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A royal rebranding, spurred by the Queen's grandchildren

The Whitechapel bell foundry, makers of Big Ben and the Liberty Bell, are also casting bells for the Queen's jubilee. NBC's Keir Simmons reports.

By Keir Simmons
NBC News

Dancing, smiling, hugging his way into people’s hearts, Prince Harry’s recently wrapped tour of the Caribbean and Brazil is widely seen as a great success. But it was more than that.

Speaking with reporters yesterday, the Prince spoke about his laid-back style. It enables him to connect with people, he said. Truly, he is his mother’s heir.                                                          

“You can’t sit with a stiff upper lip, with crossed arms, and not get involved,” Prince Harry said. “I’ve never taken myself too seriously.”

His comments are revealing because they show that he is aware of the impression he his making -- he isn’t simply relaxing.

“I’ve had an amazing time on behalf of my grandmother," he said. "Hopefully everyone is happy.”

Watch the story tonight on "NBC Nightly News."

This is no frivolous young man. He has thought hard about his image. For the last few years, Prince Harry, his older brother Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge (the former Kate Middleton), have been changing the way we view the Royal Family. You might call it a royal rebranding. And it’s working. Even the Queen, still deeply traditional, is now described again as fashionable. 

This year Britain itself is hoping to pull off the same trick. The UK will look to its oldest family to help the entire country put on a new face. With the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June, and the Olympics in July and August, it’s going to be a marathon celebration.

Like the young royals, the country will try to appear both traditional and modern, to show off its history without seeming old fashioned: to display all its pomp and ceremony, without being pompous. Britain will want to say to America’s tourists, ‘Come visit!’ while telling American firms, ‘Let’s do business.’

The summer festivities will start in June with a flotilla of 1,000 vessels carrying the Queen down the Thames, opening the Jubilee. Great Britain knows how to put on a good show.  But in the months that follow, it must ensure everything is well organized. It needs to prove that it won’t sink under the weight of a big event like the Olympics.

An Olympics that will cost $17 billion. In these tough times, two out of three British people say is not worth it, according to the polling organization YouGov.

Perhaps that’s understandable. The British are a naturally skeptical people. We look across the pond with envy at America’s enthusiasm. But secretly, underneath the stiff upper lip, every British heart is hoping that the country does itself proud this year.

And Britain can look to its royal family to see how an old institution can make itself new again. Prince Harry, Prince William and Kate Middleton have shown the way. Their message is that the country can reclaim a place it has held many times before, at the center of the world stage this summer.