We’d probably recognise the Royal family more readily than we would our own neighbours. Yet despite our frequent exposure to countless images of the Queen and co., they remain largely a mystery. This is, of course, by design. The house of Windsor’s relationship with the media is cyclical and, in its current manifestation, ruthlessly managed.
As renowned body language expert Judi James explains, the Royal family “has been through three key evolutionary stages in our lifetime.
“From the uber-formal rituals the Queen Mother passed down to her daughter, through the body language revolution when Diana and Fergie fed us an almost daily diet of non-verbal emotions and reactions that defined a whole royal soap opera, and then back to the more accessible but emotionally masked signals of William and Kate.”
But if you know what to look for, each frame contains signs and clues which give something away about each Royal family member and their relationships. Judi reveals all…
Unsurprisingly, the Queen’s sense of protocol and public duty has always seemed to stretch to her body language rituals.
While she has modified some of the more haughty behaviours over the years – the traditional royal wave being one casualty – she has always retained the unique trait of never mirroring other people in public.
After all, the Queen is the Queen wherever she goes and whoever she is with.
The Queen’s facial expressions are generally set between two extremes: the very cultivated and rather rigid smile her mother used so effectively but – unlike the Queen Mother – she can also be seen doing what the royals are rumoured to call her ‘Miss Piggy Face’, an expression that can look pretty dour.
As she enters her nineties though her smile does seem to be taking on an amazingly youthful look.
A LOOK BACK ON THE QUEEN’S LIFE AS SHE CELEBRATES SAPPHIRE JUBILEE
These photographs show her using a rather girlish-looking smile that lights up her eyes.
It’s almost as though she is delighted to find herself fit and active at 91 and – like a lot of ninety-year-olds – there might just be an urge to take life less seriously and have a bit of fun.
This facial expression also points up the amazing resemblance between The Queen and her great-granddaughter Charlotte.
There might be a huge generation gap between them but when they both smile they look as alike as peas from the same royal pod!
Then there’s the crucial role of the royal handbag, which has barely changed in size or style over the years and it is still a valuable prop for the Queen in terms of her body language.
High-ranking women like Merkle, May and Clinton rarely – if ever – carry handbags and the effect of their empty hands is to walk and stand with their arms at their sides, which might look too confident and even confrontational for the Queen when she’s meeting the public on royal visits.
It would be unimaginable for her to greet crowds using the normal arm barriers the rest of us adopt to make us feel more secure, like folded arms or clasped hands or even self-comfort fiddling with hair or jewelry.
The handbag on the arm, however, gives the Queen an ‘excuse’ to form an arm barrier without looking nervous or distant.
There is also said to be a secret ritual of small movements involving the bag that the Queen uses as silent signals for her entourage!
The Duke of Edinburgh
The Duke – like the Queen – has clearly decided less is more with his body language rituals and adopted a signature look of hands clasped behind his back that has never changed over the years.
Unlike the Queen though there is still something edgier and spontaneous about his poses despite this ‘handcuffed’ look.
The hand clasp is probably a symptom of Prince Philip’s tendency to speak his mind in public as his hand gestures can often be just as ‘honest’.
Clasping them behind his back keeps them out of trouble but he has a very powerfully charismatic technique that he can employ without the need for gesticulation.
The Duke has honed the body language skill of intense and active listening in face-to-face meetings.
As this shot below shows, he will ask a question and then the lack of a hand barrier allows him to lean forward using eye contact to register genuine and quite deep interest in the answer.
His smile is – like the Queen’s – part of his royal masking but where the Queen’s smile is primarily a mouth gesture with some baring of the teeth, Prince Philip’s is primarily and eye-smile which looks less rigid and more genuine.
He seems to be sharing a joke with the people he is meeting and by adding a subtle head-tilt suggests a challenging and enquiring mind.
Charles and Camilla.
Despite his military training Prince Charles has always used some signature anxiety rituals that define him as lacking the physical and emotional confidence of his father.
When he appears in public he will always either pat his pocket or stuff his hand in his pocket and fiddle with his cuffs or watch strap.
Fascinatingly this anxiety ritual appears to be hereditary.
His grandfather used an identical ritual of pats and checks and despite the fact that he died when Charles was only tiny when George VI died he still seems to have had them embedded in his adult body language.
He has always lacked the easy confidence of his father and in Camilla he found something of a body language kindred spirit.
Camilla has her own anxiety rituals from the nervous-looking smile to a tendency to fiddle with her thumbs.
But she also shows a tendency to perform reassurance rituals for her husband, like hand-patting and throwing maternal-looking smiles of approval and support.
This behaviour and her lower-status behaviours are in complete contrast to Princess Diana who craved support from her husband and who eclipsed him in terms of public approval and celebrity status.
There was a time with Diana when we did see Charles break through his normal royal protocols and act like a man who couldn’t keep his hands off his younger, beautiful bride but we have only seen more mature and more traditional signals from Charles and Camilla.
His body language with her is more stand-alone than coupled or riddled with PDAs and she seems to stand in his shadow as a ready back-up in terms of support when it’s needed.
William and Kate.
Just as Charles’s body language skipped a generation to be handed down from his grandfather, so William’s behaviour can be sourced back to the kind of formal royal protocols that the Queen uses.
William does have some small anxiety rituals like checking the waist of his trousers or standing in the ‘fig leaf’ self-protective pose.
Overall though, he seems to have adopted a more masked and less emotionally revealing approach that was championed by the Queen, although adapting some of the status signals to make himself and Kate appear more modern and accessible in public.
Having witness the very public breakdown of his parent’s marriage and his mother’s life in the media circus it was clear William wanted to ring-fence his own relationship and protect Kate from a similar fate.
The rather bland body language the couple show us now is a very effective way of doing their job well but without turning themselves into a soap opera.
They avoid touching in public or most other obvious displays of affection but in a way that we can still see they are a loving couple.
Their most telling moments come when they take part in sports and show the shared fun of competing against one another, and the tendency they have for subconscious mirroring.
Despite William’s size and his RAF background he and Kate still have a very strong tendency to mimic one another’s body language in public. Like-bodied usually means like-minded so the enduring trait suggests the pair are good friends as well as loving partners and a royal team of two.
In some ways Kate even replaced William’s brother Harry’s role in his life. William often has a tendency to look rather serious and even melancholy and it was always Harry who added the spontaneous and competitive fun in his life.
Kate fills this role well and you can often see her jollying William up on any gruelling royal tours – and may be one of the most poised members of the Royal family.
Without modernising or changing the role of the royal wife Kate has played to her strengths and relied on her impeccable body language to steer clear of controversy or press frenzies.
She is a traditionalist in terms of her body language performance, known more for her perfect smile and pretty hair than her views or her skills in the workplace.
As a role-model for the modern woman she is no Michelle Obama. Her smile is an art-form in itself though. Iconic, dimpled, wide but also relatively relaxed and authentic-looking it is a smile that she appears able to hold for very long periods of time.
There is rarely a shot of her not wearing the smile and never one of her looking anything other than upbeat.
I have never been sent photos to analyse of her looking moody or sad or throwing her husband the kind of telling glances that normally register boredom or tiredness.
So far Kate has no sign of body language ‘leakage’ and that in itself is extraordinary.
With this royal couple playing their body language to perfection the burden of more ‘giving’ displays will clearly fall on Harry.
So far we have seen this Prince with the filter off many times and by dating a US TV star it looks as though the royals could be back in the gossip columns and celebrity magazines for almost the first time since Diana died.