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Royals go to war with BBC—again
The queen, Prince Charles, and Prince William have threatened to launch a “tri-household boycott” of the BBC after it was revealed that the corporation is planning to screen a two-part documentary alleging that Prince Harry and Prince William were part of a smear campaign against each other at the height of their feud.
The palace is furious that it has not been allowed to see the documentary in advance, and argues it is being denied the right to reply to the damaging allegations, the Mail on Sunday reports.
The spat is likely to further test already strained relations between the BBC and the royal family, which have been under unprecedented pressure since May when the corporation apologized for deception on the part of Martin Bashir to secure his infamous Panorama interview with Princess Diana.
The new documentary, The Princes and the Press is due to air on BBC Two on Monday and Tuesday nights and it is suspected that it will reprise claims by Finding Freedom co-author Omid Scobie that Prince William and his staff leaked a suggestion that Prince Harry was struggling with his mental health after Harry and Meghan’s bombshell interview with Tom Bradby in Africa, in which Meghan suggested that the royal family had not checked if she was “okay” as she struggled with royal life.
Those claims were cut at the last minute from an ITV documentary entitled, Harry and William: What Went Wrong? just before that program was broadcast on ITV in July.
The Mail on Sunday says that the BBC claims have caused, “upset” at Windsor Castle, adding, “The households are all united in thinking this is not fair. No one at the palace has seen it.“
Sources at the BBC told the Mail that BBC bosses had decided the show did not breach the corporation’s guidelines, with a source saying, “You can’t make a documentary about royal journalism without mentioning briefings. It doesn’t point the finger at any individuals.”
The two-part film is presented by BBC media editor Amol Rajan, and the BBC says it will provide “context” for William and Harry’s relationship with the media.
Although the BBC and the royals have had a strained relationship at times, they generally do cooperate to their mutual benefit. This year, for example, the BBC broadcast Earthshot, a multi-part series inspired by Prince William’s eponymous awards for innovation to combat climate change, and a hagiography of Prince Phillip with extensive contributions from senior members of the royal family.
Tensions over the years have included the Bashir interview and a 2007 documentary on the queen, which featured a photographic shoot with Annie Leibovitz.
The BBC edited a promotional clip to make it look like the queen had flounced out of a shoot in a huff, and the BBC was subsequently forced to apologize.
It will be interesting to see whether a last minute compromise that benefits both institutions can be reached. It would be hugely damaging for the BBC not to have access to the most bankable stars in British public life in the run-up to the platinum jubilee celebrations in June of next year. And with all the headwinds it is facing, can the palace really afford to exile itself from one of its most sympathetic media mouthpieces?
Trouble for a king
Nobody, of course, has forgotten about Prince Charles’ “cash for honors” scandal. As a recap, it is alleged that Prince Charles’ former chief aide, Michael Fawcett, solicited donations to his master’s charities in return for promises of honors.
Now The Sunday Times says it has got its hands on “hundreds of pages of new evidence” which show how his aides “helped to fix a CBE for a Saudi billionaire.”
The Sunday Times presents a compelling countdown running from 2013, when the first introduction is made between Mahfouz bin Mahfouz and Charles, to 2016 when the honor is finally awarded at a private ceremony not recorded in Charles’ official diaries.
The communications lay bare a fascinating dance of fixers negotiating their way first to a meeting between the billionaire and Charles, then securing massive donations and trying to pick their way towards getting Mahfouz his gong.
In one of the letters, for example, a Mahfouz fixer writes to his assistant saying that “continued friendship building” with Charles will lead to “further very personal” attention from Prince Charles.
In June 2014, Mahfouz donated £700,000 to Charles’ charities and in October of that year had a dinner with Charles at his Dumfries House property in Scotland, after which Charles unveiled a fountain named after him.
The correspondence continues into 2015 where Charles arranges to meet the billionaire at a British Embassy in Saudi Arabia, and in March that year—ta-da!—a nomination for an honor is submitted on his behalf. In November 2016 the billionaire gets his honor in a private investiture at Prince Charles’ home, Clarence House.
Charles’s key aide Fawcett has taken the hit for this one, resigning in disgrace from his lifelong role at Charles’ side. It remains to be see how much mud will stick to the future king from this tawdry episode.
Camilla prepares for a royal promotion
Get ready for Queen Camilla… early! Camilla Parker Bowles is being lined up to play a major role in the queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations next year, the Mail on Sunday reports, given that the queen herself will likely scale back on what she is able to do. That means Charles and his wife will step up to take on more of the events she would have attended.
“Camilla will preside over the ‘Big Lunch,’ where thousands of groups of families and friends get together for street parties to mark 70 years of the Her Majesty’s reign,” the paper reports.
A Palace source told the Mail on Sunday: “This is part of a range of events taking place but it means Camilla will have a central role in leading the nation in the celebrations in a sign of her growing responsibilities.”
The paper also reported, crucially, that Camilla has a Fitbit watch to “keep in shape,” and a new hairdresser.
A palace source told the paper: “The Duchess is increasingly comfortable in the role and confident doing the job. She knows very well what it involves.”
This was reflected, her PR handlers insisted to the Mail on Sunday, on Charles and Camilla’s four day trip to Jordan and Egypt this week. “This is about showing the world what the Royal Family can do. Camilla is building up years of work in the Middle East, which is vital for Britain and the world,” a source close to Camilla said—not at all humbly.
Charles: the queen is “all right, thank you very much”
Prince Charles was meeting business leaders at the Royal Scientific Society in Amman, Jordan, with wife Camilla Parker Bowles, when he was asked how his mother the queen was doing. According to the Sun, Charles replied: “She’s all right thank you very much. Once you get to 95, it’s not quite as easy as it used to be. It’s bad enough at 73.”
He’s quite right of course, also—in his softly baleful way—reminding us how old he is, and how long he has waited to be king. Earlier in the week, Charles had checked with the queen whether, given her health, he should take the trip. She gave her OK.
This week in royal history
This time last year, Elle reported on Harry and Meghan’s plans to have a quiet first American Thanksgiving at their home in Montecito, California. “They are going to have a quiet dinner at home and are looking forward to celebrating their first American Thanksgiving in the States as a family,” a source told ELLE.com. The author of the article was Carolyn Durand, one half of the duo that brought us Finding Freedom, now revealed as being very intimately briefed by Harry and Meghan themselves.
Will the BBC and the Palace really fall out? Will Meghan Markle’s transition to mom-just-like-everyone-else stick, as she debuted on Ellen this week? Or will her court proceedings, and more revelations of what she and Harry did or didn’t tell her biographers, and various other outstanding controversies—around alleged royal racism, and bullying allegations against her—return to upend the new, sunny smiles?