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Opinion Post Elizabeth: Palace video footage demands are an early red flag

The caption and permitted use information that was distributed with this Sept. 24, 2022, image: WINDSOR, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: (NEWS EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO SALES. NO USE AFTER OCTOBER 2 WITHOUT PRIOR APPROVAL FROM ROYAL COMMUNICATIONS) EDITORIAL USE ONLY. The photograph shall not be used without permission from Royal Communications. There shall be no commercial use whatsoever of the photograph (including any use in merchandising, advertising or any other non-editorial use). The photograph must not be digitally enhanced, manipulated or modified in any manner or form when published. The photograph is for free use until October 2, 2022. Thereafter the photograph is available only via Royal Collection Trust. In this image released by the Buckingham Palace, the ledger stone, following the interment of the late Queen Elizabeth II, is installed at the King George VI Memorial Chapel, St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on September 24, 2022 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Royal Collection Trust/The Dean and Canons of Windsor via Getty Images)

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Pageantry and spectacle are part of the British crown’s DNA. But the idea that footage of recent events honoring Queen Elizabeth II is not in the public domain might be the most ancient thing about the monarchy.

British broadcasters gave Buckingham Palace veto power over use of footage from the queen’s funeral, the Guardian newspaper reported last week. Although the unedited broadcast remains online temporarily — through platforms such as BBC iPlayer — what happens to the material in a few weeks is unclear. “Royal staff sent messages to the BBC, ITV News and Sky News during the event with the timestamps of footage they wished to exclude from future news broadcasts and social media clips,” the Guardian reported. Five video clips removed from circulation included members of the royal family.

Then came a bigger palace demand: that broadcasters “produce a 60-minute compilation of clips they would like to keep from ceremonial events held across the 10 days of mourning for the Queen. The royal household will then consider whether to veto any proposed inclusions,” the Guardian reported Sunday.

“Once the process is complete, the vast majority of other footage from ceremonial events will then be taken out of circulation,” media editor Jim Waterson wrote. “Any news outlets wishing to use unapproved pieces of footage would have to apply to the royal family on a case-by-case basis, even for material that has already been broadcast to tens of millions of people.”

Broadcasting the funeral and procession of the queen’s coffin from London to Windsor was such a massive undertaking that the BBC worked with ITV and Sky News. Some 28 million people in Britain watched the broadcast, along with more than 11 million in the United States.

As Newsweek noted, the location of some televised events are ultimately under royal control, which could have shaped permissions for filming. But the issues here are larger than respectful coverage of a family in mourning and whether footage is replayed of, say, a grandson-in-law of the queen seen checking his watch.

A critical question is who controls the historical record of public events, especially when footage of those events has already been broadcast. By dictating what video can no longer circulate, the palace might hope to quash unflattering moments such as the new king’s frustration with an inkpot when he signed documents related to his accession. Photos of the stone marking the final resting place of Queen Elizabeth II — seen at the top of this page — circulated this week with explicit instructions that they may be published until Oct. 2, after which point royal permission must be requested.

One of the challenges before the new king is how best to showcase the monarchy’s relevance today. It’s hard to think of a less 21st-century approach than a hereditary monarchy dictating what clips of public proceedings are ever seen again.

In honor of free speech on this side of the Atlantic, here’s Post video of one of those pen moments that went viral.

Britain's King Charles III appeared to be frustrated by a leaking pen during a visit to Northern Ireland's Hillsborough Castle on Sept. 13. (Video: Reuters)

In other royal news

Majestic monogram: The cypher of the new king was unveiled this week, with Charles III being represented by an intertwined C and R, with a smaller-size III set within the R, and a crown above the letters. The letters will be seen on state documents and public objects such as mailboxes. It draws on Latin, with a slight difference for kings and queens. Elizabeth II’s cypher was EIIR, which stood for Elizabeth II Regina. In Latin, regina means queen. Charles’s CIIIR stands for Charles III Rex, as rex means king in Latin.

