Red, White & Royal Blue: How an anti-monarchist generation became obsessed with fictional royals

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Stay ahead of the trend in fashion and beyond with our free weekly Lifestyle Edit newsletter. As the popularity of Netflix’s “The Crown” has raised questions about the accuracy of the portrayal of royal life, a new wave of novels and TV shows are captivating Gen Z readers and viewers with fictional royal dynasties. Netflix offers “Young Royals,” a Swedish teen drama following the love story between Prince Wilhelm and his classmate Simon Eriksson. Similarly, the Norwegian film “Royalteen” tells the story of Lena, an ordinary girl who falls for a “party prince” at her new school. The romance section of bookshops is also filled with novels exploring royal themes.

One of the most popular novels is “Red, White & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston, which has now been adapted into a film on Prime Video. The story goes beyond the traditional narrative of a royal falling for a commoner and instead focuses on the enemies-to-lovers relationship between Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of the first female President of the United States, and Prince Henry of Britain. Despite their initial dislike for each other, they are forced to pretend to be friends to maintain diplomatic relations. Spending time together leads to a genuine friendship and eventually a romantic relationship. McQuiston’s book gained popularity through word-of-mouth and social media recommendations, leading to its inclusion on The New York Times bestseller list.

The resurgence of interest in fictional royal stories comes at a time when Gen Z shows little interest in the institution of monarchy. A YouGov poll found that 38% of 18 to 24-year-olds in the UK would prefer an elected head of state, and only 32% support the monarchy. However, the romance genre is experiencing a revival, particularly among young readers. Platforms like BookTok on TikTok have contributed to the genre’s popularity, providing an escape from reality and offering a fantasy world of love and opulence. Royal romcom books, in particular, allow readers to immerse themselves in a world of glamour and luxury that is otherwise unattainable.

The appeal of these stories lies in their escapism and the sense of fantasy they provide. The formalities and etiquettes associated with royalty add an element of excitement and create a sense of separation from reality. However, books like “Red, White & Royal Blue” also include a satirical perspective on the obsession with royalty, offering a critique of the intense public interest in their lives. Despite the lack of interest in real-life monarchy, fictional portrayals continue to capture the imagination of readers and viewers, providing a glimpse into a world that is both captivating and distant.

In conclusion, the popularity of fictional royal stories among Gen Z readers and viewers highlights the appeal of escapism and the sense of fantasy that these narratives provide. While real-life monarchy may not be of interest to this generation, fictional portrayals allow them to explore a world of glamour, luxury, and opulence that is otherwise unattainable. Whether through books or TV shows, these stories continue to captivate audiences and offer an alternative perspective on the institution of royalty.

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