Prince Harry and Prince William are royals for the millennial generation

Image: the royal family / facebook

For centuries, the British royal family has been watched, respected and revered from afar. The monarchy remained fiercely tight-lipped on all matters personal and private, and royal announcements were reserved for print newspapers.

But the digital realm now breaks down the barriers that have long stood between the royal family and the people. Through their social sharing, the younger royals are coming across as relatable, relevant and human to a millennial audience.

Over the past decade, the royal family has gradually stepped up its online presence, establishing large followings on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

But it’s Prince William’s and Prince Harry’s use of social media to talk candidly about their lives that’s appealing to younger audiences.

Prince Harry and Prince William have grabbed headlines in the past week for their powerful online Heads Together campaign to end mental health stigma. This online campaign has seen Prince Harry, Prince William, and the Duchess of Cambridge reveal deeply personal details about the pressures and struggles they’ve faced, including the princes’ grief following their mum’s death and Kate and William’s learning curve as parents.

More so than ever before, the portrait of the royal family is being painted as one of human beings who grapple with the very same issues as the public they serve.

By bringing themselves to the same level as other social media sharers, they position themselves as one of us.

The relationship between the royal family and the press has long been fraught. Princess Diana’s brother said she was “the most hunted person of the modern age” after she died in a car crash while fleeing paparazzi. Press guidelines became stricter, and the royal household gradually realised it needed to work with the press to safely achieve its aims.

And in these days, that means reaching audiences on social media. On Monday, Prince Harry spoke candidly in a podcast about being near “complete breakdown” whilst dealing with the grief of losing his mother, Princess Diana. Harry told podcast host Bryony Gordon that he sought counselling after going through two years of “total chaos” in his 20s. The prince’s candour garnered praise on social media for talking about his personal struggle with grief; a topic that many people can relate to.

Gordon told Mashable she was aware that “a traditional print interview” wasn’t going to be the best way to get people to engage with the royals. She said the royals are “great at using social to get their message across” about mental health and the medium of the podcast helped in this instance because it is just so “close and personal.”

“It puts them at the same level as everyone else, which is *so* important when talking about mental health issues,” says Gordon.

This week has also seen the royal family release a video in which Lady Gaga FaceTimes Prince William to talk about the importance of speaking openly about mental health. And, on Friday a film showing Harry and William telling Kate about the impact of their mother’s death on their lives was streamed via Facebook Live.

“Love you guys for being honest about mental health, doing a really good job in helping others and relating to how they feel. You are down to earth and just amazing what you do to help people xx,” wrote one commenter on the film, which gained nearly 500K views in five hours.

“I am excited about the path the younger royals are taking. In touch, can relate to normal people and this will make a huge difference,” said another commenter.

Image: getty images

But this isn’t the first time the royals have gotten personal on social media. In July 2016, Prince Harry took a HIV test live on Facebook to promote the importance of getting tested for the virus, and to show how easy it is to get tested. HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust later revealed that this live HIV test which gained over 2 million views prompted a surge in self-testing.

This live HIV test happened to be the British Royal Family’s first ever Facebook Live broadcast, and its impact on HIV testing suggests it was a resounding success.

Royal expert Victoria Howard editor of The Crown Chronicles says people often expect that the monarchy is only of interest to older generations, but the younger royals’ use of social media is creating a relationship with a younger audience.

“By using social media instead of a newspaper article, younger audiences are being reached and they are paying attention to their work,” says Howard.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry spearheada new campaign called Heads Together.

Image: Nicky J Sims/Getty Images for Royal Foundation

She says that the way in which the princes were brought up likely played a role in this. “The princes were brought up in a middle-class manner: not attending boarding school, being taken to McDonalds and Disney World, and along to see charity work with the homeless to understand their privilege,” says Howard. She believes this is partly why the public finds them more “accessible and relatable” than their father Prince Charles.

The princes’ use of social media is proving to be a useful tool in showing a side of the Royal Family that’s not been shown before. The princes are doing what many of us do every day on social media by sharing deeply personal details about their lives and their struggles.

By bringing themselves to the same level as other social media sharers, they position themselves as one of us. Prince Harry and Prince William are without a doubt the most relatable generation of royals to date.

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