In the decades before World War I no British institution epitomized national identity more forcefully than the monarchy, and no other institution inspired such a universal feeling of loyalty and attachment. The crown reached this position in the half-century after 1861 by giving up its residual political power to a more representative House of Commons and transforming itself into a powerfully symbolic institution. The men who transformed the monarchy in an era of mass politics, mass movements and massive ceremonial displays constituted a cross-section of the political world. What were they doing? What was in their minds as they planned enormous royal spectacles in London? This book focuses on the action of five different individuals who created the modern monarchy: Walter Bagehot, W.E. Gladstone, Lord Esher, Randall Davidson and the fifteenth Duke of Norfolk.
"Where others see coronations, royal jubilees and thanksgivings as empty ritual and 'invented tradition,' Kuhn sees them as symbolic moments, which, drawing on precedent, created unity, social stability, and national pride. Moreover, 'democratic royalism'... made government 'entertaining to watch' and transformed 'the dull duties of citizenship into moving lively, even amusing theatre.'"