The Media and the Transformation of the British Monarchy, 1932-1953.

  • Edward Owens

Student thesis: Phd


This doctoral thesis examines how the British monarchy negotiated the political and cultural challenges of mass society. The inter- and postwar periods witnessed the rise of democratic politics in Britain and rampant demagoguery in Europe, a rapid expansion in forms of popular culture and the emergence of new kinds of mass media. My investigation analyzes how, at a time when a new media-orchestrated culture of personality was redefining the organization of modern societies, Buckingham Palace officials and news journalists sought to generate political stability and social cohesion by fostering emotional bonds between the public and the royal family. Courtiers and the media worked in tandem, elevating the House of Windsor's public image between 1932 and 1953 in order to place constitutional monarchy at the centre of national life. Through an examination of both the projection and the reception of the monarchy's public role, my study charts how images of royal domesticity proliferated after 1932, encouraging the public to forge empathetic relationships with the leading figures of the House of Windsor.Over five chapters, my thesis examines the 1934 and 1947 royal weddings, the 1937 and 1953 coronations, and King George V's wireless broadcasts. Using under-researched official sources, media texts and personal testimonies, my study builds on recent scholarship on the history of emotions to assess how British media audiences were encouraged to empathize with the royal family. The thesis identifies a number of important stage managers, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Lang, and key BBC producers and palace press officials who used new forms of mass media to promote the House of Windsor's more intimate public image. Finally, I explore how the phrases and images crafted by courtiers, clerics and commentators circulated through the media to be repeated in diverse personal testimonies - from voices in crowds noted by Mass Observation personnel, through reports composed by specially-tasked respondents on their participation in royal events, to school essays written by children about royal personalities. By examining how members of the public forged imagined relationships with the royal family, this study extends previous scholarship by arguing that the monarchy's domestic image played an integral part in shaping the political and emotional economies of the public sphere in the mid-twentieth century.
Date of Award31 Dec 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMax Jones (Supervisor) & Frank Mort (Supervisor)


  • emotion
  • media
  • publicity
  • Britain
  • monarchy
  • celebrity

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