Living Like A King
December 28, 2012 10:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for information on the structure of life for members of the British Royal Family, particularly the lives of heirs to the throne: protocols, responsibilities, duties, etc. Do they have support staffs from childhood? Are they surrounded 24/7 by huge security details? Are there media consultants and imaging experts? Do they do their own grocery shopping? Do they have "days off" and what would that even mean in this context?

I'm working on a fictional thing involving fictional royalty, so I'm not necessarily looking for information specifically about the current heirs, although that would probably be helpful as precedent.
posted by davidjmcgee to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: As only a partial answer, you may be interested in the Court Circular.
posted by grouse at 1:31 PM on December 28, 2012

You can probably get this kind of detail from autobiographies - not commonly done by the royal heirs/monarchs themselves, but those on the periphery, such as the Queen's cousin, Diana's former butler, and Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York.
posted by jacalata at 3:25 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Duchess of Cambridge, when not in London anyway, has been photographed doing grocery shopping.

I'm pretty sure there is far less support staff than most of us think, and certainly nothing like an image consultant per se, but the family is fairly vast and includes a lot of people with much more grounded lives who privately offer advice.

Most of the top royals have a schedule of public activities, but these are on the whole passive things like opening supermarkets and bestowing charity gongs (medals, etc.). Periodically someone like Princess Anne or the former Duchess of York realizes they can stop doing most of this stuff and falls back from public life. Thus, days off. I think it's clear, though, that having a real career such as military service gives a life purpose and focus that otherwise would be one of pointless lassitude. A few steps down the line of succession and you find people working in corporate contexts, law firms, and at the very least some sort of full-time charity oversight.

Security details are something on which few, um, details are available, but there are indeed many security staff and they are augmented for public occasions by members of the Metropolitan Police. There is a "Specialist Operations" branch, SO14, tasked with royal protection, but they aren't always evident or present in large numbers with routine movement, which is how Charles and Camilla ended up having their Rolls pelted with eggs and paint. For the most part the top royals have about one person constantly at their side, but this person is augmented by a whole detail including communications and backup.
posted by dhartung at 11:53 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I was nine years old, because Ask Metafilter had not yet been invented, I wrote a letter to the Queen and asked her how she liked her job and what she actually did all day. I got a reply in a posh embossed envelope. I just went and pulled it out of my closet, as I remembered it had some information pertinent to your question. It doesn't give the degree of detail I think you are after, but some of it might be helpful.

For flavour, though, we'll start with the individualised type-written cover letter, which said the following:

"Dear [Lollusc],
I am commanded by the Queen to write and thank you for your letter.
Her Majesty was interested to hear from you, and I am enclosing some information which I hope you will find helpful.
I am to thank you again for your thought in writing.
Yours sincerely,
[unreadable signature, looks like "Mary Louisa" maybe]

The enclosed document is entitled: "The Life & Activities of the Queen"
It is long. I will quote the most interesting bits and bold the parts that are most likely to be useful to you specifically.

It begins with blah blah blah Colonial Territories blah blah blah Millions of people of all races look upon her as their head blah blah blah great and unceasing responsibility.

Then there is a section entitled "The Burden of Sovereignty", which is terribly moving (not really) but not so relevant.

Then we move on to day-to-day life.

"Twice every day, morning and evening, a box arrives containing [telegrams, reports, debates from House of Commons and House of Lords, copies of memoranda, minutes of proceedings of various meetings, reports from Commonwealth countries, letters from Governor Generals, Ambassadors, etc]. Therefore, as well as her public and private engagements for the day, Her Majesty may spend two or three hours reading these State papers, so that as Head of State she can have a general knowlege of the current problems."

"When The Queen is in Britain, she sees a large number of important people privately, for example Ambassadors, High Commissioners and senior members of the Armed Forces on their appointment and retirement, as well as Ministers from Commonweath countries and other distinguished foreigners. She receives all diplomatic representatives of foreign States with their wives, after their arrival and again before they depart. English Diocesan Bishops are received on appointment, when they do Homage to the Queen.

"On average The Queen summons ten meetings of the Privy Council every year [...] She sees the Prime Minister regularly and receives other Ministers when necessary to discuss their departmental problems. The Lord Chamberlain and the Vice-Chamberlain of the Household (one of the Government Whips) come at intervals to present Addresses from the Lords and Commons respectively.

