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The (family) firm: representation and power in the British royal family

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Unpublished
Publication date2018
Number of pages350
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

This thesis is concerned with the cultural politics of the contemporary British monarchy. It examines media representations of the monarchy from Elizabeth II’s 1953 coronation to the present day, and draws on the intellectual legacies of British Cultural Studies, in particular Stuart Hall, to examine the role of media culture in producing consent for monarchical power. It does this through a close analysis of a range of media texts, from newspapers, magazines, books, portraiture and paintings, photographs, films, television productions, radio shows, websites, social media outputs, cartoons, political commentary, fan/anti-monarchy publications, public opinion polls and surveys, government reports, palace documents and legal archives; to more material phenomena such as monarchy memorabilia and tourist sites around the UK.

Centrally, this thesis counters understandings of the monarchy as an archaic institution, an anachronism to corporate forms of wealth and power, and therefore irrelevant. Rather, I propose to understand the monarchy as part of capital regimes, committed to accumulating wealth and securing power. To do this, I conceptualise the monarchy as a corporation: The Firm. I unpack The Firm’s labour relations, wealth, assets, operational tactics and legal status in order to expose the mechanics and technologies involved “behind the scenes”. Further, I contend that The Firm’s corporate power is disguised through careful stage management, and the production of the monarchy in media representations as the royal family. I analyse these representations using a figurative, mixed-method approach. I draw on a set of case studies – the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince Harry and Kate Middleton – to explore how various royal figures ‘body forth’ (Castañeda, 2002: 3) The Firm and produce consent for monarchical power, as well as producing consent for various phenomena across British social, political and cultural life. In drawing out the economic, political, social and cultural functions of monarchy, I extend conventional understandings of what monarchy is and why monarchy matters.