The monarchy and the media: A relationship under examination

ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship has the latest on a new Royal row

We are half way through a two-part documentary series examining the relationship between the Palaces and the press.

In fact, as the title suggests, the programme is looking at the relationship between the media and two particular royals - William and Harry.

One is destined to be King and still co-operates with the UK media.

The other has quit the UK, and the job he had in the Royal Family, and refuses to engage with any of the British tabloids.

We watched allegations of palaces briefings, claims that the various households compete for airtime and newspaper column inches, and suggestions that it was royal aides who started leaking details of the discord behind palace walls after the Duchess of Sussex joined ‘The Firm’.

For me, however, the most shocking revelations were from a one-time private investigator about the extent of his snooping on Prince Harry’s girlfriends.

Hearing Gavin Burrow admit he used to try to dig up information on whether they’d been treated for sexual diseases or if they’d had an abortion, made me blink at my TV screen in disbelief.

Little wonder that Chelsy Davey and Cressida Bonas decided they didn’t want to hang around and suffer this kind of intrusion for the rest of their lives.

Chelsy Davey and Cressida Bonas, the former girlfriends of Prince Harry, had their private lives investigated. Credit: PA

Little wonder too that Prince Harry was so fiercely protective of Meghan when news of their relationship was first made public in 2016.

Harry has a visceral hatred of the press, and for good reason.

He has spoken before about how, as a child, he would watch his mother be harassed by paparazzi, how she’d cry in the car and how he felt helpless.

It is a feeling of helplessness that has never left him, and you can understand why he decided he wanted out of the Royal Family in 2020.

The central allegation in this programme was that Prince William cooperates with the British press in return for favourable coverage, while Prince Harry decided he could not.

Everyone in the public domain, from royals and politicians to celebrities and film stars, has a unwritten contract with the media.

Politicians need the coverage for elections, film stars need it for sales, reality TV stars need it for future bookings.

So why do Royals need the press coverage?

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Members of the Royal Family are not chasing votes, nor do they need future bookings - but they do have to justify the taxpayer-funded parts of their income.

And they need to be able to account for the huge influence they have as a result of the roles they hold (or are born into).

Hereditary monarchy exists at the behest of the people they serve and so sustained negative publicity is not a viable option.

But claims that the staff of one brother were briefing against the staff of another is potentially damaging.

It’s why all three households took the rare decision to issue a joint statement condemning the BBC documentary for giving "credibility" to "overblown and unfounded claims from unnamed sources".

The other half of the BBC programme will be aired next week.

Only the programme makers know what’s in it, but no one is expecting the palaces - and in particular some of the staff who work for them - to get an easy ride.

And the appearance in the documentary of Meghan’s lawyer, with her permission, suggests Harry and Meghan are preparing to fight back against the press he has for so long despised.