4 May 2017

A Right Royal Rumour

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II & HRH Prince Philip
Source: Buckingham Palace/The Royal Family
Hello faithful readers of five,

It's been way too long since I last blogged, but I'm back!  If any topic was going to drag me back into blogging, you know it was going to about the Royal Family, right?

A curious incident happened last night. News broke on Twitter, initially from a news organization in New Zealand, that royal household staff from as far away as Sandringham, Windsor, and Balmoral Castle had been notified to attend an "emergency 3 am meeting" at Buckingham Palace by Lord Chamberlain (Senior Officer of the Royal Household) and Sir Christopher Geidt (Her Majesty's Private Secretary). Further, there was to be an "important announcement" at 8 a.m.

Immediately, the rumour machine took off. I read everything from the death of Prince Philip to Prince Charles, to abdication rumours, to simply making plans for palace renovations. The one that seemed take hold was the death of Prince Philip. 

In fairness, life is not infinite, so assuming someone at the age of 95 passed away isn't that far out of the realm of possibility. There were tweets by citizens that the flag above Buckingham Palace was at half-mast and that the death was reported on British radio. Furthermore, articles were shared about the royal protocol for announcing the death of Prince Philip that seemed to lend a little credibility to idea. 

Now as a royal enthusiast, it was interesting to see my dueling feeds. On the one hand, I had friends who barely follow the royals that were suddenly very interested in what was happening, and were assuming the worst. The feed that interested me the most though was that of my fellow royal enthusiasts & bloggers, especially those more experienced in royalty & protocol. Of my friends, they were the most skeptical, most open to other news, and were (rightly so) questioning the inconsistencies of the news with the protocols we have come to expect from The Royal Family in England and other countries. Needless to say, like the Queen, they were not amused. 

The Queen is not amused.
Source: Rollingstone.com

In the end, the news was that Prince Philip was retiring from active duty this August at the age of 96. Still big news in the realm of British Royal news and among the fandom, but safe to say not the news that most people were expecting. The joke was on us, right?

"Well that joke went rather splendidly. Ha!"
Source: Daily Mail

Of course, among the fandom and in retrospect, there were obvious signs that the news of the death of Prince Philip wasn't true. Royal news is bound very heavily in tradition & protocol, even in this instant social media era. Here are some pro-tips when contemplating royal rumours:
  1. Investigate the source: this story broke by a rag outlet in New Zealand. That alone should have been a huge red flag. When it comes to the British Royal Family, if rumours are not reported first by British newspapers, back away slowly.
  2. Investigate how the news is being released: any official news on the British Royal Family comes from either Buckingham Palace (on behalf of the Queen & Prince Philip), Clarence House (on behalf Charles & Camilla), or Kensington Palace (on behalf of William, Catherine, &= Harry). Furthermore, if the BBC hasn't announced it, then don't assume it to be true until they do.
  3. Understand the nature of rumours on social media: Twitter or Facebook is usually the fastest source, but it's not always the most accurate. Also note that just because a journalist sources Twitter, that doesn't mean it's correct. Without independent verification directly from the source or a credible person, assume the organization are a bunch of lazy twits.
  4. Look to credible royal social media accounts first: generally speaking, when it comes to royal news, the best people to believe are the Royal twitter accounts, followed by former staff members turned analysts, followed by official royal reporters, followed by experience royal bloggers. They have the expertise and experience of discerning news, understanding protocol, and spotting inconsistencies vs. some egg account with 6 followers or some guy who never posts about royalty. Good people to follow are Peter Hunt, Dickie Arbiter and Victoria Arbiter.
  5. Question anything that is reported as true without links or specific details: example is "...as reported on British radio." Well that is rather vague, isn't it? What specific station? What time? By Whom? Is there a link?  "French media is reporting..."  Who is their source? Link?
  6. Does the story itself seem unusual or have flaws? One weird aspect of this was "3 am emergency meeting" part. While it's not unusual for staff to be called to Buckingham Palace for a meeting, would that call take place at 3 am, even in death? Is it necessary for staff to be there prior to the release of news, when the head of the other households can just as easily transmit that information to the staff?  These questions alone (along with other inconsistencies) is enough to warrant a pause in reaction.

  7. Understanding Protocols, Traditions, & Customs is mighty handy: Much ado was made about the 8 am release of news, and the "lowering of the flag to half-mast." But understanding protocol will help you understand why the former is not unusual, but the latter would be extremely unusual. Media announcements about news or itineraries tends to take place early in the morning anyways as a matter of course. Yes, there are exceptions where  a release outside of that time would be warranted (such as a death of a foreign leader or a major tragedy), but those are exceptions, not the norms.

    However, the lowering of the Sovereign's flag (a.k.a The Royal Standard) to half-mast would have been mighty unusual, as in non-existent. Why? Because the Royal Standard never lowers to half-mast, even in death of the particular monarch itself, because the Sovereign never dies as succession is immediate upon death.

    If you *did* see a flag at half-mast, like with Princess Diana's death, it's because the Queen was not in residence, and thus the Union Jack was flown. Read this good article for more info.

    As the Royal Standard is flown in the palace where the monarch is currently residing, as she was last night, the royal fandom knew that to be a bunch of hooey.
So I hope I was able to clear shed some light & impart some knowledge on how to receive royal rumours in the future. Most importantly, I wish Her Majesty and His Royal Highness happiness and health. Long may she reign! 

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