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A royal link can boost a podcast — but will it succeed long-term? | CBC News

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When details emerged recently about the experience Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, is having with her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer, they came via her new podcast.

Tea Talks with the Duchess and Sarah involves the ex-wife of King Charles’s brother Prince Andrew chatting with her friend Sarah Thomson. The podcast, which launched in late May, has also offered up details of the duchess’s family life, present and past, whether she is playing with her nearly two-year-old granddaughter, Sienna, or remembering her late former sister-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales. 

Ferguson’s foray into this popular media format is one of the recent examples of podcasting with a royal flavour, whether it comes through a host who might have insight into that world or a royal guest who makes a one-off appearance to draw attention to a cause.

Whatever the circumstance, a royal name can be a draw for listeners, but long-term success for any podcast with a royal link could be more elusive.

“I think from a perspective of marketing these things, having that royal name is always going to give any podcast a huge head start on the vast majority of others,” said Adam Hurd, a senior lecturer in journalism at the University of the West of England in Bristol, in an interview.

“I think the real test is how many of them are around a year or two after being launched.”

The extent to which a royal name or content could be a draw for an audience can also depend on what they are offering listeners.

“It’s going to be huge if they are genuinely giving something we aren’t getting somewhere else,” said Sandy Warr, head of podcasting and a senior lecturer in journalism at City, University of London, in an interview.

Pondering this got Warr thinking about Prince Harry, and the interviews — while not on podcasts — that he gave as his memoir Spare came out earlier this year.

“I know there was a lot of flack around when Prince Harry gave those interviews himself about his story, but [what was interesting] was the fact that he was speaking and you were hearing all of those extra things you get when someone is telling their own story,” she said. 

“The pauses, the moments when they’re obviously reflecting on whether this is the right thing to say and the right way to say it — that’s dynamite when you’re listening to it, because it takes it onto a completely different level.”

Senior working royals haven’t ventured too deeply into the podcast world but both Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales have gone behind the mic to talk with hosts about issues of particular interest to them.

“One of the things about podcasts is … it’s there permanently. So … you’ve got to think about the longevity of this,” said Warr, who will run City’s new master of arts in podcasting, which launches this fall.

“William … is probably starting to think more about positioning himself so nothing he says now is going to come back and haunt him in future years when he’s wearing that crown on his head.”

Still, Warr wouldn’t be surprised if senior royals like William and Catherine make some more strategic appearances down the road.

“I can see them thinking that may be something that we want to do more of later on because it is this wonderful, direct, personal, intimate way of talking to people. But they will just need to judge their moment and what they’re talking about because … everything is so fraught with nuance when you’re talking about the Royal Family.”

Some royal tidbits have emerged through a podcast that is decidedly unroyal in its main focus. Mike Tindall, a former rugby player who is married to King Charles’s niece, Zara Tindall, is one of three co-hosts of The Good, The Bad & The Rugby.

“It’s not trying to sell itself as a royal gossip podcast or anything, but you know for a fact if you listen to it, you’ll get that occasional exclusive tidbit that gets it the extra coverage,” said Hurd, who noted the relative success of the podcast, which has done nearly 200 episodes.

Several people wearing formal dress stand outside a large abbey.
Mike Tindall, second left, attends the coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla on May 6 in London, England. In a podcast he co-hosts, Tindall mentioned the limited view he had of the main ceremonial action. (Dan Charity/Getty Images)

Tindall made headlines earlier this year when he mentioned on the podcast how his seat at Charles’s coronation didn’t give him much of a view of the main ceremonial action.

“It’s quite interesting because you can see how he’s trying to connect with both constituencies in terms of the audience and bring them in together because … the rugby fan wouldn’t necessarily be a royal fan,” said Warr.

She expects Tindall is being “very careful about which details he’s revealing,” but also noted that with the new reign of King Charles, there is a different tone. 

“I think there’s a little bit more freedom [with] these sort of little details and I think [Tindall] is walking that line quite well from what I’ve seen.”

Harry’s wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, also ventured into the podcast world with Archetypes, a podcast that debuted on Spotify last year with high initial numbers of listeners.

