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The royal rebrand is already underway

A version of this story appeared in the April 23 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on the royal family, what they are up to in public and what’s happening behind palace walls. Sign up here.

London (CNN) — This week saw members of Britain’s royal family return to public engagements as the two-week royal mourning period following the Duke of Edinburgh’s death draws to a close.

The moves signal the family are hoping to reemerge from their collective grief and dive right back into their busy schedules as they look to the future. Seeing the Queen — who opted to mark her birthday privately on Wednesday — seated alone in St. George’s Chapel during Prince Philip’s funeral certainly pointed to the start of a new phase in the monarch’s reign.

Back in 2002, when the Queen, accompanied by Philip, appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony for her golden jubilee, it was widely seen as a turning point for her monarchy. Delight was written across her face as she looked out on a sea of adoring fans, cheering and waving flags and umbrellas.

That response — almost two decades ago — was what the organizers had hoped for. But it wasn’t guaranteed. Nobody quite knew if it would materialize after the years of bad press following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. Cheers turned to screams of excitement as Princes Charles, William and Harry, then aged 53, 19 and 17, respectively, stepped forward behind the Queen as the future faces of the monarchy. It felt like the monarchy had not only bounced back but was here to stay.

Aides will be hoping to replicate that sentiment next year when Elizabeth marks another milestone — her platinum jubilee — by becoming the first-ever British sovereign to celebrate 70 years on the throne. Over a four-day bank holiday weekend in June 2022, an “extensive programme of public events will mix traditional pageantry with cutting edge technological displays,” according to a UK government statement.

It will also be another opportunity to display how the family has rebranded after revelations about the royals from Oprah Winfrey’s interview with the Sussexes and allegations stemming from Prince Andrew’s relationship with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Despite being in her 90s, Elizabeth has kept a demanding schedule of engagements, making the most of video calls to continue her duties throughout the pandemic. Even before the virus upended everything in the UK last March, she had conducted 296 engagements between 2019 and 2020.

But because she can’t do it all by herself, she drafts in several generations of the family to complete the more than 3,000 engagements the royal family undertake both at home and abroad each year.

Those family figureheads helping fulfill public duties have been swapped around more than anyone ever imagined in recent years. Philip is now gone, but so too are Harry and Andrew, for very different reasons.

There is still the core team of working royals, comprising the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. In time, their children — Prince George and his siblings — will join that cohort but they are obviously much too young to take on public duties now.

The question of who takes up the patronages and military titles formerly held by Harry, Meghan and Andrew is certainly something the family will be looking to address over the next year.

The Cambridges are doing more but they have a young family, so the choice will be over whether the family reduces its public events, or if they draft in minor royals until the next generation is ready.

Princess Anne — the Queen’s only daughter — already has a full diary of engagements, so the other option would be Anne’s brother, Prince Edward, and his wife, the Countess of Wessex. The Queen is close to them, which became obvious when they so publicly stepped forward to support her after Philip’s death. Prince William may also consider leaning on his cousins Beatrice and Eugenie, Andrew’s daughters, who have retained their princess titles.

Royal succession planning takes place at a glacial pace and is signaled by nods and winks. As the institution prepares to celebrate the monarch’s 70-year reign, celebrations next summer will be the perfect opportunity for the Queen to showcase the supporting cast to the future kings, Charles and William. All eyes will be on the balcony, and the first group that follows her out will be her amended vision of the working monarchy.


Monarchy, institution and the firm — are you getting confused about all the lingo associated with the royals? We wouldn’t blame you. It’s a lot to get your head around.

The best way to break it all down is to start with at the top. The monarchy is much more than just a family — it is an intricate, multi-billion-dollar brand with thousands of employees. So, how has a 1,000-year-old institution adapted to make it useful today?

Many people equate the royal family with a family-led business. But that’s the first misunderstanding, because it doesn’t make money like a normal business.

At the center of the working family, you have the firm of senior working royals headed by the Queen — they’re some of the closest to her in the line of succession.

Then there’s the institution of Buckingham Palace, which the Queen heads up. The palace employs hundreds of staff annually and these employees, unlike the working royals, are on royal household payroll and have access to company benefits.

The family’s engagements and maintenance of royal properties are subsidized by the Sovereign Grant, a public fund that came to a total of over $100 million for the 2020-2021 financial year. But in return, the monarchy has been estimated to generate more than $2 billion a year for the UK economy.

Want to find out more about how the institution is set up? Have a watch of our handy video explainer from CNN producer Sofia Couceiro here.


Prince Louis turns 3

One of the littlest royals is celebrating his birthday this week. Prince Louis, the youngest child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, turned three on Friday. His proud parents shared a new photograph of Louis, taken by mom shortly before he headed off to his first day of preschool at Willcocks Nursery School, Kensington Palace said. William and Catherine have continued the tradition of releasing a photo to mark their children’s birthdays. The photos are usually from the couple’s personal collection and are customarily taken by Kate, who has a passion for photography. Want more adorable snaps? Have a look at last year’s fun-filled birthday pic of Louis showcasing his own artsy side here.

Kate gives flying a go … sort of

The Duchess of Cambridge tested out her piloting skills in a flight simulator while visiting an air cadet center on Wednesday. William, who previously worked as a search and rescue pilot for the Royal Air Force and later as an air ambulance pilot, helpfully took possession of his wife’s purse as she climbed into the cockpit and donned headphones before trying out the system. The visit was the first public event for the pair since attending the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral at the weekend. Philip served as Air Commodore-in-Chief of the Air Training Corps for more than 60 years. He handed over the military patronage to Catherine in 2015. While visiting the 282 Squadron, the Cambridges met with young people to learn how the air cadets program supports young people in developing life skills and met students who were participating in leadership and field craft exercises. As the tour drew to a close, the couple were treated to a three-cheers salute to honor Philip.

William weighs in on football row

The Duke of Cambridge has very strong views over a controversial breakaway European Super League that — amid vehement condemnation from fans — has been shelved — for now. William, who is president of the English Football Association and a devoted Aston Villa fan, stressed the importance of listening to fans, in a rare personal post on Twitter after all six of the Super League’s English participants announced their withdrawal from the exclusive competition this week. “I’m glad the united voice of football fans has been heard and listened to,” the duke wrote in the post. “It is now really important that we use this moment to secure the future health of the game at all levels. As President of the FA, I’m committed to playing my part in that work,” he added before signing off the tweet simply with “W.”


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will celebrate 10 years of marriage next week, after tying the knot in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011.

To celebrate the milestone, we thought we’d take a moment to look back at some of the couple’s best moments, with a few family snaps thrown in.

Check out more photos capturing William and Kate’s love story here.

Prince William and several celebrity activists including Queen Rania of Jordan, David Attenborough and actress Cate Blanchett, signed an open letter for Earth Day 2021 calling on the world to “channel the same spirit of innovation and possibility from the fight against Covid to our greatest challenge: repairing our planet.” You can read the full letter here. The Earthshot Prize is an annual environmental award launched by the Duke of Cambridge and Attenborough last October.

Prince Harry echoed his sibling in his own Earth Day message as president of African Parks, a non-profit conservation organization. The group re-released a video narrated by the duke in which he advocates for the preservation of national areas and protected areas on the continent. In a statement, Harry spoke of the importance of “strengthening and protecting of biodiversity” before reflecting on “conservation champions, including my late grandfather.” The duke added that he felt “proud and energized to continue doing my part in this legacy.”

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