A fascinating interview with Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury (the most senior Churchman in England) today in Total Politics magazine.
He argues that the monarchy hasn't changed, but their PR strategy has.
The church is not the first ancient institution to face a crisis of popularity. Just a few decades ago, members of the royal family shredded their dignity by donning Olde England fancy dress and taking part in televised party games for It’s a Royal Knock Out, an embarrassing spectacle which was followed by a string of messy royal divorces. The public’s attitude to the Queen and her progeny dipped, but, a quarter of a century on, popularity is at a record high. It’s an exercise in public relations which Welby has watched with admiration.
“It’s genius. Absolute genius,” is the Archbishop’s assessment of the monarchy’s makeover. “If you could bottle it, there wouldn’t be a government in the world that wouldn’t buy it.”
So what is it, exactly?
“It’s not manipulation. It is a genuine, profoundly thoughtful, extremely humble, determined recognition that the world has changed, and a response to that in all sorts of ways. They are probably more popular than they have ever been.” The trick, Welby adds, isn’t that complicated – and the church could learn from it.
“Their basic values haven’t changed. Their commitment to duty, commitment to the country, commitment to fulfilling your promises to God when you were at the coronation, those haven’t changed – and I think the church needs to learn from that. They haven’t changed their basic values and commitment but they have found a way of re-engaging with people. I mean they were never unpopular, it was just there was a difficult patch, but I think the leadership example of Her Majesty is beyond all description.”