Her oft-uttered phrase, “Never complain, never explain,” is the bedrock of Her Majesty the Queen’s modus operandi for dealing with the press.
The Queen never dignifies any unauthorized, ridiculous or untrue story in the press with an official reaction. Stories that she is dying of cancer, that she is in blood-feud with Camilla Parker Bowles, that she is plotting Kate Middleton’s divorce…quite frankly, what’s the point in getting involved?
Fake news has been a factor of royal life since the invention of the printing press.
Amazingly, the Queen has only ever made one official complaint to the British press watchdog, over a front page story in the Sun that alleged she supported Brexit.
Personal insults are one thing, but insulting the political impartiality of the Crown, it appears, is a whole other matter.
What a difference the Queen’s stiff upper lip makes to the succession of dramatic statements put out by her children and grandchildren in response to press stories and behavior they claim are unacceptable.
Prince William went first, with an entirely un-ironic poor-little-rich–kids routine that bemoaned the potential tragedy of Prince George and Princess Charlotte growing up “behind palace gates and in walled gardens” for fear of being photographed by the media.
Then, last month, it was Harry’s turn, when he issued a letter attacking, “the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments,” concerning his relationship with Meghan Markle.
Now Prince Andrew has become the latest royal to join the trend, issuing a public statement in which he sought to end speculation that he wanted his daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, to become more central figures in the royal family, insisted that he has not asked that his daughters’ future husbands be given titles and denied rumors of a rift between himself and Prince Charles.
Incredibly, the statement was littered with typos, random capital letters and syntactical errors.
“As a father, my wish for my daughters is for them is to be modern working young women,” Andrew wrote at one stage, adding, “When they do support the royal family in its work, this is very much appreciated by my family and, most importantly, by those organizations and to those for whom their participation makes such a difference to their lives.”
Penny Junor, a British writer whose authoritative biography of Harry, Prince Harry: Brother, Soldier, Son, is widely considered the definitive work on Harry, told the Daily Beast, “I don’t think issuing all these statements is wise and I don’t think it’s likely to achieve much other than to make them all feel a bit less impotent in the face of media they can’t control.
“The Queen has always kept a dignified silence but this is a different era and these are different characters.
“William is a control freak and is desperate to protect his family. Harry is less controlling but is fed up with having his life ruined by the media—and I don’t just mean losing girlfriends, I also mean losing his mother.
“As for Andrew, I think that was really foolish. It opened up a whole can or worms about his daughters being modern working women, and made him look petulant and stupid.
“If he’d ignored it, the story would have blown over in a day or two. And to tweet on his own private account was stupid too. He’s got a whole team of PR people at Buckingham Palace who he by-passed. And if he really insisted on putting out a statement, he should have left it to them. They can at least write grammatically.”
Another observer, however, told the Daily Beast: “To be fair to Prince Andrew he is correcting things that seem to be untrue, whereas William and Harry released very odd, emotional statements.
“For Andrew, it will achieve something, which is that people won't write that particular story about Andrew again.
“I don't think Harry's achieved much. Perhaps it made him feel better to have a tantrum.The Queen is quite right I think to keep above it all and maintain her dignity. But then she rarely does anything that would prompt the kind of free for all the others inspire.”
Christopher Andersen, author of a royal biography of the Queen, Camilla Parker-Bowles and Kate Middleton entitled Game of Crowns, told The Daily Beast: “I think firing a warning shot across the bow of the press in the way Prince Harry and Prince Andrew have done does intimidate certain elements of the press, and more important, it rallies support from the public at large.
“How gallant Harry is to defend his girlfriend! What a wonderful father Prince Andrew is, coming to the rescue of his young daughters!
“But this effect is very short-lived. The risk is that by going public in this fashion, royals just stir up that much more interest in the more titillating details of their private lives.
“In the end, the Queen has always sailed above the fray. Rather than venting in a very public way, which this is all about, other members of the royal family would do well to follow her lead—and take deep breath before going rogue.”