be passed along to future rulers as easily as the crown itself. It covers the official engagements of the queen, her husband Prince Philip and their four children.

It’s not to be confused with Elizabeth Windsor, a popular parody account in which a sardonic and hard-drinking monarch serves up dry witticisms to more than a million followers.

“Off to the BBC shortly. Be interesting to see if there's anyone there who hasn't yet been arrested,” the fictional queen tweeted Friday, as the real queen toured the new London broadcasting center.

A separate account, @ClarenceHouse, tweets on behalf of Prince Charles, his wife Camilla, Prince William, Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry.

The queen has been tweeting since 2009, the same year the palace unveiled a sharp new official website after several missteps. Her Majesty’s official Flickr and Facebook accounts came out the following year.

The queen follows only two people: Clarence House and an account dedicated to the journals of Queen Victoria.

A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace and Clarence House declined to comment on the workings of the royal family’s public relations strategy, other than to describe their various social media outlets as “something we use very much when we’re making announcements… in conjunction with traditional methods of communication.”

Clarence House, Prince Charles’s official residence, has embraced social media with particular enthusiasm. It Vines. It Instagrams. It tweets photos of Prince Charles standing in fields of flowers.

The snark and irony that characterizes so much of Twitter is absent from the royal tweets.

“The Duchess of Cornwall views fabulous gowns,” read a typically earnest post from Camilla’s recent trip to Paris.

The May 30 missive “Japanese tourists are surprised and happy to see The Prince of Wales in Armenia” accompanied an Instagram photo of a grinning Prince Charles, snap-happy tourists and glowering security personnel.

Nor do the tweets touch on particularly personal or controversial topics.

“The Duke of Cambridge says that ‘every child has the right to learn to swim,’” said a June 3 tweet from Clarence House, linking to a YouTube video in which Prince William does just that. The Clarence House feed has been largely given over this month to a campaign promoting England’s wildflowers (#CoronationMeadows).

The point of all the sharing, observers say, is to make the royal family seem like normal people, key for ensuring the British public will want to keep them around.

“The queen is the unsung PR genius behind all this,” historian Robert Lacey told the Guardian last year. “She's apparently stuffy but nimble, and very responsive to how society has changed. She is rebranding the royal family from behind the scenes to ensure it survives.”

“The monarchy has to evolve and become as touchy feely as the rest of the population,” Majesty magazine editor Ingrid Seward said in the same article. “That's easy for William and Harry, but not for the queen. When you're an 85-year-old, you're taught not to show your emotions. You don't hug anything but animals."

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first child next month. Unlike many expectant mothers, Middleton has admirably refrained from posting public photos of sonograms and complaints about pregnancy aches on any of the social networks available to her.

If Prince Charles really wants to prove he has the common touch, however, he will do what all new grandparents do and shamelessly overshare baby photos.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/united-kingdom/130607/britain-queen-twitter-social-media