“Never complain, never explain” – for a long time, that was thought to be the British royal motto where the press was concerned. And yet here they are, Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, and Kensington Palace, all three households issuing a joint statement bitching about the BBC’s new documentary, The Princes and the Press”:
"A free, responsible and open press is of vital importance to a healthy democracy. However, too often it is overblown and unfounded claims from unnamed sources that are presented as facts and it is disappointing when anyone, including the BBC, gives them credibility."
So what is it that they’re so pressed about?
The first part of the documentary which aired last night focuses on the relationship between the British royals and the media. In particular, several members of the media and those who’ve had years of experience covering the royals, including Robert Jobson, who wrote a biography on Prince Charles ahead of his 70th birthday, Rhiannon Mills of Sky News, and Omid Scobie, the author of Finding Freedom, report that the royals have their aides brief the press – including the tabloid press – on what stories they want out there. And the stories that have generated the most headlines over the last few years, of course, are about the rift between Princes William and Harry. So there are leaks coming from inside the palaces, sanctioned by those at the palace, against other members of the family.
None of which should be news, if you’ve engaged in any royal gossip online, and here at this site. But now it’s the BBC and people confirming this sh-t on camera, talking about how the royal households, and William’s household in particular, has been courting the tabloid media, the same tabloids that are out here trashing their relatives:
It’s the “invisible contract” that Harry mentioned during the Television Event of the Year with Oprah Winfrey. And the three royal households are now objecting because, well, on multiple levels it’s not a good look for them.
First and foremost, with the BBC reporting on these “briefing wars” between the households, it suggests a family fracture, and not just with House Sussex breaking off from the Firm. Even among the households that remain, it would seem as though they are at times undermining each other – as was the case in Robert Jobson’s book about Charles, when his sons were described in less favourable light so as to underscore Charles’s readiness to inherit the throne. Unity and stability are the cornerstones of the British royal brand. This kind of reporting suggests that behind those gates, they’re just as messy as any other family, maybe even more.
And weaker than we’ve been led to believe. After all, if they’re so above everyone and all of us, if people are made to bow and curtsey before them, why is it that they have to suck up to the tabloids? It’s becoming much harder to convince people of how special they are when they’re tipping off the tabloids the same way that reality show stars do.
That’s the other part of it. The British royals insist that they don’t operate like celebrities…but… don’t they? With courtiers establishing relationships with the media, leaking exclusives to the media, possibly in exchange for favourable coverage – these are celebrity PR moves. Because the British royals are the ultimate OG celebrities. It’d be better at this point, in 2021, to just admit it, own it, and just let their thirst fly free.
Instead they’re out here moaning about the BBC, so to go back to “never complain, never explain”, why is is that they’re breaking protocol in this case …but where was that energy when one of their own was subject to racist attacks and a relentless barrage of falsehoods? The party line was to grit and bear it, because that’s just how royals do. Selective gritting and bearing is not constant, nor is it consistent. So now we’re just throwing everything royal out the window I guess.
Attached – Prince William at the Tusk Conservation Awards last night.
Yours in gossip,