On Tour with the Prince: Monarchy, Imperial Politics and Publicity in the Prince of Wales’s Dominion Tours 1919–20

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The stage managers of ritual and the media transformed the British monarchy in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, consolidating its image as splendid and popular and also as more accessible and quasi-democratic. Historians have emphasized that these processes of modernization largely began in Britain. This article locates the origins of democratized royal ritual in the white dominions, especially after 1918. Canada, Australia and New Zealand were political and cultural laboratories where royal advisors and British and dominion politicians launched experiments in the practice of progressive empire and innovatory styles of informal ceremonial, which had a long-term impact on imperial and later Commonwealth relations. Focusing on the Prince of Wales’s early dominion tours, the article argues that though royal diplomacy followed earlier itineraries in efforts to consolidate the racialized British world, it also threw up new and unintended consequences. These registered the rapidly changing international order after the collapse of the European monarchies, together with the demands of the prince’s own modernist personality. Faced with republican and socialist opposition in Australia and Canada, the touring prince was drawn into competing forms of nationalism, as dominion politicians and journalists embraced him as representing domestic aspirations for self-government and cultural recognition. It is argued that modern royalty personified by the Prince of Wales problematizes the history of twentieth-century public reputations defined by the culture of celebrity. The British monarchy was forced to confront both the constitutional claims of empire and the politics of dominion nationalism, as well as the pressures of international publicity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-57
JournalTwentieth Century British History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2017


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