While solemn announcements of the Queen’s death dominated television bulletins and newspaper headlines, other royal content online attracted millions of hits.
Posts containing abuse and misinformation were widespread on social media in the days following the news, many aimed at Camilla, the Queen’s new wife.
Manipulated photos of the Duchess of Sussex and posts claiming Her Majesty was killed because she kept secrets for politicians or that she was killed by the Covid-19 vaccine were also widely shared, the analysis showed.
On TikTok, the UK’s fastest-growing news source, whose user base is dominated by Gen Z, the most-watched royal-themed videos included those mocking Camilla’s appearance and pitting her against the late Diana, Princess of Wales .
One video, which has been liked 1.1 million times on TikTok since it was posted a week ago, featured a montage of photos of Camilla and Diana. Captions read: “The woman he cheated on… The woman he cheated on,” prompting scathing comparisons between the women in the comments section.
Others called Camilla a “caumilla” or “wicked witch”, claiming she was a “puppet master” in the royal family who was “struggling to contain how happy she is” at the Queen’s death. Many were promoted by accounts allegedly run by young Diana fans.
Other accounts shared doctored photos of Meghan, suggesting she was photographed wearing a ‘The Queen is Dead’ t-shirt. On Twitter, a post containing the image with the caption “Can’t believe Meghan went there” received 27,000 likes.
Back on TikTok, several videos claimed to show Meghan at the Queen’s funeral and criticized her for copying an old Diana outfit. One has liked them 3.7 million times, even though the funeral, scheduled for Monday, has not yet taken place.
The content gives an insight into the nature of some of the information about the royal family that is sent to those who receive their news on social networks.
While the Duchess of Sussex has repeatedly been the target of online abuse, Camilla’s taint is a more recent phenomenon among young people.
For years after the breakdown of Diana’s marriage to Charles in 1996, some in the media characterized Camilla as a “marriage wrecker”, with many blaming her for their separation and the princess’s subsequent death. Coverage has toned down, now focusing on her charity work and portraying her as friendly and approachable.
Active communities for Diana fans and Camilla critics continued to operate, but their reach was largely limited to Facebook groups that members chose to join. On TikTok, anti-Camila content, which has been gaining popularity since the Netflix drama The Crown aired, has been widely promoted among young people in recent days.
Dr Laura Clancy, a professor of media at Lancaster University who has studied media portrayals of the royal family, said the “dribble, drip of negative coverage” could have an effect on shaping views of the royal family. a time when debates about their role in modern society are intensifying.
For many, their first contact with information about the new King and Queen Consort may be on social media. “While much of it is not explicitly anti-monarchy, it certainly creates a discourse around the monarchy in a way that is not established in the official narrative,” Clancy said. Researchers from the Center to Combat Digital Hate (CCHR) identified 16 channels on the messaging app Telegram where conspiracies were shared, with a total of 1,369,444 followers.
Another post that has been widely circulated online falsely claims that before she died, the Queen announced that she had information that could lead to the arrest of former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The claim is consistent with a long-standing conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and her husband, Bill Clinton, assassinate their political opponents, according to fact-checkers from the AFP news agency.
While the motivations for publishing content for royalties vary, it can lead to huge profits for account holders in the form of views, likes, followers and ad revenue.
Just like newspapers and websites, real content can drive traffic from a global audience for social media creators. In the UK, Google searches have been dominated by royal inquiries since the Queen’s death, with nine of the top 10 search terms including references to Her Majesty the late or the new king.
Some of the accounts posting content against Camilla and Meghan appear to have started doing so specifically to capitalize on the increased interest in the royals. One who previously posted videos of the Kardashians continued to post hateful content about Camilla hours after the Queen’s death was announced.