A frightfully difficult assignment for a young prince
06 February 2008
The year of 2008 saw a momentous change in the fortunes of the British Royal Family, writes our historian of the future. In February that year, there were reports in the press that the heir to the throne would break with tradition and work for a while as a journalist. “He’s learned about the armed forces. Now he has to learn about the state,” a Clarence House spokesman said. “It would be a good idea for him to find out how the media works.”
The newspaper career of William Wales, as he called himself, started promisingly enough. As a cub reporter on the Sandringham Echo, he covered all the major local events, from Women’s Institute cake mornings to charity ploughing competitions.
“His journalistic style was unusual but effective,” the Echo’s editor, Henry Sefton, later recalled. “He would walk about with his hands behind his back, nodding and smiling amiably. His interviews were always very direct. He had what I call the common touch. ‘How long have you been doing this?’ he would ask a WI member. Or, watching someone ploughing a field, he might say, ‘Gosh, that must be frightfully difficult.’ Whatever the reply, he would always come up with something positive and encouraging like ‘How very interesting’, ‘Well done’ or ‘I must say you do it terribly well.’ Then with a cheery ‘Keep up the good work’, he would be on to the next story.
His stories, it was generally admitted, tended to be rather similar to one another. “There was this cake morning/ploughing contest the other day. It was absolutely fascinating. I must say I was very impressed by the excellent work that is being done.”
When William Wales graduated to national journalism, a few minor problems occurred. Working for a well-known tabloid, he was sent to a Piccadilly nightclub in the early hours of a Saturday morning. “We call it the Barf-and-Bonk Shift,” Ed Batty, a senior entertainment journalist later told Prince William’s official biographer, Anthony Holden. “We thought it would be good training for the lad.”
It was not the journalist prince’s finest hour. According to witnesses, he wandered into the drunken mêlée, smiling distantly. Approaching a group of teenage girls vomiting into the gutter, he asked them how long they had been doing this. Shortly afterwards, he had to be rescued by a young female reporter after he had interrupted a bouncer while in the course of his duties, beating up a couple of high-spirited youths. Something William said about how frightfully difficult it looked caused all three men to turn on him.
“At the end of the day, he wasn’t right for us,” Batty recalled. “You can say a number of things about a drunken riot outside a nightclub but ‘I was very impressed by the excellent work people were doing’ is not one of them.”
There followed a brief, ill-fated stint as an opinion columnist. After readers complained that the phrases “absolutely ghastly”, “hideous sort of monstrosity”, “perhaps one is being rather old-fashioned about this” and “it really is appalling” were regularly appearing under Wales’s bye-line, it was discovered that he had been turning to his father the Prince of Wales for help.
It was during his last job, on the crime desk of a national newspaper, that Prince William almost landed a major journalistic scoop. Sent to interview a burglar who was out on bail, he found himself on the receiving end of an unexpected confession. Unusually, he had remembered to switch on his tape-machine and so we have a record of that fateful conversation.
“How long have you been doing this?”
“Too long. I’ve got to tell someone. The break-in was just a cry for help. The fact is, I’ve been killing people across the country. Mums, Dads, grandparents, pets. It has been bloody carnage, I tell you.”
“Gosh, that must be frightfully difficult.”
“It’s the guilt that’s difficult, mate. Unless someone puts me away, I’ll do it again and again. I’ll let myself down, I just know it. This is my last chance to go straight. I just need to tell my story and have done.”
“How very interesting. Well, keep up the good work.”
The psycho escaped. The media career of William Wales was over.