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Even the “Party Prince” is doing his bit for British public diplomacy……….

by on March 23, 2012

As Britain and the countries of the Commonwealth celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond jubilee throughout 2012, and while the British publics eagerly anticipate the street parties and revelries that are likely to honour the 60th anniversary of the accession of Her Majesty to the throne in June, from the media headlines that have accompanied Prince Harry on his ten-day tour of Belize, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Brazil, it definitely looked like ‘One’ begun the parties well ahead of the rest of us.  The ‘party-loving’ prince sipped rum and boogied to the traditional Creole dance – Brukdong Bram in Belize, jammed to Bob Marley’s One Love in Jamaica and if I could cheekily suggest, glimpsed a preview of what the 2012 Olympics’ ticket holders of the women’s beach volleyball will experience this summer, as he enthusiastically took part in a game of volleyball under the glare of the blistering Brazilian sun.  Yes, Prince Harry’s jaunts might have looked as literally that, but, there were some significant outcomes from this young royal’s first solo mission for his service to Queen and Country!

In the executive summary of ‘Engagement: Public Diplomacy in a Globalised World’– a publication by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (2008, p.7), Jim Murphy MP, Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) states that Britain “needs a public diplomacy which fits our time” and judging from the many global commendations that ensued Prince Harry’s tour on his Majesty’s service, I will safely say he was just THAT!!  He was an incarnate of Britain’s evolving strategies in conducting public and cultural diplomacy in a constantly shifting international environment.  Shaun Riordan (2002, p.124) citing Livingston (2003) writes “network diplomacy requires learning to engage and even accommodate alternative views, contrary opinions and evidence,” Prince Harry, if nothing else comes out this tour, his noble interaction with the commons people from all kinds of backgrounds will at least show the changing face of the Royal family and Britain as a little  more reachable to the rest of the world.

So what exactly is public diplomacy?  Well, in a YouTube video that Caroline Jaine showed the class in her presentation on public diplomacy; varying interpretations of the meaning of public diplomacy were solicited from a selection of diplomatic practitioners, PR strategists, and academics.  A few of the responses were that it was: “the engagement of ordinary people in the dialogue of nations” and that it was “the art of communicating with the public” (Caroline Jaine, 2012, presentation notes), both responses were not far  from what I have come to understand on what exactly this practice is.  Daryl Copeland  states that public diplomacy “consists of outwardly directed activities by national representatives aimed at identifying shared objectives and potential areas of collaboration with publics abroad”  ( 2009, p.163), an observation which is not that askew from the YouTube responses.  He further elaborates his definition by stating that public diplomacy is “based largely on perception – on the response to image and reputation and is grounded in culture, in demonstrated political values and in policy as practised at home and abroad” (ibid).

The diamond jubilee tours, with some to follow in the year by other members of the royal family, are  at a glance about reinforcing the relationships that exist between Britain and countries of the commonwealth, however, Prince Harry ticked many of the boxes Copeland sees as attributes of an effective public diplomat – “public diplomats are indispensible for building bridges between people and in explaining their countries to the world” (Copeland 2009, p.167).  The FCO, in ‘The GREAT campaign’ “invites the world to take a fresh look at the UK” by promoting Britain as “one of the very best places to visit, live, work, study, invest and do business,” Prince Harry spread this message with distinguished enthusiasm, nimble dancing feet and no stiff upper lip.  As an ambassador for British trade and the Olympics he charmed and endeared himself (and hopefully Britain)  to not just the elites, but to the masses in Brazil and the Caribbean nations as well.

Do we learn anything about public diplomacy from Prince Harry’s diamond jubilee tour? Or does it just add more confusion to our understanding of the murky waters that is the practical definition of public diplomacy?  I feel many career diplomats people can take a leaf from this young royal’s book.  What man, let alone diplomat can count beating Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth to a 100m dash? or boast to melting a ‘republican’ heart with a great British hug to the Jamaican prime minister Portia Simpson Miller? or better still, have the global female population swooning at the mere sight of a prince, even one wearing a pair of  questionable blue sued shoes??  Well, Prince Harry engaged the foreign publics, he had “the impact of 1,000 politicians” as Jeremy Hunt elegantly put it, and above all he promoted the values and interests of the British  government abroad,  hopefully, if the frosty relations between the UK and Argentina further intensify, Brazil will do well to remember what a friendly nation Great Britain is……………….


Copeland, D., 2009. Guerrilla Diplomacy: Rethinking International Relations First Edition., Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office (ed.), Engagement: Public Diplomacy in a Globalised World (London: FCO, 2008)

Jaine, C. 2012. LondonMet Public Diplomacy Presentation

Picture courtesy of:

Getty Images, PA and Reuters


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  1. thebricsarecoming permalink

    Love your post very funny, however do you really believe a visit from Prince Harry is going to wipe out the hundreds of years of oppression Britain and it’s cohorts have engaged? And enough for it to be viewed as a ‘friendly nation’?

    You may find this interesting reading:

  2. mimi001 permalink

    I think purely by sending Prince Harry abroad, perceptions of entire nation might not change but I assume the ‘target audience’ for such visit might be the younger generation that hasn’t got such close connection to the past years of oppression. Relations have to be build from somewhere and for young people Prince Harry is a much better starting point than a high-level politician.

  3. Thank you for a very well crafted account of the prince’s tour. The monarchy is finally receiving some attention for its role in British public diplomacy, which has been a little more high profile of late. Do you think that part of the attraction of the royals, from a public diplomacy perspective, is that they are seen to be above politics and therefore more credible? I’d like to hear more from you on how Harry’s work on behalf of the UK fits with the concepts and approaches we have explored on the module. Perhaps you can do a little more work in this area when you revise this entry for inclusion in your logbook at the end of the module.

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