In a combination image, two close up images of smiling women can be seen.
Tennis star Serena Williams, left, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, discussed motherhood on Meghan’s podcast Archetypes. (The Associated Press)

“In lots and lots of different places, it was briefly huge. It obviously attracted huge guests — that’s another advantage of having a big-name host,” said Hurd.

But “it ultimately didn’t get the figures to remain high in the charts that we have access to and it has been dropped, effectively. So … in terms of the podcasting industry … [Archetypes] was sort of a flash in the pan. It’s not something that people are still particularly talking about.”

One podcast with an aristocratic flavour that has been around for a few years attracted the attention of the New York Times recently, under the headline “Gotta Save the Castle? Start a Podcast.” 

Duchess, featuring Emma, Duchess of Rutland, gives a view into life in a stately home and what goes into running one.

Hurd sees Duchess as an example of a podcast that feels like a passion project, a trait that can lead to podcast success — something that can otherwise be rather hard to measure.

“I think the best podcasts don’t feel like they’re trying to make money,” he said. “They feel like a hobby, a passion.”

Hurd considers royal — or royal-adjacent — involvement in podcasting similar to other instances of royals or royal-adjacent people venturing into new media that are popular with younger generations, perhaps in an attempt to retain relevance.

“I’m not saying [royals and royal-adjacent people are] not relevant, but … moving forward, if you’re going to be appearing on purely more traditional mediums, then there’s going to be younger audiences you perhaps aren’t engaging with.”

Statues of Queen Elizabeth are vandalized or erected — and debate follows

A person wearing a hat with flowers on it looks off to the left.
In a world where there is a wider reckoning with the past and regular debate about the role of the monarchy, statues of Queen Elizabeth, who died last year, have become a particular focus of discussion. (Ben Stansall/The Associated Press)

When word spread that a new statue of Queen Elizabeth was being put up outside the Ontario Legislature in Toronto, it reignited discussion around the commemoration of historical figures.

It’s a conversation that had also continued as a statue of Elizabeth was defaced shortly after it was returned to the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg in June.

In a world where there is a wider reckoning with the past and regular debate about the role of the monarchy, statues have become a particular focus of discussion.

A bronze statue with the words "colonizer" and "killer" spray painted on its base.
The Queen Elizabeth statue on the Manitoba Legislature grounds in Winnipeg was found graffitied a day after being put back in June. (Josh Crabb/CBC)

Belinda Vandenbroeck, a residential school survivor in Manitoba, wasn’t surprised when she heard of the vandalism to the statue of Queen Elizabeth in Winnipeg, and questions why there is a need for statues in the first place.

“Really think about the reason why it is that you’re doing that. Is that because it means so much to you as the human being that you are, that you must see a statue?” she said in an interview.

Vandenbroeck said Elizabeth is “not Indigenous to this country.”

“Why would I want a statue of her? If you’re going to do any statue of any kind, it should be our ancestors. They’re the ones that survived so I could be here today. Now, those are real heroes.”

Vandenbroeck, a member of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, questions why “do we pay so much homage to people who colonized this country, who took over this country that I live in, that’s my homeland?”

For Vandenbroeck, the Queen “has no meaning …  whatsoever.”

“We’re not related to her in any way…. And so to think that it’s a good idea – it might be a good idea for the rest of Canada, but for me, in my homeland, this is my territory, this is where I live and call my home, I have no reason to think that there is a need to honour them … in any way whatsoever.”

A group of men work to put a statue of a woman back up.
Workers reinstall a statue of Queen Elizabeth, that was toppled on Canada Day 2021, on the grounds of the Manitoba legislature in Winnipeg on June 2. (Steve Lambert/The Canadian Press)

David Johnson, a political science professor at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia, sees statues of Queen Elizabeth and other historic figures offering an opportunity for a form of “public recognition, public respect, public honour.”

“I sound maybe a bit archaic to a younger generation. But I think yes, we do recognize some people stand out. Some people have major positions and they are part of history. Certainly Queen Elizabeth the Second was part of history,” Johnson said in an interview.

Johnson knows there are those who say that “Queen Elizabeth is a symbol of a racist British Empire.”

