Safe for Democracy: Constitutional Politics, Popular Spectacle, and the British Monarchy 1910–1914.

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How did the British monarchy respond to the multiple challenges of early twentieth-century mass democracy? Historians have separated the growth of constitutional sovereignty from the practice of a welfare monarchy, or from royalty as decorative and media friendly. This article argues that the political transformation of the modern monarchy was inseparable from innovations to its style and presentation. Opening with the dramatic constitutional crisis that confronted George V and his advisors in 1910, I show how the monarchy's entanglement in high politics forced the crown to assume an increasingly neutral, arbitrarial stance on industrial disputes and on the Irish question, despite the king's own conservatism. Simultaneously, George V invested in styles of royal accessibility and informality that contrasted sharply with other major European dynasties, in a series of royal tours across the industrial heartlands England and Wales in 1912 and 1913. Extensively covered by the national and imperial press and by the newsreels, these visits to the strongholds of laborism promoted a vision of patrician democracy that drew heavily on traditions of organic, one-nation conservatism. But they also positioned royalty and the people in a new imaginary relationship that was more personal and intimate. Both versions had long-term consequences for the British monarchy across the twentieth century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-141
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of British Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2019


  • Monarchy
  • Democracy
  • Media


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