Originally published in January 2018, updated February 2020
A modern royal family, even many non-reigning ones, can hardly do without an official website anymore. And many royal houses also use social media. A royal family is important for the identity of a country, and therefore should present itself well online. What does make a website a good one? It should be pleasant to look at and reflect the way you want to present yourself. Over all you should ensure that the website is user-friendly and that people are finding what they are looking for quickly and easily. And they should be well viewable not only on a desktop, but also on a tablet and mobile. But even when you’re doing well, there are always things that could be better.
The first royal presence online I want to have a look on is the British one. The Queen already launched the first version of the website of the family in 1997, in the early days of the Internet. They were the first royal family, or at least one of the first, that saw the importance of the Internet and having an own web space. They also have seen the advantages of social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Even I was hardly used to the Internet when they started. The design was refreshed in 2001, 2009 and last in 2016, while it seems to have been slightly updated in 2019.
The British royals nowadays don’t have one, but even four official royal websites. The general website is nowadays called “The home of the Royal Family“. Furthermore the Prince of Wales has his own website as well as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. And also the Duke of York has his own space online. Personally I think it is a bit too much, but I do understand that sometimes the official website not always highlights the work of individual royals enough, and certainly for a long time heir that might be important. Apart from that there are even more than three official Twitter accounts, and several other members can be found on Twitter, less unofficially.
The Royal Family
The website of the British royal family has a URL that couldn’t be shorter. It is very easy to remember, and in 2016 changed from royal.gov.uk into a simple royal.uk. The website has a design that I think has been rather popular for websites and especially blogs in the past few years. The photo at the front is very nicely coloured. My preference would have been a photo of the Queen alone, centered, and I think it could use a change from time to time too, but overall it looks quite good.
Pretending I don’t know anything about royals, my first question looking at the text “The home of the Royal Family” would be: which royal family? There are tens in the world and apart from the picture and the coat of arms, and the .uk in the URL there is no indication of the country itself. But as I expect visitors know what they are looking for, they should at least recognise Queen Elizabeth II. I however prefer the old website name of British Monarchy. Luckily when I search for British royal family in Google the website is the second hit I get, after Wikipedia that is …
Before entering the website you have to press “explore” at the bottom, which is quite obvious, at least to me. What comes then is a bit of a mess to me. Shown are boxes in various sizes with information. On top is of course the Queen, followed by a few boxes with what is also regarded as important. Further down it seems to me you see more or less the latest additions to the website, like events (like at the moment the 1953 coronation) and photos. But if you scroll on, this goes on endlesly and more and more boxes open.
Luckily in the right corner on top you will find a search box and oh yes, a menu. I must admit it took a while the first time I visited the website to find it. I was too much distracted by all these boxes. The menu opens on top of the regular site and can be closed too if you want. At the bottom you find links to social media used by the family. And furthermore there are a few other topics like contact, privacy, the site, and versions in Cymraeg and Gàidhlig (Welsh and Gaelic). Nice to know that they think about people in the Kingdom using another language than English. There is also the “media centre” where next to media information (unfortunately no emailaddress) you can find the royal diary, court circular, speeches and articles, press releases and financial reports and other media packs. I signed up to the media centre (below the blue boxes), but even being a serious royalty-journalist reporting on British royals I still haven’t heard back or received anything.
What elese is in the menu? Her Majesty The Queen happily starts without boxes, and instead there is text and even a biography that easily navigates. The boxes appear again under the text, not about the Queen only as you would expect. Next topic: The Royal Family. Again only lots and lots of boxes. But at least you can click on the various members of the family to get more information about them. The Commonwealth looks like the part about the Queen, no boxes at first and instead easy navigatable good information. Next on the list are Residences, Art and History, where you can find everything about these topics. Again boxes. Next you are being introduced to an intrigueing project: The Georgian Papers Programme. Needless to say: again boxes. Finally it ends with Working for us, telling you everything (yes with lots of boxes) how it is to work for the royal family.
Overall the website looks great, the information given is great and extensively. However the navigation, after almost two years, still is pretty difficult and often you need to use the search function to find the information easier. And I am a rather regular user, not a first time guest. I would say the website is unfortunately much less user-friendly and accessible than it used to be under the previous design.
Other issues that need some attention
Almost two years after the release of the newest website design the Court Circular and the Royal Diary still don’t work in Firefox. Which is most irritating for Firefox users like me, as they have to use another browser to see it. It is about the only website I need another browser on my computer for.
The calendar could do with some better updating. Often engagements of the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry of Wales don’t seem to be added. The ones of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall do usually appear on their own website, but that doesn’t count (anymore) for the three others.
Half of the time the return to the previous page button on my computer doesn’t work either, so I have to open and open the site once again. If you don’t want to, you need to think of using the menu button all the time, which is quite unhandy.
The British royal family I must admit make very good use of the various social media available nowadays and update quite regularly. Also here I would suggest to mention British either in the title or at least in the description to make clear which royal family we look at. Clearly at Facebook they were not allowed to change their username anymore, as that still says TheBritishMonarchy, as does the never used anymore Flickr account. They dropped that website name however already in 2016.
