Media Literacy and the Royals
Like so many others, I’ve seen a lot of conflicting and confusing stories about the royals in the weeks since Queen Elizabeth died. This type of misinformation surrounding large global events, like Queen Elizabeth’s death and funeral isn’t new and it’s something we’ve become alarmingly accustomed to.
Now, I am not an expert, royal watching is just a hobby of mine that I do in my spare time. But I am extremely passionate about media literacy and I’m hoping that I can clear a few things up around the stories we have been seeing shared. While clarifying some of this misinformation, I also hope I can help some people learn a bit more about media literacy and how to verify stories and sources.
But if you aren’t an expert, why should I trust what you say? Why are you qualified to clarify these stories?
These are the first questions you all are hopefully asking and it’s probably one of the most important questions to ask when looking at sources. So, I’m going to share with you my “qualifications” and why I hope you’ll trust me.
I have been following the Royals since 2010 and have watched them closely as they navigate the ever-changing media landscape. I’ve studied royal history from the Tudors to the Windsor’s. I have a degree in media and communication. I have over five years of experience in marketing and advertising and my full-time job is as a social media manager. I don’t monetize this site or any part of my blog.
Some questions I hope you have now:
Where did you study royal history? I took three courses during university and am self-taught otherwise.
What does a degree in Media and Communication teach you? First, (and most important) it taught me media literacy; how to think critically about sources, identify bias and look at something from all perspectives. Plus, it taught me how to communicate complex ideas or concepts to people of all ages and backgrounds.
What does a social media manager do? A lot of things but more than anything my job is to stay up-to-date on social trends in order to keep our clients relevant and build their social presence. It’s a lot of data and analytics, forecasting, analysis, competitive reviews, monitoring sentiment and audience behavior.
Why does monetization matter? This is probably the most important part of being media literate because it gets to a vital part of media: motivation.
We’d be lying to ourselves to say money doesn’t matter and it matters even more in media. Money is one of the biggest motivating factor in media today. At the end of the day, the Press is still a business and they need to make money to continue on. In the simplest terms, the most efficient way they do this is through advertising.
Therefore, they are going to write stories and focus their attention on what generates engagement. Advertisers will pay more if they know a lot of people will be tuning in, clicking, sharing, responding or engaging. Media monitors all of this in order to show advertisers the amount of people their content can reach. The more people they reach, the more advertisers will pay and the more money goes back into their pockets. This is the reason we have "clickbait"
If they discover a certain story or person gets a lot of engagement, they’ll keep reporting on it and sharing information, even if there is not much new info to share. I don’t like to get political on here so please note that this is just an example & I’m not going to tolerate Political debates or discussions, but Donald Trump is a great example of this phenomenon.
It really can’t be argued at this point that Trump is an incredibly divisive figure the world over. Like him or loathe him, he generates clicks and engagements. His fans hang onto his every word, idolizing him like a God. His haters can’t seem to look away either, sharing everything he says and does, wondering “Did he really just say that?”. It doesn’t matter if you are engaging with something because you like it or hate it, it’s still engagement and Trump is a figure that almost demands people’s attention on both sides.
It's why, even after he left office almost two years ago, he’s still talked about with alarming regularity. The Press knows he gets engagement, whether he provokes adoration or outrage in you, it’s important to know that he’s going to continue to be on the media's radar as long as he is profitable.
I’ll offer another example I deal with every single day in my day job. The clients I work with make money when people show up and select their services over a competitor. Therefore, two of their biggest goals in the digital landscape are awareness and website traffic. Our goals in running campaigns are to teach potential consumers about the services our clients offer in the hopes that when they need those service they will think of our clients first and our clients make money, therefore we make money.
But I don’t monetize anything. I don’t make money whether a post gets one view or one hundred. Therefore, I have no incentive to say one thing or another to get people to engage. I share what I am interested in and what I hope are relevant and interesting discussions for fellow royal watchers.
I’m not going to pretend like the fact I don’t monetize this site means I am completely unbiased. Obviously, I run a blog about the royals. I like the royals and I want to see them succeed, I want their work to succeed and I want other people to like them too and that is where my bias lies.
Another crucial element of media literacy: knowing your sources bias.
While journalists are supposed to remain unbiased but they are only human and completely removing bias is nearly impossible. Therefore, always ask where their bias is most likely to lie and why. There are some ways you can do this. You can check the overall bias of the outlet you are looking at. I use the Ad Fontes media bias chart with alarming regularity. You can see who is financing the author/source and determine from that where the authors bias lies.
