The New Royal Engagement Shows The Power Of The Royal Twitter Account
"The days of hanging notes on gates of Buckingham Palace are gone."
At exactly 10am on Monday morning, the Twitter account @KensingtonRoyal announced the much-anticipated engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
The UK media was caught flat-footed by the tweet from the royal household, having recently been guessing about when exactly the news of the nuptials would break.
Over on Kensington Palace's Instagram account, one minute later at 10:01am, a photo of the couple was posted, with the caption revealing, "The wedding will take place in Spring 2018".
In a sign of just how 2017 the breaking official royal news had become, the royal family's main account quote-tweeted @KensingtonRoyal to express the delight of the Queen and her husband.
Then it was Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall's turn to tweet their official reaction to the engagement.
The tweets and the Instagram post were retweeted, liked, and reposted tens of thousands of times in the first hours, spreading the news far and wide, bypassing news outlets.
"The days of hanging notes on gates of Buckingham Palace are gone," royal expert Phil Dampier told BuzzFeed News.
"It seems that Harry and Meghan are going to carry on a new modern approach to the monarchy, in a 21st-century way," he said.
"They're breaking new ground."
In 1947, it was left to King George VI to announce the engagement of his daughter Princess Elizabeth to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten in a "court circular" – the official list of royal engagements.
In 1960, the future queen's sister, Princess Margaret, had her engagement announced over the radio, while the engagement of her son Prince Charles to the future Princess Diana was announced in a statement released by the Lord Chancellor in 1981.
News of the engagement of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones was leaked to the Sun newspaper in 1999, with the BBC later confirming the news by quoting a "friend" of the couple.
But now, with verified Twitter and Instagram accounts, the royal family have taken back control of the flow of information.
Most recently, in 2015, @KensingtonRoyal was the first to announce the birth of Princess Charlotte.
A follow-up tweet included the name.
And it was hours before the royal proclamation of Charlotte's birth was framed and propped up on a gold stand at the gates of Buckingham Palace for onlookers.
A few months later, the household used Instagram to release the first photos of Charlotte with her older brother, Prince George.
"It is the way it is done now," Robert Jobson, royal editor of the Evening Standard, told BuzzFeed News in the wake of Harry and Meghan choosing to use Twitter to announce the engagement.
"They were always going to use Twitter and Instagram and issue the statements by email to the press."
Dampier said Prince Harry and his older brother want to use Twitter and Instagram to open up and modernise the monarchy.
"I know from speaking to Harry that he's extremely aware of the power of social media," Dampier said. "[Harry] realises that this is the modern way.
"You're only going to see more and more of it."