Is Prince Charles jealous of his sons’ – and Kate Middleton’s - media profile?
That will be the conclusion many royal watchers will arrive at when the news breaks that he is taking control of the young royals’ press operation.
For, following hard on the heels of the revelation that Prince Charles will soon be overseeing the Queen’s press office, by moving his press team into Buckingham Palace and subsuming her press office into his own, the Royalist now learns that the same fate awaits the Kensington Palace press office, which was established just last year before the royal baby was born to represent William, Kate and Harry.
Given the importance of press coverage in the life of the Royal family, the move represents a significant blow to the young royals attempts to set up an alternative court in Kensington Palace.
The move is believed to have been instigated by Prince Charles – who funds the KP operation - as part of a drive to refocus the attention of the UK on serious and worthy issues such as the environment, nature and architecture, discussion of which he wants to promote during his kingship.
Now that he has his hands more firmly on the levers of power than ever before, following the first public acknowledgement that the country is in a ‘transition’ of reign from his mother to him (made discreetly in the New Year Honors list), it appears that he is not delaying in his attempts to shift the national discussion away from Kate Middleton’s clothing choices and onto his more weighty pet subjects.
Charles – who was often said to resent being overshadowed by his late wife, Princess Diana - is known to be concerned that the image of the glamorous young royals is in danger of completely eclipsing the serious work of both the younger and more senior royals, and is frustrated (as to be fair, are many others in the royal household) that royal gossip – especially when it concerns the younger and more good looking members of the royal cast - receive global coverage while their serious labor on behalf of difficult causes often goes unremarked, except by local news outlets.
But the move represents a significant blow to the young royals' power base, and will be read as a sign that during the reign of King Charles, he very much means to be a traditional King, in charge of all royal activities, in stark contrast to the Queen who allowed her family members great independence.
The shortlived Kensington Palace press office will cease to exist – despite having performed remarkably well under intense pressure of the royal baby, the biggest royal story in decades - and Harry, Kate and William’s staff will lose much of their media autonomy as their press officers will once again have to report to Prince Charles’s media director.
A senior courtier confirmed to the Daily Beast today that the three royal household press operations are to be merged, in order to "better coordinate the communication of the Royal family" and said an official announcement may be made soon.
Prince Charles has always had to wrestle with the fact that he is not popular or headline-grabbing in the way that his sons are and his late wife was. Part of the lack of affection, of course, is because he has never managed to entirely disabuse the British people of their conviction that he acted heartlessly towards Diana.
And there is no denying the fact that William, Kate and Harry are way more popular – and photogenic - than Prince Charles can ever hope to be. An event attended by Prince Charles will often draw a decent crowd, but an appearance by Kate can still cause near-hysteria. One only has to look at the reception Prince Harry received on his last visit to America – when he met FLOTUS – to see why Charles might be concerned about being upstaged by his kids.
When William and Kate visited North America or in 2011, Charles reportedly complained to senior aides that he felt the tour was dominated by razzmatazz and showbiz. Whilst he wouldn’t want them to be unpopular, the incredibly high media profile of his sons and Kate Middleton has turned out to be something of a mixed blessing when it comes to promoting his own, less exciting causes.
But can Prince Charles seriously hope to refocus the spotlight on his causes, and stem the public fascination with William, Kate and Harry?
Maybe, maybe not.
Turning the tide, after all, is tricky.
Just ask King Canute.