In coverage yesterday on Sky during the private meeting of the Royal Family that was taking place on the Sandringham Estate, they trained their cameras on the press pack encamped on what was described as a lozenge of grass outside the entrance. What immediately came to mind was the old adage – if you’re not part of the solution, then you must be part of the problem.
Every grandparent experiences family issues during their lifetime. Solving them requires both common sense and experience plus, at times, simply space. What isn’t needed are acquaintances sniping at the fringes who neither know the full story, nor appreciate the subtle nuances that may be at play. You certainly don’t need them camped on your lawn offering their uninformed opinions! One only needs to read two words – fully-supportive – in the Queen’s official statement from yesterday to recognise just how much this press pack is out of touch with reality.
I am no rabid royalist, but I do recognise that the Queen has had her fair share of such issues over the years, and has never failed to ultimately resolve them. So why did this current royal press pack not recognise that and leave the 93-year-old alone to do what she does best, and has done for nearly seventy years in such a high-pressure job? Could it simply be inexperience on their part?
Not in all cases, as some have been ‘at it’ for many years. What seems to be lacking here is a great degree of common sense and basic journalistic skills. By the latter I mean simply recognising what is right in front of their eyes in both body language and written word, particularly when examining archive material. Some who fit that profile, such as the current Sky incumbent, may soon discover that standing live in front of a camera and speculating opportunistically on what might be happening in a private meeting, particularly when the participants in that meeting are not known for their public candour on such matters, has got to be the easiest job in the world – particularly if your main focus is more on a higher-profile job up the career ladder than maintaining any degree of trust from your current specialist input. Another old adage – be careful who you trample over as you climb the ladder, they may well be occupying a rung you need to grab on the way back down.
I have never met the Duke or Duchess of Sussex – likely I never will. But from what I have seen, they are a nice couple. Putting it more bluntly, I could imagine a dinner party where they were guests being a far more enjoyable affair than sharing a table with the likes of Rhiannon Mills, Jonny Dymond or Chris Ship. The latter’s awful, and quickly cobbled-together, ITV documentary the other night was little more than a draft statement from a defendant already banged to rights by the facts – you got it wrong guv, I’m only the cleaner.
The suggestion running through all of the nonsense spoken and printed by the media since last week’s announcement is that the Royals are ‘ours’ and therefore ‘we’ have the right to pry, comment, suggest, speculate and, ultimately, destroy – and if that necessitates being totally economical with the truth, so be it. It is an attitude that can only be described as the Papa Lazarou defence.
Nobody who witnessed them nearly 25 years ago will forget the live images of those two boys walking behind the coffin – particularly the 12-year-old. Continually replaying that footage in the current context is not only inappropriate, but also amply illustrates to anybody possessing even a gram of compassion that what he needed then was simply a hand to hold. We can imagine the damage done, but we cannot fully understand because, thankfully, the vast majority of us did not have that experience at that age. It does not take much, however, to see a reflection in more recent body language.
And yet, these so-called royal correspondents with all their privileged insight are incapable of recognising any of that. Extracts from court papers that are in the public domain show the depths to which some of them have descended in painting a false picture of this couple. These are court papers containing provable evidence compiled over time by an experienced legal team, not the social-media-fed speculations of a rabid pack of newshound puppies – they contain facts, not innuendo.
Yet, even though those papers have been in the public domain for months, the likes of the BBC still repeat the innuendo as if it were fact. Have their researchers not read the papers, or are they so inept that they haven’t even found them yet? Let me quote one example – the cost of renovating Frogmore Cottage, generally and widely quoted as £2.4m. Here is a short extract from the court papers filed in October 2019: The cottage is a grade 2-listed 17th century residence, which was already undergoing much-needed renovation for safety, and its refurbishment back to its original state as a single family home was funded by Her Majesty the Queen, as part of her obligation and responsibility to maintain or refurbish the upkeep of buildings of historical significance.
For those journalists still incapable of understanding what that says: it was privately-funded – it cost ‘the taxpayer’ nothing. In fact, it was part of the day-to-day expenditure of The Crown Estate on maintaining properties in its extensive portfolio, an organisation that ultimately works for the taxpayer. This quote from their website is sufficient explanation: All of The Crown Estate’s profit is returned to the Treasury for the benefit of the nation. This has totalled £2.8 billion over the last ten years.
And yet, just two days ago, in a BBC website article with no by-line: They only moved into their new home – Frogmore Cottage in Windsor – last April ahead of the birth of their son. The estimated cost to the taxpayer of renovations to it is £3 million. You will note the ‘inflation’ in the figure, presumably all part of the BBC’s well-known ‘ratchet mechanism’ for winding us up.
They repeat such speculations on the unsupportable basis that ‘the public needs to know’. But do we – do we really? If so, don’t we also need to know that, for example, The Crown Estate is currently looking at spending £250m on refurbishing New Zealand House? If all spending by The Crown Estate is considered ‘taxpayer money’ then why is there no outrage on the spending of 100 times more than Frogwell on a foreign embassy?
The answer is simple. For the media, Royal-hunting has become a bloodsport and making problems provides food for the newshounds. Until, of course, the prey decides it doesn’t want to play any more.