This wasn’t just because she loves a great story and knew a global readership shared her fascination with history’s longest-running soap opera, but also because, I think, she had a hunch that the royal story was at a crucial inflection point when the site kicked off: the rise of the younger royals challenging the established order.
In October 2008, William and Kate were still two long years away from getting engaged but no-one knew that. It could have happened at any moment. By the time I started writing for the Beast, in 2009-10, everyone wanted Kate news. Kate was clickbait.
The wedding, in 2010, was genuinely a breath of fresh air in the U.K., and we were all with the clergyman who performed celebratory cartwheels along the red carpet in Westminster Abbey.
William’s marriage to Kate—the middle-class girl next door—was a symbol that the royals really had left behind the tormented snobbery and anguish of the Diana years, an era when they were so disconnected from something so basically human as compassion that bulimia was seen as a “waste of food.”
But the speed with which the story of the royal wedding became a story about Pippa Middleton’s bottom was perhaps a sign that William and Kate were not, innately, that fascinating.
When we ran a story about the nocturnal adventures of William’s cheeky little brother, Prince Harry, who had split with his long-term girlfriend Chelsy Davy and was looking for love, it broke records for traffic.
Over the next four or five years, sources told me incredible stories of Harry’s partying in London’s clubs—many of which we verified and published, but others which, sadly, I can only tell my friends after dinner.
I think it was probably only people like me, who worked in the bowels of the royal-gossip-industrial complex, and had been hearing stories of Harry’s legendary partying over the years, who were utterly unsurprised when the naked Vegas pictures emerged in 2012. The only thing we were surprised at was that his protection squad hadn’t taken the girls’ phones off them on arrival at his suite, and that they were not sacked.
The extent to which his behavior was entirely normal for him can be seen by the fact that his girlfriend at the time, Cressida Bonas, didn’t even dump him.
I still think that the publication of those pictures was actually the greatest thing to happen to the royal family in recent years (although they fought tooth and nail to prevent them being published).
I think people who saw them and spent a few minutes reading the story of Harry’s night on the town identified with him—and wouldn't have turned down an invitation.
I have never met anyone who has said anything other than a variant of “Fair play to him” when it comes to Harry’s trip to Vegas, especially when it emerged that he was off to Afghanistan to fight for grandmother and country the next week, and this was his send-off party.
Behind most stories of out-of-control drunken partying, however, there is usually another less enjoyable tale. And so it was here.
In 2017, as his relationship with Meghan Markle was blooming, Harry made the brave decision to talk about the emotional problems the death of his mother precipitated. He spoke of the “total chaos” his life descended into in his mid-twenties as he stuck his head in the sand and refused to get therapy. (I’m told he drinks much less these days.)
Charles, my sources have told me, was not happy about the public emoting. But Charles feels oddly irrelevant to the royal story right now. It’s all about the future—Meghan, Harry, Kate and George, Charlotte and Louis (sorry, and William too, of course).
Maybe the public indifference towards Charles will soften when he becomes king.
However, there could well be outrage when (as sources exclusively told me he will) he abandons 20 years of promises to his mother to make his wife Camilla “Princess Consort” and unilaterally declares his former mistress to be Queen Camilla, the day after his mother’s death.
Despite the fact that he and his wife suffer from staggeringly low popularity ratings, there’s absolutely no chance Charles will agree to be passed over in favor of his son—but almost everyone at court is hoping the queen can hang on as long as possible to minimize the duration of the reign of King Charles III.
If Elizabeth, 92, lives to the age of her mother, Charles, now 69, still has almost 10 years to wait. The power struggle at the palace, and the British public’s clear preference for youth over experience, sets the stage for another decade of compelling royal storylines. We’ll be there.