But now that we’ve established all of that and you are all hopefully thinking critically about anything and everything I am about to say, let's clear up a couple of the stories we’ve all seen this week.
I've included relevant sources that I hope you'll check out and read for yourself as well.
King Charles III makes Prince A*drew a Counselor of State & Gives him the title Earl of Inverness
True or False:
Counsellors of State are determined by the Regency Act of 1937. By law, Counsellors of State include the Sovereign's spouse and the next four people in the line of succession who are over the age of 21. Currently that is The Queen, Prince of Wales, Duke of Sussex, Duke of York and Princess Beatrice. Counsellors of State are automatic and this law would require an act of Parliament to be changed. King Charles has not changed the law and he has not appointed his brother as a Counselor of State.
So, when did he become a Counsellor of State? Following Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh’s death in April 2021, A*drew automatically became a counsellor of state. Just as Princess Beatrice automatically inherited the position upon the accession of King Charles III. Unless there is an act of Parliament, A*drew will remain a Counsellor of State until Princess Charlotte turns 21 and can assume the position (Assuming King Charles III will still be monarch be Charlotte is 21).
Further, A*drew has held the title Earl of Inverness since his wedding in July 1986. The title is rarely used as it is a subsidiary title and there have been efforts in 2019 and 2022 to strip him of the title. To strip him of the title would also require an act of parliament and it is not possible for King Charles III to do it on his own.
Prince Harry and Prince A*drew are forbidden from wearing military uniforms despite both having active duty service in the military.
True or False:
Military Uniforms can only be worn by active-duty service members. Only people/veterans who have the permission of the sovereign can wear their uniforms according to the Uniforms act of 1894. Veterans can wear their medals during any/all appropriate occasions which is often what you see on Remembrance Sunday (video here). Veterans will be in suits with their medals, sometimes a regimental hat, but they won’t wear full uniforms.
So why can Royals, even those who did not serve, wear uniforms? They hold honorary military titles which essentially means they are “active” in the military. When A*drew was (finally) stripped of his honorary titles he was no longer considered “active” in the military and therefore lost the right to continue to wear his uniform.
Upon leaving his role as a working royal, Prince Harry also lost those military appointments that had allowed him to continue to wear his uniform. He is still able to wear his medals at any and all appropriate events.
In regards to wearing/not wearing uniforms at the vigils. Originally, there was only going to be a vigil held by the Queens children, hence why the exception was made for A*drew to wear his uniform (per the Uniforms Act, people can wear uniforms with the sovereign’s permission). It wasn’t decided until later that the grandchildren would also do a vigil for Queen Elizabeth and therefore, Harry was granted the same permission A*drew was.
You'll notice that Prince Philip stopped wearing his uniform at a certain point and that Vice Admiral Timothy Lawrence only wears it on specific occasions, with the sovereigns permission, as he is a veteran of the Royal Navy.
There is one subset to this story I'd also like to clear up about which royals actually have military service. Here are when other members of the royal family served in the military.
King Charles III: 1971-1976
Prince of Wales: 2006-2013
Duke of Sussex: 2005-2015
Duke of York: 1979-2001
Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence: 1973-2010
Duke of Kent - 1955-1976
Prince Michael of Kent - 1961-1981
Both Charles and William were barred from Active Duty service due to their position in the line of succession and the security risk they posed (i.e. it would have been even more dangerous for fellow service members serving alongside them since they would have been targeted.) It was extremely dangerous to them and their fellow soldiers for both A*drew and Harry to serve active duty and Harry was forced to leave one tour early due to these security risks. Furthermore, there are a lot of types of service in the military from civilian to active duty and all are vital and ought to be respected. To any and all veterans, thank you for your service.
Finally, I want to make it clear: the situations under which Harry and A*drew can no longer wear their uniforms are different and not comparable for a moment. I am not comparing the two situations, merely commenting on the end result of those situations.
One final element to note is that unlike some other countries, the UK doesn’t expressly have written laws about certain rules or protocols. The U.K. constitution itself is comprised of both “written and unwritten arrangements” and therefore there are occasions where you cannot directly cite a written law or custom which can sometimes make finding “proof” of a custom, tradition or law difficult.
These are by far not the only stories I’ve seen inaccurate information shared about but I figured this was a good place to start. If you have other headlines or have seen other reports that you’d like me to go through, leave a comment below.