“No. I’d say no,” he said. “She was actually a symbol of the transition of the empire to the Commonwealth,” and its free association of countries that is multinational, multicultural, multireligious and multilinguistic.

Johnson says statues of the Queen offer people a chance to think about Queen Elizabeth and her legacy. 

He also sees virtue in the possibility of keeping old, historic statues and having them placed opposite other statues that are “more modern, reflecting more modern attitudes, contemporary attitudes.” 

Statues of Queen Elizabeth could also be accompanied by plaques offering “whatever type of commentary the people promoting the establishment of the work of art” would want to put on them, he said.

“But I think … in a society we lose something if we lose this type of public art.”

The statue of Queen Elizabeth at Queen’s Park in Toronto is expected to be completed sometime this fall.

Questioning the GG’s appointment

A person stands behind a podium with a microphone on it.
A challenge filed in Quebec Superior Court last year argues that Gov. Gen. Mary Simon cannot hold the position because she does not speak French. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

From our CBC and Radio-Canada colleagues in Montreal earlier this week:

Quebec Superior Court has the jurisdiction to hear a case calling on Gov. Gen. Mary Simon to be removed from her post because she cannot speak French, according to a Quebec Superior Court judge. 

The Attorney General of Canada had tried to argue that only the federal court could look into such a case, but Judge Catherine Piché rejected the claim in June. 

The court challenge, filed in Quebec Superior Court last summer, argues that Simon, who took over as the Crown’s representative in Canada in 2021, cannot hold the position because she does not speak French — one of the country’s official languages. 

The plaintiffs, a group of Quebecers, would like to see Simon’s appointment invalidated. 

Simon, who was educated in a federal day school in Quebec’s Nunavik region, says she was not given the opportunity to learn French as a child. She has promised to try to learn it in her position as governor general.

The federal government had filed a declinatory exception, a procedure aimed at having the case heard by another body.

Canada's Governor General speaks with King Charles at Buckingham Palace.
King Charles receives Simon during an audience at Buckingham Palace in London on May 4, 2023. (Gareth Fuller/The Associated Press)

To justify its request, lawyers for the Attorney General of Canada cited section 18 of the Federal Courts Act, which says that “the federal court has exclusive jurisdiction […] to render a declaratory judgment against any federal agency.”

However, the Governor General cannot be considered a federal officer, as she was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II — the predecessor of Charles III — and the Crown is not part of the government, said Piché in a 15-page ruling handed down on June 13.

In this context, “the court is of the opinion that the present case falls within the jurisdiction of the Quebec Superior Court and that the declinatory exception must be rejected,” she wrote.

The federal government had 30 days to appeal the judgment. They did not do so, François Boulianne, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said on Tuesday. 

The case will be heard by the Quebec Superior Court, with proceedings expected to resume in the fall. 

The group that filed the lawsuit was originally led by former Parti Québécois leadership candidate Frédéric Bastien, who died a few weeks before the ruling was published. The case is expected to proceed despite Bastien’s death.

Royally quotable

“I know the residents of Nova Scotia will draw on their resolve, compassion and commitment to community in this trying time, and emerge more resilient.”

— King Charles, in a message to Nova Scotia Lt. Gov. Arthur LeBlanc regarding recent flooding in the province.

Royal reads

  1. There will be no official public event to mark the first anniversary of the death of Queen Elizabeth, a royal spokesman has said. [BBC]

  2. Prince William is set to take over command of Prince Harry’s former army unit after a reshuffle of the Royal Family’s military appointments by King Charles. [Daily Mail]

  3. A Canadian author says a production company belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex has bought the screen rights for her romance novel. Prince Harry and Meghan are also helping to fund online safety projects for young people, personally phoning some of the recipients. [CBC, BBC]

  4. King Charles has long been known for his enthusiasm for traditional Scottish Highland dress, but some royal observers have been bemoaning Prince William’s avoidance of kilts. [The Guardian]

  5. Eight years after Richard III’s rediscovered remains were reburied in Leicester Cathedral, the historian and best-selling novelist Philippa Gregory has made the vilified king the subject of her first play. And she believes it could set the record straight at last. [The Guardian]


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