It’s never a great sign when a promotional video makes you cringe. It’s even worse when that clip—albeit for an excellent cause—features Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry, President Obama, and first lady Michelle Obama.
But a 40-second video released by Kensington Palace this afternoon, in which the queen was cast as straight man to a happy-go-lucky Prince Harry, was knuckle-biting stuff.
In an unwise attempt at on-screen humor, the monarch pretended to watch a “battle video” from Obama and Michele, apparently being shown to her by her grandson Harry on his phone.
After watching the Obamas’ challenge, the queen mutters, “Oh really? Please.”
Staged gags of this kind, though undoubtedly well-meaning (it is to promote the Invictus Games for injured soldiers) on the monarch’s behalf, are incredibly hard to pull off. The James Bond skit at the 2012 London Olympics was brilliant, but it was filmed by an accomplished and experienced team of filmmakers and producers, planned and scripted (by Danny Boyle) over a year in advance.
This, the palace is briefing, was “weeks in the planning”—what, two? One and a half?
This effort looks like it might actually have been done in-house, with the script produced after a brainstorm at Starbucks (“Oh look, it’s from Michelle, how amusing,” says Harry unconvincingly as he picks up his phone). No doubt details of the production team will emerge in the coming days.
One can only assume that Canadian Jason Knauf, the palace’s 32-year-old PR chief, is too young to remember how close the appalling television show It’s a Royal Knockout, masterminded by Prince Edward, came to ending the monarchy when he devised this wheeze for Harry and somehow persuaded Her Majesty to take part.
It’s a Royal Knockout was for good causes, too.
It is not known when the video contribution by the Obamas was filmed, but it was probably part of the discussions that took place when they attended a private dinner at Kensington Palace last week and were greeted by Prince George in a dressing gown.
Prince Harry has been a tireless supporter of the Invictus Games, and Michelle is a huge advocate for injured veterans.
It’s meant well, for sure, but democratizing the monarch in this way, risking several lifetimes of carefully constructed mystery and dignity for the cheap publicity of a royal saying “Boom!” in the queen’s presence, is a very, very high-risk strategy, without obvious commensurate rewards.
More evidence, perhaps, that the young royals need one or two more experienced heads in their press offices, who might perhaps be rather less likely to have their heads turned by the number of hits and follows a social-media post gets.
Speaking of heads…Tower time perhaps?