Britain's Queen Elizabeth is planning to emulate Princess Diana by adopting a gentler touch and making herself more approachable to her subjects.
Buckingham Palace said on Friday the monarch wants to spend "quality time" with people she meets on royal trips."The queen has listened hard since the princess died. The perception of the public was that the royal family was not fully in touch with them. The change is one way of making sure this can be redressed," a palace spokesman told Reuters.
"We are trying a different approach. The queen, when she can, will take quality time to meet more people in depth rather than tour a whole venue and have little time to talk," the spokesman added.
The royals were stung by criticism after the death of Diana last August 31 when people suggested they were out of touch with the grieving mood of the nation.
The "touchy-feely" princess had long upstaged her former husband Prince Charles and the conclusion drawn by most observers was that the staid royal family lacked Diana's light, common touch.
Cynics say the changes are essentially a deft public-relations strategy designed to buttress a 1,000-year-old institution that in recent years has lost public support and suffered a series of embarrassing blows.
After Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris, the royal family disappeared behind castle walls, unable or unwilling to share their grief with ordinary Britons.
But gentle prodding from Prime Minister Tony Blair and a team of media-savvy advisers in the last 12 months have steered the queen toward appearing more relaxed, royal watchers say.
The 72-year-old monarch has already met rock stars at parties, traveled in a London taxi, visited a pub and declared "we are not amused" as she watched England lose to Argentina on television in the World Cup.
She was even photographed in front of a McDonald's restaurant - although she did not sample a burger. The palace said a visit to a shopping center would probably not have been considered appropriate 10 years ago.
This more populist trend looks set to continue. A forthcoming engagement has the queen visiting an inner-city estate where she will meet Muslim and Asian women.
"It's not a question of instituting massive and radical changes. It's more a case of fine-tuning when and where it's appropriate," the palace spokesman said, noting that as head of state and a member of an older generation, the queen had less scope to appear relaxed than other royals.