In the good old days, when kingship actually meant something, royal marriages were dynastic, sexual infidelity was the norm, sons and fathers fought openly, and inconvenient relatives got locked up and judicially murdered.
The idea that a royal family could serve as an aspirational model for other families developed alongside the modern news media- with its ability to publicise and pillory royal misbehaviour- and provided the monarchy with a new role to fill as its political power drained away and an Empire which needed a figurehead grew bigger and bigger. Queen Victoria's long and supposedly glorious reign rendered her iconic and so identified her with the nation that to attack her was to attack Britishness. Her prestige shielded her very scandalous son through his brief reign- and two dull monarchs in succession, both of them short on ideas and lusts, carried the truce into the 20th century. (For the sake of brevity we'll sidestep Edward VIII who very nearly upset the applecart and was speedily sent packing.) The second of the dull kings, George VI, was happy to be photographed by his fireside with his comfy wife and adorable kiddies, thereby encouraging the media to portray him as the head of a bourgeois nuclear unit- a citizen king quietly carrying on through the trauma of a world war and its aftermath. His daughter inherited his style- and the media played along- until she began to run into the problems thrown up by everyday family dynamics- which the media found too exciting to ignore and began to exploit for profit.
Starting with Princess Margaret's kiboshed affair with Captain Peter Townsend- badly managed by a Queen who has always marched behind the times- the history of the monarchy in the second Elizabethan age has been waymarked by a succession of scandals.
Which brings us up to date. One of the thing that has emerged from the Oprah interview is just how terrified the Windsors are of the British tabloid press...
Not a happy state of affairs.