Not surprising they regularly retweet the Kensington Palace tweets. Probably unnecessary, as I would say fans following the British royal family, also are likely to follow the accounts of Clarence House and Kensington Palace. But over all the social media accounts have interesting posts, videos, etc.
- Facebook: The Royal Family
- Flickr: The British Monarchy
- Instagram: The Royal Family
- Twitter: The Royal Family
- YouTube: The Royal Family
The Prince of Wales
Nowadays no more boxes at the website of The Prince of Wales and of course The Duchess of Cornwall. Although the websites of Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were transferred to the royal family website already in 2016, it took them until 2019 to remove them from the site.
On top there are links for News, Diary, Biographies, Speeches. The Gàidhlig (Gaelic) website seems to have disappeared. at the bottom there is another menu with links to Media, Frequently Asked, Recruitment, Contact us (only an address unfortunately), Terms, Social Media Community Guidelines, The Annual Review and some technical items. It seems you no longer can have an account on the website tough.
I do like the look much better than the previous one. They got rid of several features. The boxes have gone, the 2019 look is more modern and simple, with less colours. Also the menu was changed to something more workable, as it was a bit messy before, with a strange order of topics and things mentioned several times all over the website. It is now fully clear the website is about the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and most old items have been transfered to the biographies of the couple. There is a sitemap at the bottom, that funily also contains links that are no longer there.
What I do miss in the new version – or I am blind – is the lovely For Children page that was aimed at children visiting the website, with quizzes, photos, news and video and gardening … clearly The Prince of Wales wanted to stimulate children doing their own gardening. Not sure if I would have been impressed as a child, but it is a good try.
Since they have gotten rid of most features I didn’t like, I now totally do do love the website way better than the one of the royal family itself.
Apart from their own website Clarence House has its own social media accounts. Twitter and Instagram are regularly updated and normally have rather interesting posts, videos, etc. 2018 I wondered why Google+ and Storify were still listed on the website, as they hadn’t been updated since 2015. They were finally removed from the list in 2019.
On 14 March 2019 it was announced that the Queen has agreed to the creation of a new Household at Buckingham Palace for The Duke and Duchess of Sussex with their own communications team, which however ceased to exist in 2020. Their great, own Instagram account was opened on 2 April 2019 and within hours had 100,000s of visitors. By now they have over ten million followers.
On 2 October 2019 it turned out they were also busy developing their own website, when a statement turned up on an account called sussexofficial about a legal action of Meghan against the newspaper Daily Mail. The official website of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex was officially launched on 8 January 2020. Apart from a statement about their decision to quit as Senior Royals, people can find key information about their commitment to Community, The Monarchy and The Commonwealth on the site. Also questions about funding and media are being answered. It will be interesting to see how it develops once the couple has started their new life in Northern America. For now the website looks pretty and it has a clear layout. It however seems that they have to get rid fo the name Sussex Royal, as they do not seem to be allowed to use the name for business purposes.
The Cambridges on social media
I suppose the popularity of The Duke and The Duchess of Cambridge has led to the Kensington Palace having its own accounts on a few social media. I am a fan of their rather well kept Twitter account with almost daily posts and quick updates about coming engagements and the ones just finished. I am not much of an Instagram user, but also this looks very nice, with very regular updates and nice pictures, videos and texts. At Kensington Palace they clearly know how to deal with the newest social media.
The Kensington Palace accounts will keep on updating about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Royal Foundation.
The Duke of York
And finally there is also The Duke of York. Since he left his position as United Kingdom’s Special Representative for International Trade and Investment, his main interest seemed to be Pitch@Palace, which he founded in 2014, at the same time his website started. This project/company gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to meet the people who can help make their business dreams become a reality. But it is not his only interest.
The website of the Duke is looking very good and doesn’t give too much information. There is a slider with the latest posts. And below it you are being directed to education and skills, entrepreneurship, as well as science, tech and engineering. These are the topics of the initiatives he supports.
The main menu gives links to information about the Duke himself, supporting the queen, supporting British prosperity, news and his initiatives. A pity some of the features under news like In the News, photos and videos haven’t been updated for quite a while. Right on top are links to the biographies of his daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.
Although the Duke’s activities sometimes used to be listed in the royal diary on the website of the royal family – more often at Facebook in recent years -, the activities of his daughters are not. I would find it a great asset to this website if it would give some more information about what they are doing, and I am certain that would do something for their image also. I know they both have a job, but once in a while they have an engagement and unfortunately it is hard to find anything about it previously to or even after the event itself.
On 20 November 2019 the Duke of York has quit from public life for the “foreseeable future”, necessary after the very negative reactions on his tv-interview on 16 November 2019 in connection with the Jeffrey Epstein-case. The convicted sex offender remained his friend for several years, even after he had been convicted. He also stepped back from Pitch@Palace and several charities choose to remove him as a royal patron.