It’s quite a choice that PEOPLE Magazine has made for their cover story this week: What the Queen is REALLY like. And the image that was selected to front the issue – the Queen, not in regal monarch style but just about as casual as we’ll ever see her. Basically this is her version of athleisure, lol.
So what they’re doing here is trying to make Her Majesty… accessible?
“The Queen "is much livelier in private than what the public sees," royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith, author of Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch, tells PEOPLE in one of this week's cover stories.
The author quotes a source at the Queen's country estate in Norfolk, Sandringham, once saying, " 'You can hear her laugh throughout that big house.' She has a big laugh!"
Now I’m laughing. The whole point of this story is to paint a picture of the “real Queen”, and the first thing they tell us is that, well, she laughs. Which seems like something you’d say if you were trying to convince people that someone isn’t a robot or, um, mean, cold, detached, unfeeling. Put a pin in that.
There are other “humanising” examples that follow, including anecdotes about how self-deprecating the Queen can be and how she had fun at a photo shoot one day by experimenting with poses. Which is another layer of comedy because of course for a long time, the courtiers and the defenders of the sovereign were all about reminding us how special she is – and by extension the whole British royal brand. How many times over the last couple of years, especially related to reporting about Meghan Markle, have we heard about how “it’s not royal” to do this or that or the other?
And now here we are being told that the Queen… is just like us! She laughs! She makes fun of herself! She’s playful when she gets her picture taken!
What’s this all about? Is this just PEOPLE needing to make-a-story to make up for a mid-January coverage lull? Or could it have anything to do with… you know… the impression people have been reframing about the Queen and the British royals recently? In America in particular, where Prince Harry and Meghan have relocated, and where generally people are more sympathetic to what the Sussexes experienced in England, are the royals looking for reputation rehab now that The Crown season four has been seen by millions of people, leading many to reconsider their perspective on the Queen through the Diana lens? When Diana died, she was accused of being unfeeling, unsympathetic. The Firm spent years restoring the royal gloss as the grief over Diana’s death gradually faded but now that The Crown has focused on the Diana years, those sentiments are coming back. As Kelly Faircloth noted at Jezebel The Crown in one season may have undone some of the repair work that the royals have been putting in for over a decade. And all this on the heels of the Harry and Meghan departure and the accompanying rumours, during a pandemic when the distance between the elites and the commoners could not be more pronounced, here comes the ghost of Diana, dramatised through one of Netflix’s most successful original productions. So as the Queen nears the end of her reign, of course her priority is to protect the legacy. And to do so, she may have to rely on stories like these to make her and her family more “approachable” and “relatable”. The horror! But also, if that’s the case, how positively…thirsty. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing – royal thirst, I mean. I’m definitely here for it. Everybody has to hustle these days, even Her Majesty.