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While the working life of my hard-bitten colleagues at The Daily Beast involves a punishing regimen of worn shoe leather, lightning-fast shorthand and an easy facility with navigating the murkier corners of the dark web, my working life is rather different.
My best scoops all seem to come from country house dinner parties, shooting weekends and my network of family, friends, and old school and university friends.
I’m sorry, but it’s true. When I look back at the last eight years of royal reporting for The Daily Beast, I struggle to think of any really juicy story that was told to me by anyone I haven’t known since at least the age of 3.
It was at a dinner party attended by one of my top sources, the daughter of an earl, that I first heard the shocking rumors that Prince William was having an affair with one of his neighbors and it was over a family lunch that I was told that William and Harry really, really don’t get on with their dad, and he finds their habit of publicly emoting embarrassing and undignified. Both stories were denied by the Palace, of course.
Unlike my grandparents, who were friends of King George VI and used to host extravagant parties for them at their home in London’s Eaton Square, which were famed for my grandfather’s impressions of the king attempting to seduce his wife, (“Kommen sie hier mein little flower and sit upon my knee,” it used to begin—the movie The King’s Speech shied away from Bertie’s pronounced German accent, although my dad had his stammer assessed by Mr Logue on the recommendation of the king) I must confess that I am not on quite such close personal terms with any of the current crop of royalty.
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Indeed, the Sykeses have been rather persona non grata at court since the king died and my grandparents decamped to Dorset on the grounds that there was no longer any “point” in living in London. Prim and proper Elizabeth certainly wouldn’t have made much of a dinner guest.
I missed Prince William at Eton by 10 years (it would have only been eight but I got expelled halfway through my educational career there) but the younger siblings and cousins of my pals know them pretty well, and the stories and gossip percolate back up through the generations.
I hear some wild stories—people still love to gossip about the royal family in England because it shows how well-connected they are—and considerably more than half the trouble is knowing which tales of royal sex parties, infidelity, and breath-taking arrogance to believe, but a good rule of thumb is to not present anything to the Palace press office for the customary “no comment” until at least three people have told you broadly the same thing.
I try not to gossip any more than professionally necessary myself, primarily out of fear that something I tell someone else gets fed back to me.
Being a good royal correspondent is mainly about being a good guest and getting invited back to posh people’s houses so they can give you more dish. That's the best way I can be a pair of eyes for readers of The Daily Beast into a very secret, and privileged, world.
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