This article is based on an analysis of television coverage of seven very high-profile recent royal events across Western Europe: six weddings (in Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark) as well as the funeral of Princess Diana. Using the concepts of mega-event, media event and liminal event, it examines how official narratives attempt to transform the city into a magical space characterised by a fusion of past and present, a process accompanied by the often highly filmic presentation of ‘ancient’ buildings (cathedrals, town halls, palaces etc.) and the careful avoidance of inappropriate localities and symbols. It also examines the increasing trend towards marketing such cities televisually as desirable tourist locations. The article finishes by arguing that, alongside this official narrative of the city as a site of material and symbolic authority, the crowd present at such events often transforms them in turn into a site of carnival, thereby raising questions as to the ideological efficacy of that narrative.