A common argument that is given for the continuation of the monarchy in Britain is that it provides the United Kingdom with soft power. The OED defines soft power as:

a persuasive approach to international relations, typically involving the use of economic or cultural influence.

To what extent is this argument valid? Can the amount of soft power provided by the Royal Family be measured in any way? Are there any prominent modern examples in which the monarchy has significantly affected the UK’s standing or status in the international community?

  • 2
    Are you specifically looking for "direct" soft power examples, or examples which allow for sovereign power being used outside the democratic system (for example, the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis) where its unclear what the involvement of the royal family actually was?
    – user16741
    Jan 6, 2020 at 22:30
  • Examples like attempts to Host the World Cup?
    – Jontia
    Jan 7, 2020 at 13:46
  • I suppose both would be good examples of soft power given the definition in the question - in addition, perhaps an answer might touch on how the monarchy affects relations with other countries which share the same Royal family.
    – CDJB
    Jan 7, 2020 at 13:55
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    @Moo I’d strongly suggest that your request for clarification and your example have little or nothing to do with the question being asked. The exercise of a reserve power under a constitutional convention by a monarch, or their representative, is a “power” that might be described as “soft” but it’s not an example of the “soft power” that the cited OED definition is referring to. The continued existence of these reserve powers is also the basis for an argument for the continuation of constitutional monarchy, but there is no suggestion that the OP is concerned with that particular argument. Jan 11, 2020 at 21:17
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    Thanks CDJB. Yes, the “reserve powers” of the Queen (in Australia’s case this practically means our Governor-General) are real powers such as the power to dismiss a government and force a general election even if the prime minister disagrees [it’s much more complicated than this but this is one way of looking at it]. They are not codified (written down) and are limited only by conventions (traditional practices) but I wouldn’t call them “soft” and they are definitely not what your OED definition is referring to. Jan 11, 2020 at 21:47

1 Answer 1


Well, the UK's soft power through the royal family mostly comes from the Commonwealth of Nations - a group of 53 states where all nations except two being former members of the British Empire who promote common bonds through a similar British culture. Following World War II, the royal family visited many Commonwealth territories to foster friendly relations with former British territories part of the Commonwealth and these visits still continue to this day to foster good relations. In 2008, Prince Andrew visited Kyrgyzstan to establish good relations in the nation and attempt to supplant Russian and Chinese influence by having British companies to the nation - a play Prince Andrew likened to the Great Game of the 19th century where the British monarchy competed with Imperial Russia for influence in Central Asia.

On top of the Commonwealth and royal visits, there is also the Prince Philip Movement, a more unintentional form of soft power where a group of people in Vanuatu worship Prince Philip as a divine being. While this doesn't give the United Kingdom a lot of direct soft power, it allowed for some degree of interesting press for the nation and more chances for members of the royal family to visit Vanuatu.

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