I’m worried we’ve veered off course here at Middle Class Monarchs and that we’ve stayed off course for several weeks. It probably started with the dog show, but in my defense that was a fabulous dog show. Anyway, there was a time when I was using these Royal Warrant products to tell a neat, chronological story about Queen Elizabeth’s life. It wasn’t something I expected to do when I started this project, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well it was working. I really loved feeling like we were going somewhere. This week it’s time to pick up our story where we left off. The year is 1952. Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip have two small children: Charles and Anne. Elizabeth’s father has just died and she’s become the queen of England sooner than she ever expected. Plans for a formal coronation ceremony are in full force. How do we tie Samsung into the story? It could be tricky. Samsung holds a Royal Warrant from Her Majesty the Queen as “Supplier of Televisions and Audio Visual Products.”
The Royal Family has a somewhat uncomfortable relationship with television. For the past 60 years they’ve attempted to keep this medium at arm’s length and to keep their members away from its harsh glare, but anyone who's seen even the recent reports about the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy or any of Prince Harry’s latest missteps knows those attempts have obviously been futile. As plans for her coronation were being made in the summer of 1952, Queen Elizabeth at first refused to have the whole thing televised as it played out in Westminster Abbey. Her husband and the Archbishop of Canterbury were in agreement, and for multiple reasons. The Queen viewed the religious ceremony as something that should largely be kept sacred and private. Portions of the coronation—such as when the Archbishop anointed the upper part of her chest—were personal. It was also thought that all of the lights needed to televise the ceremony would make the Queen uncomfortably hot. The monarchy and the church ultimately viewed television as vulgar and common; it had no place in such sacred ceremonial occasions. The Queen didn’t want her coronation televised, so it wasn’t going to be televised.
But that didn’t go over so well. In the fall of 1952 the decision not to televise was finally shared with the press, and the subsequent outcry against the decision was both strong and stunning. In his biography of the Queen, Robert Lacey shares that “the ban was front-page news in every newspaper, and the editorials condemned it with remarkable unanimity.” The Queen was forced to change her decision. While there was some compromise—BBC cameras never took close-up shots of her face, and they turned away during such private moments as her anointing and her communion—the cameras were present for live coverage of the entire event. (You can view some of the footage—some portions are in black and white, some in color—here). In the war over how close they could get to the monarchy, the public won the battle over the coronation.
Samsung is brand new to the list of Royal Warrant holders, as you can see from this press release added to the company’s website last winter. Since 2006 the company has supplied “more than 100 premium TV and AV products to the Royal residences.” If the Queen at one time thought that television was too vulgar to be part of the life of the monarchy, her decision to award a Royal Warrant to a supplier of televisions suggests her opinion has softened. I’ve read claims that her favorite television shows to watch are those like Coronation Street, the popular British soap opera. Unlike typical American soap operas—where everyone is wealthy and successful—in the UK these shows depict more common people grappling with the pressures of everyday life. However, in a 2001 visit to the set of another popular British soap, EastEnders, the Queen and Prince Philip admitted to knowing very little about the show and to rarely watching it.
Perhaps the Queen only needs so many televisions because she wants to monitor what is being said about her and her family...but I like to think she’s just as addicted to Downton Abbey as we are.Where to buy: Samsung televisions are available at most American electronics retailers, although the company’s website promises better deals if you buy online.