Published On: Fri, Nov 17th, 2023
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Royal Family are masters of their own demise and the Prince Harry birthday row proves it | Royal | News

three separate images of king charles, prince william and prince harry

The Royal Family are masters of their own demise, says Nathan Kay (Image: Getty)

It may seem trivial to focus on whether Prince Harry did or did not receive an invitation to his father’s birthday celebrations, but the point here is the way opposing sides have been using the media to get back at one another in a public slanging match.

The bigger picture surrounds the many stories that contradict each other in the UK press – the only people to blame for that are Buckingham Palace and the Sussexes.

If they’re not utilising the press for their own means, they are leaving them high and dry by not responding to queries or creating an environment of contradicting narratives. Focusing only on a few core publications leaves the rest to follow not knowing, for example, whether to believe the Sunday Times or The Telegraph.

I’ve been a journalist for over 20 years now. I started covering the royals at the Mail on Sunday newspaper and continued writing about them upon taking the helm of a celebrity weekly. As a freelance reporter, I have been behind some of the biggest royal scoops published in the UK in the past 10 years. Some had my name on them while others didn’t.

Now, after dusting off my Dictaphone for the likes of the Express, OK! and CNN, it soon became clear to me that the royals have become the masters of their own demise.

The debacle over whether Prince Harry was invited to King Charles’s 75th birthday party could have been avoided if the pair put their differences aside and communicated or their teams communicated at least.

The royals seem to have a “close relationship” with one national newspaper while Harry most certainly has close ties with The Telegraph. Not only is this evident in the stories that appear in the broadsheet, but also in giving an exclusive interview to the newspaper’s Bryony Gordon declaring that he had enough material to write a follow-up to his mud slinger Spare. A warning shot if ever there was one.

On the flip side, Roya Nikkhah of the Sunday Times reported that Prince Harry had turned down an invitation to appear at King Charles’s 75th bash for it to be quickly shot down.

Nikkhah is a respected journalist with impeccable sources. So, it was a surprise to everyone when Harry’s camp turned around and denied the story, directly citing the newspaper for not reporting the facts.

A statement from the Sussex camp read: “In response to UK media headlines, there has been no contact regarding an invitation to His Majesty’s upcoming birthday. It is disappointing the Sunday Times has misreported this story.”


Tensions exist between the Royal Family and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Image: Getty)

A similar scenario occurred recently when The Telegraph reported that a call between King Charles and Prince Harry went ahead on his birthday while other sources said it did not, but Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet sent a pre-recorded video message instead. It transpired that both took place (or did they?).

A request for comment was put into the Palace leaving enough time for them to respond, but again no guidance was given until much later in the game.

Sources linked to the Sussex camp put out the line that Harry would call the King before his birthday which apparently came as a shock to Palace insiders who were told the King was too busy and the call would take place a week later.

Denying that such a call took place after it had already been announced by the Sussexes would have proved a communications disaster for the Palace. The jury is still out on what actually happened here.

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Any journalist worth their salt will always strive to ensure a story is correct and trust what their sources give them but there needs to be a clear and unified line of communication coming from both parties.

Contradicting narratives only cause confusion and trigger a plethora of stories surrounding any given situation. The two sides really need to come together to stop this public and rather embarrassing feud.

Not only will this minimise the endless run of negative stories surrounding the royals which has undoubtedly lowered their stock in recent years but will also ensure the correct story is reported by everyone concerned.

While working at newspapers myself in years gone by, I had a good relationship with the Palace communications team. I would either get a “not true” or “no comment” response to my queries. The “no comment” stories were always the ones I ran with.

I also had a good relationship with them as a freelance journalist up until Princess Beatrice got married. My source had given me all the details about her wedding – the time, the date, the location and all the finer details. I put it to the Palace like any journalist would.

King Charles III And Queen Camilla Launch The Coronation Food Project

King Charles celebrated his 75th birthday on Tuesday (Image: Getty)

After stalling for a few days, they eventually put out a public statement announcing the details of Princess Beatrice’s upcoming nuptials to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi which, of course, trumped my exclusive.

The Palace is also known to be rather economical with the truth – providing “no comment” when it suits them or even shooting something down when it is true.

Personal experience of this materialised when I gave a story to a Sunday that the late Queen was meeting up with Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson to walk their dogs at Royal Lodge during lockdown.

The Palace shot down the story, but months later the Duchess of York confirmed it herself when talking about it on a talk show. It only goes to show that it’s not just journalists who can be underhanded. Trust and respect are a mutual thing.

In Harry and Meghan’s self-titled Netflix documentary released last year, the Duke of Sussex accused his brother William of being complicit in negative stories appearing around the couple in the media.

“It is a dirty game. There’s leaking but there’s also planting of stories,” Harry said. “So if the comms (communications) team want to be able to remove a negative story about their principal, they will trade and give you something about someone else’s principal. I would far rather get destroyed in the press than play along with this game, or this business of trading,” Harry added.

So, is this the reason why the Sussexes have such a good relationship with The Telegraph? And why they feel the need to utilise Omid Scobie as their mouthpiece to counter what they perceive as stories deliberately being planted by the Palace?

With all that’s gone on in recent years, it might prove a difficult corner to turn for the Sussexes at this point, especially with Scobie’s new book ‘Endgame’ taking fresh swipes at the royals on their behalf.

Intimate details about William refusing to take a call from his brother on the day that the late Queen died will only fan the flames.

Let’s hope now with relations potentially thawing between the Sussexes and the King, if Harry and Meghan did indeed call His Majesty on his birthday as we are led to believe, it will not only produce a united front but also a coming together of teams to avoid any miscommunication and stories that potentially contradict each other.

Nathan Kay is a freelance journalist with over 20 years of experience. He’s worked with the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, CNN, the Express, OK! and more. He’s revealed a number of scoops from royal security rows, the slimmed-down monarchy, Kate’s charity endeavours, the Wales’s wedding secrets and more.

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