"Apart from these audiences and meetings, Her Majesty hold fourteen investitures a year, at which she personally bestows the awards conferred on civilians and members of the Services who have earned them. Each year The Queen presents some 2,200 Orders, Decorations and Medals."

Then there is a very long section on State Occasions, Public and Private Engagements, which can be summarised as involving Opening of Parliament, Trooping the Colour (?), Services of the Garter, Thistle, and other Orders, the Remembrance Day Ceremony and various church services.

"Her Majesty attends a large number of engagements, both public and private, outside London. These can involve visits of more than one day's duration and often centre around an event of local importance such as the opening of a new building, or a national even such as the Royal Agricultural Show. There are also Royal Film premieres, Variety and Concert performances in aid of charitable causes, visits to universities, schools, hospitals, factories and other establishments.

"The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh show a wide hospitality. They have informal luncheon parties, hold a number of garden parties (usually three in London and one at Holyroodhouse every year) and give large official receptions [... blah blah blah examples, blah blah blah sports matches, Derby, Races at Ascot] and as a keen owner and breeder of racehorses, she often sees her horses run at other meetings."

"All these engagements are enjoyable, it may be said, and there are many who would welcome the opportunity to attend them. However for The Queen, the pleasure of attending such functions is bound to be tempered by the knowledge that she is constantly in the public eye and being continually photographed and televised. The strain of a long day in a provincial town, taking a lively interest in everything, saying a kind word here and asking a question there, always smiling and acknowledging cheers sometimes for hours, has to be experienced to be properly appreciated. On many of these occasions, speeches are required and Her Majesty takes great trouble in their composition and delivery."

[blah blah blah Christmas speech blah blah blah hosting visits by other heads of states - notes that other members of the royal family entertain and receive heads of state as well]

Then comes a long section about overseas visits - "continuous hard work" of travelling in the Royal Yacht. Then stuff about the Queen being the head of the armed services.

Then "Her Majesty and The Duke of Edinburgh have numerous private interests. They are patrons of art and pay regular visits to concerts and the theatre, to exhibitions of pictures, antiques and other works of art. Not only are paintings and drawings from the Royal Collection constantly on loan to exhibitions and galleries throughout the country and overseas, but during Her Majesty's reign a public gallery at Buckingham Palace has been opened, where special exhibitions of paintings, drawings, and other works of art are mounted.

Among all their private interests, the estates at Sandringham and Balmoral come first. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh take the liveliest interest in all who live and work there, in the tenant farmers, keepers, foresters, gardeners, stalkers, ghillies and other craftsmen and employees on these properties. They show care for their welfare and for the development of the estates to the best possible use, and The Queen takes a great interest in the welfare of her tenants on the Duchy of Lancaster Estates. She has paid various visits to Duchy properties, as well as to the country and London properties of the Duchy of Cornwall, which are now the special concern of The Prince of Wales, as Duke of Cornwall.

"Her Majesty has many acres of farmland in hand at Windsor, Balmoral and Sandringham, also forestry plays an important part in the management of the Royal Estate."

Then comes a bit about how the rest of the Royal Family is equally awesome, concluding with "innumerable instances could be found in which the welfare of a very wide range of public concerns and charitable institutions is sustained and encouraged, through patronage and by the quiet and constant personal interest of members of the Royal Family."

Then the whole document ends with a "conclusions" section that points out that the Queen nowadays invites a wide range of people to her garden parties and sometimes she has informal walks in the provinces where she talks to "anyone who happens to catch her eye" and how all her subjects can now watch her on television.

Personally, I like the bit about how she takes a keen interest in the welfare of her stalkers. Also the way they assumed back then that diplomats all had wives.
posted by lollusc at 10:07 PM on December 30, 2012 [8 favorites]

I have rarely been so pleased to be out-best-answered, lollusc!

Trooping the Colour (?)

This is actually the thing that most Americans probably think about when they think about the Queen. It's the big costumed ball, er, regimental formation, before Her Majesty, on her (ceremonial) birthday. (Although few Americans could probably distinguish this from the relatively sedate and near-daily Changing of the Guard, which the sovereign does not normally attend.)

"This military ceremony dates back to the early eighteenth century or earlier, when the colours (flags) of the battalion were carried (or 'trooped') down the ranks so that they could be seen and recognised by the soldiers."

Also, how timey-wimey is it that the stuffy, ancient Changing of the Guard ceremony has an app?
posted by dhartung at 11:32 AM on December 31, 2012

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