A report in The Independent on Sunday claims that the Queen's accent has taken a slide from its clipped RP tones in the 1950s to something much closer to the Estuary-influenced accents found in the London area. According to research by Jonathan Harrington in the latest Journal of Phonetics:
The Queen's accent has not become cockneyfied but it has shifted subtly towards an accent that is more typically spoken in the wider community. The changes also reflect the changing class structure over the last 50 years. In the 1950s, there was a much sharper distinction between the classes as well as accents that typified them. Since then, the class boundaries have become more blurred, and so have the accents. Fifty years ago, the idea that Queen's English could be influenced by cockney would have been unthinkable.So, how do they know and why should we care? The research has been conducted by analysing changes in the Queen's voice on her annual Christmas broadcasts, so perhaps factors like performing to the camera and nervousness might be involved in the young Queen reverting to her upper class type and using the "cut glass" of marked RP; alternatively, it could all be a PR move by the royal family, a re-branding exercise to cast themselves as plain-speaking, normal people, rather than the overindulged, antiquated relics they so clearly are. It wouldn't be the first time, as this post on this blog in September 2005 relates.
But if you want to get a real taste for how upset some people are about this shift in accent, just take a look at this link to The Daily Telegraph's website (average age of reader: 121) where the palpitation-inducing horror at the desecration of HRH's RP is a true sight to behold.
ENA5 - Language Varieties