Clever book, clever title. The image of Britain for most people is not one of a shiny-faced David Cameron in a Savile Row suit or a pixie-faced Jeremy Corbyn in his Lenin cap. Instead, we see the Queen, impeccably turned out in a pastel day dress, handbag to the fore, or in a shimmering gown, her curled silver hair crowned by a stunning jewelled tiara, her gloved hand outstretched greeting people. As Stephen Bates puts it, ‘our small, sprightly, octogenarian Queen, after more than sixty-three years on the throne, is one of the most famous women anywhere on earth, as recognisable to someone in Tokyo or Tulsa, or even Timbuktu and Tuvalu, as in Tooting or Truro.’ The Queen and her family are, as Bates argues in this knowledgeable, well-researched book, Britain’s most recognisable and best-loved brand.
How did they do it? How did the royal family move from Commander Colville, the reporter-hating press officer of the 1950s (‘I am not what you North Americans would call a public relations man,’ he told one Canadian journalist) to the slick, image-conscious operation of today? The British Empire has