Are Royal souvenir newspaper editions still worth it?
Did the UK’s newspaper coverage of the Coronation boost circulation or was it out of touch?
It has been a right Royal time for the media and the right-wing press in particular.
First there was the Jubilee, followed by the death and funeral of Queen Elizabeth II and the Coronation of King Charles III.
All were marked by hours and hours — it sometimes seemed like decades — of live television coverage, Royal documentaries featuring allegedly never before seen footage and enough newspaper Royal Souvenir editions to bury an unwary reader alive.
Running throughout there has also been the endless fascination of the papers with the Harry and Meghan subplot.
The Royal Souvenir editions are as much a part of tradition as the Monarchy itself with media and Royalty locked in a mildly abusive symbiotic relationship. Somehow they still need each other after all this time despite everything.
Just as increasingly questions are being asked about whether the Monarchy is in touch with modern Britain, so you can ask whether the tone and scale of the media coverage reflect contemporary reality.
Do people really collect Souvenir editions anymore? Did they ever, apart from the most diehard Monarchists?
A breakdown of the economics of the Royal extravaganzas would be enlightening.
What do readers actually want from Royal coverage?
In an age of rising newsprint costs does any temporary circulation uplift manage to wash its face compared with the cost of producing such endlessly repeated volumes.
Even yesterday (Tuesday 9 May) three days after the Coronation there was no escape from the Royals with the release of the official pictures which looked remarkable like many of the pictures already seen on an hourly basis since Saturday.
So it was that with minor cropping differences the same picture of King Charles with robes, crown orb and sceptre graced the front pages of The Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror and Sun.
Then there was the Penny Mordaunt moment. Because she was able to hold aloft the admittedly huge Sword of State used to open Parliament for around an hour — and wore a fetching blue frock — did that now really make her Rishi Sunak’s deadliest rival as the Telegraph and Mail appeared to believe?
Is the generally sycophantic coverage of a Royal Coronation, and indeed many things Royal, what readers or viewers want?
Or is it more likely that as with most of the major issues facing the UK, such as this most particular brand of Conservative government and Brexit, most of the national newspapers are totally out of touch with younger generations.
On the Monarchy polls vary, but there is little doubt that the Monarchy is less automatically popular now than it was 50 years ago — according to a You Gov poll 58% think the Monarchy is good for the country, 15% think it is bad and 21% neither, with the young coming in at 32%.
Somewhere in the middle, there is a considerable swathe of reluctant, unenthusiastic monarchists — including present company — who calculate on narrow margins that the sense of history, tradition, and continuity just about outweighs the Ruritanian absurdity of it all and the danger of someone like Boris Johnson ever becoming head of state.
Most newspaper coverage, while a considerable technical and production feat, is only aimed at flag-waving royalists who are also probably supporters of Brexit at a time when an ITV tracking poll found 86% of 18-25 year olds are for rejoining the European Union.
On these and many other issues the right-wing press spends too much of its time in the past.
More Royal changes afoot?
With the Monarchy there seems little appetite in the press for what many see as essential for the survival of the institution — reform.
This must include the Royals paying their taxes like everyone else, particularly inheritance tax, and become a more informal and slimmed down operation — or family firm as the late Duke of Edinburgh used to call it.
The media could encourage King Charles and Queen Camilla to increasingly expand their activities beyond ribbon cutting and Royal walkabouts and towards encouraging social change in a non-party political way.
King Charles may well be up for such a transition. We will know he is starting to succeed when the Daily Mail begins asking whether he has become too woke.
The lack of power of a constitutional Monarch meant that last week, just before the Coronation, King Charles gave his Royal Assent to the Public Order Act 2023 which many saw as a curb on the right to protest.
This specially rushed in measure to prevent “locking-on” or going equipped for locking on, thanks to the heavy-handedness of the police, ended up as a carbuncle on the Coronation, far more serious than any demonstration would have been.
We now know that among 64 arrests were six protesters from the Republic anti-monarchy group, who were taken into custody after being stopped unloading placards with leather suitcase belts to hold them. They had been in discussion with the Metropolitan Police for months about their plans.
Before the Coronation the Mail on Sunday splashed on security fears that protestors planned to set off rape alarms to spook horses in the period.
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden confirmed the fears were real and three people with rape alarms were duly arrested at 2am on the morning of the Coronation.
They turned out to be volunteer workers with Westminister Council who give out rape alarms to vulnerable women late at night.
Naturally the Daily Mail repeated the Government verdict that the policing of the event had been proportionate just before the police started expressing “regret” and quasi apologies for their actions.
In general the free press of this country has, much to its shame, shown little appetite for protecting the diminishing freedoms of the subjects of King Charles.
As many have pointed out arresting people before they could even manage to lift their protest placards is like something out of Moscow.
Only prosecutions for wrongful arrest will make a difference in this case.
At least the Royal circus is nearly over and for many reasons let’s hope there will not be another Coronation for many years.
But the next best secular thing is on the way — an international song contest.
How many special, historic, souvenir editions will that generate?
Raymond Snoddy is a media consultant, national newspaper columnist and former presenter of NewsWatch on BBC News. He writes for The Media Leader on Wednesdays — read his column here.