This class will examine some of the most famous (or infamous) scandals involving the British Royal Family since the Georgian period of the 18th century. Using the 2020 controversy over “Megxit” (the renunciation of royal duties by Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex) as our starting point, we will look backwards to understand the complicated–and often heated–relationship between the Royal Family, the media, and the public. Some of the featured scandals will include: “the madness of King George,” the rumors surrounding Queen Victoria’s love life, the abdication of Edward VIII, and the tumultuous marriage and divorce of Charles and Diana. These scandals also reveal how attitudes about race, class, and gender have shaped the representation of the Royals in the media.
Crown & Sceptre: A New History of the British Monarchy, from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II, by Tracy Borman.
Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture, by Cele C. Otnes and Pauline Maclaran
The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public, 1932-53, by Edward Owens
- The British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge once wrote that, as the country became more democratic, the public’s fascination with the monarchy intensified. Why do you think this may be the case?
- Do you think the public has a right to know so much detail about the private lives of the Royal Family, or should the media be more restrained in what it reports? Can anything about the Royals ever truly be “private?” And with so much gossip swirling around them, how can we detect fact from fiction?
- Why do you think Americans, who broke free from the British empire in the late 18thcentury, remain fascinated by news and TV series/films about the Royals and aristocracy? Do you think the Monarchy will survive after the death of Queen Elizabeth II (why or why not?)?