One revelation in last week’s Oprah Winfrey interview with the Runaway Royals was so startling that even I, who doesn’t give much of damn for any of them, was rather intrigued.
It was claimed by Prince Harry that what is known as ‘the royal household’ not only briefed against them, but was in cahoots with the press. Inaccuracies were leaked, lies were not denied. There were parties at the Palace for the journalists they liked. It was a team effort.
No, surely not.
Over the past few years, the accepted wisdom has been that cruel journalists batten like hungry hyenas on the poor old royal family. For their part, the Windsors loathed the ‘bloody people’ of the press, to quote from something Prince Charles once said about the BBC’s Nicholas Witchell.
Now we’re told by Prince Harry (who should know) that this version was a complete sham. There is a cosy, unofficial pact between the Palace and the press.
Could that possibly be true?
Yes, it could. The past few days have proved it beyond doubt. By using the press to discredit and smear the Winfrey interviewees, the monarchy has unwittingly confirmed that Harry is absolutely right.
There is an arrangement between the Palace and Fleet Street which suits both sides. The Royal Family can maintain the myth that its members are dignified public servants who remain above the fray. Meanwhile, under deep cover, they are allowing and encouraging the press to do their dirty work for them.
For newspaper editors, the Runaway Royals story is a wet dream. They can play their favourite game of taunting and bullying a young couple while simultaneously claiming to be supporting Her Majesty. They can bully, while wrapping themselves in the Union Jack.
The tabloids, we know, are forever finding new ways to be cruel but, oddly, I find the behaviour of broadsheets – in particular The Times, Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph – more creepy and harmful. They do the royal family’s bidding, while assuming a bogus tone of authority and objectivity.
A double-page spread in this weekend’s Sunday Times, headlined ‘THE FIRM STANDS FIRM’ presents itself as an account of what has been happening, but every single source and quote that is used to support the royal family’s version of events – 22, I counted – is anonymous.
That’s right: not a single allegation had a name attached to it.
Among those who were quote by the Sunday Times were ‘a royal insider’, ‘one of the Queen’s closest aides’, ‘a Palace source’, ‘someone who was involved in the discussions’, ‘a senior figure in the royal household, ‘a source close to Price Charles’, ‘another palace insider’ – and so on.
The slant is subtle but relentless. When a friend of Meghan Markle points out that there are emails supporting her story, that is presented as a threat to the royal family. When the ceremony three days before the royal wedding was revealed to be an exchange of vows, it is referred to as ‘a fake wedding’.
Repeatedly in these stories, we are reminded that Markle is an actress – a new kind of put-down that sends out the coded message that, of course, she is good at faking things. Those who support her, we are repeatedly told, are young people. Coded message to the middle-aged and old readers of the mainstream press: these are kids who are gullible and addled by celebrity.
The absurd Piers Morgan, enraged because Meghan Markle wouldn’t play his celebrity-pal game, said he didn’t believe a word she said. I have the same reaction when the usual chorus of Palace aides, royal insiders and sources close to the Queen are given a platform in the press.
I don’t believe a word of what these nameless royal sneaks are saying.
There is, of course, no doubt who will win in the end. Put together the soft power of the monarchy, the brutality of the press, and the shabby little alliance between them which will allow them to play as dirty as they like, and a couple out in California have little chance of fair hearing. They will soon be marginalised, or humiliated.
The suave bullies who run things in this country will have won yet again. Who could possibly be surprised by that?