The Royal Family and Soft Diplomacy
"Soft" or "Gentle" diplomacy is something that is discussed in Royal Watching spheres a lot, especially during times of crisis, unrest or uncertainty and its been used a lot in the past couple of years. So, what is it? Essentially, soft diplomacy is what the royal family does every time they meet with foreign leaders or diplomats, go abroad on tour, or undertake engagements/release statements related to current world or government affairs. It is a way for them to support Her Majesty's government and their goals without wading into the messy business of politics.
Soft Diplomacy is basically when the British Royal Family use their profile and roles to offer good PR to an important current event or issue in order to help Her Majesty's government achieve their goals either at home or abroad.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall demonstrated the royal family's gentle approach to diplomacy perfectly earlier this week when they visited the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London to meet with members of the Ukrainian Community in the U.K. They lit candles, offered prayers and listened to members of the community. Prince Charles, in line with her Majesty's government, shared that they stand in solidarity with those "resisting brutal aggression".
Earlier this week, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge released a personal statement in support of President Zelenskyy and the First Lady. The couples met in October 2020 where they heard about the hope and optimism for Ukraines future and they shared that they stand in support of those fighting for that future. The message was a personal note, signed W&C.
The Queen will have been kept up-to-date on the unfolding crisis in Ukraine both during her weekly calls with the Prime Minister and in government documents she receives daily. But as head of state, has yet to comment on the matter publicly and will not comment publicly unless at the direction of the Prime Minister. She has found other means of showing support for Her Government's position on the crisis, including donations to the Disaster Emergency Commissions Ukraine Appeal. The Duchess of Cornwall has also made a personal donation to help with the unfolding crisis.
This war in Ukraine is a perfect example of the Royal Family's soft diplomatic approach. They do not impose sanctions themselves, or speak to members of Parliament, NATO, the EU or the UN about it. They do not take any official governmental or political role in the crisis but they highlight the personal nature of the issue. They offer personal financial support where they can. They center the impacted community in their statements and appearances and offer displays of solidarity with them. They use their position to bring attention to the issue, to show support but they take no official role.
In addition to their gentle approach to the Ukraine crisis, we've seen the British Royal Family's soft touch in regards to issues like the U.K's departure from the European Union, the growth and future of the Commonwealth, the Coronavirus Pandemic and maintaining foreign relations around the world. The Royal Family offers a bridge for Parliament to not only the U.K. public but to leaders and diplomats around the world. We will see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's diplomatic approach at work during their trip to the Caribbean later this month. We will see Charles and Camilla continue to try and build more positive relations with Ireland as well this month.
Diplomacy is a vital job of the British Royal Family and it is one of several reasons the Royal Family is so important to the life and culture of the United Kingdom. However, soft diplomacy can only continue to work if the Royals remain apolitical. If they are seen as being too left-or-right leaning, they won't be able to do the work they do. They need people on both sides of the aisle to feel supported and listened to, so that they can continue to build those bridges between two parties or two countries with the ultimate goal of supporting Her Majesty's government and the United Kingdom on the world stage. It is why it is so incredibly vital that working Royals remain as politically neutral as it is possible to be and why, on the rare occasions when they do take sides, it is so influential.