Wales watch: Although the titles Prince and Princess of Wales might be new, the couple possibly better known as Prince William and Kate Middleton were in familiar territory on Tuesday when they visited a few places in Wales. One stop was Anglesey, where they lived as newlyweds. Last week, the couple were seen in Windsor, where they thanked volunteers and staff who helped organize the public committal service for the queen. Talking about the tributes to his grandmother, William said, “There are certain moments that catch you out. You are prepared for all but certain moments catch you out,” according to the Daily Mail.

In Canada, interest in the monarchy remains mostly an elite thing, writes Post contributing columnist J.J. McCullough.

In Bermuda, Britain’s oldest overseas territory, reactions to the queen’s death varied. “Talk of independence here has long ebbed and flowed,” reports Amanda Coletta. About 73 percent of voters rejected a break with the monarchy in a 1995 referendum.

Final marker: Buckingham Palace released a photo Sept. 24 of the ledger stone marking where Queen Elizabeth II has been buried, with her husband, within St. George’s Chapel on the Windsor Castle grounds. The castle reopened for public tours on Thursday. For those wondering why the queen had a lead-lined coffin: The practice dates to an incident involving the corpse of William the Conquerer in 1087 — that is, in pre-embalming days. A practical consideration of lead-lined coffins? Soldiers act as royal pallbearers in an effort to ensure the extra hundreds of pounds are carried without incident.

Must-see TV: The BBC released a documentary in May called “Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen” to coincide with the Platinum Jubilee celebrations this past summer. Thanks to special access to the queen’s personal collection of family videos and photos, the program included lots of previously unseen images — including young Princess Elizabeth riding her tricycle and jumping rope, her wedding in 1947, and, later, her coronation as queen. What’s notable now? Elizabeth reflected on some of the footage in May — and the audio commentary is even more powerful in the wake of her death.

Send me your tweets! Thank you to all the readers who shared guesses about the timing of Charles’s coronation. I admit, in expecting a ceremony this year, I probably didn’t give enough weight to winter weather considerations for large crowds. Another factor for delay might be the fact that the British government — which is dealing with some significant economic challenges at the moment — has already borne the costs of Platinum Jubilee celebrations and the queen’s funeral proceedings this year. Still, I think a coronation is likely to come sooner rather than later. Now, I’m expecting an announcement for spring. Tweet your predictions to me (@Autumnsan1).

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King Charles is the epitome of inherited everything, writes critic Robin Givhan. At 73, he signals not the future but so much work that remains to be done in the here and now, thanks to “all the history and turmoil and empire-building he symbolizes. He’s the White male heir at a time when White male privilege at all levels has been vigorously called into question,” she writes. “He is a distillation of our contemporary grievances.”


The first British coins featuring King Charles have been minted, with general circulation expected around Christmas, reports London correspondent Karla Adam. An estimated 27 billion coins featuring Elizabeth II are circulating in Britain, so expect coins with her image to be in use for a long while. Whereas his mother faced right on coins, the new king faces left; the tradition of monarchs alternating direction on coinage dates to King Charles II. (Fun fact: The Royal Mint has made coins featuring monarchs for more than 1,100 years. The first was Alfred the Great.)


Queen Elizabeth II's coffin traveled from Westminster Hall to Wellington Arch and to her final resting place, Windsor Castle, for her state funeral on Sept. 19. (Video: Alexa Juliana Ard/The Washington Post)

“The funeral itself was almost impersonal, honoring the institution more than the woman,” writes Monica Hesse. But perhaps there is another way to think about the spectacle, especially if you “have mixed feelings about the monarchy. If you, like me, wondered exactly what you were doing in front of your television at 5 o’clock in the morning.”


Does the world need a British monarchy anymore? This edition of the Post Reports podcast considers the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II, the colonial legacy of the monarchy and its future without her leadership.


Occupation: “Her Majesty The Queen.” The death certificate for Queen Elizabeth II was released Thursday, with “old age” the official cause of the 96-year-old sovereign’s passing at 3:10 p.m. on Sept. 8.


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