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The Duchess of Sussex may think she has a good case in her legal battle with the media. But just look at how these other royals fared
Has there ever been a more cruelly miscast candid friend to the royal family than Her Majestys Press, who are neither truly candid, nor remotely the sort of people one knows socially? And, yes, I obviously include myself in that.
In any case, the ONLY acceptable way to look at the royal family is that practised by Princess Michael of Kent, of whom the Queen is once said to have remarked: Shes rather grand for us. (Remember: children of former Nazis always marry down.) Unfortunately, this simple shtick has not been grasped by so many of our great newspapers. They embody Sybil Fawltys lament over Basils relationship with the guests: You never get it right, do you? Youre either crawling all over them, licking their boots, or spitting poison at them like some Benzedrined puff adder.
And so with the royal press. Either theyre wanking on fawningly for 15 pages about some wedding we probably ought not to have paid for, where every guest without exception hates and pities them. Or theyre making the word BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITCH stretch over those same 15 pages, and imagining it counts as fair comment for some minor violation of a quid-pro-quo policy that only they understand, and whose impenetrable rules they change every three minutes anyway.
For some decades, my favourite reaction has been the mad leader columns in which the paper in question rants about what they are OWED by whichever prince or princess has denied them #content of some form or other. These are the journalistic equivalent of screaming in the street that a woman should have sex with you because you bought her a drink. Or, in this case, bought a titchy percentage of her drink as a UK taxpayer. In any other arena it would be regarded as certifiably embarrassing behaviour.
And with that, we must narrow our frame of reference to the select media outlets print and TV that have spent the past year or so affectlessly tormenting Prince Harry and his wife Meghan for clicks, yet are now calling for the smelling salts because the couple have decided to launch a legal action.
There is, as we know, no snowflake like a freedom-of-speech snowflake. Freedom of speech being the sole human right these particular papers and TV pundits recognise, there is now a great outpouring of candid friendship warning the couple that they have gone too far by speaking freely. Freedom of speech is a one-way street, and the last thing people who are a distant sixth in line to the throne, and receding from it fast, should be behaving like is slightly crap celebrities.
And yet, and yet is it? I hate to point out the obvious, but the series of events that would lead to Harry and Meghan becoming operational and actually taking the throne would be so immense, sensational and horrifyingly multi-corpsed, that were it to happen editors probably wouldnt mind any more which mode of transport they had taken back from a trip to New York two years before. So what does any of it matter? A Google summit in Italy, charity editorship of Vogue, a private jet to Eltons house, something-or-other in the royal box at Wimbledon, refusing to show what one paper called all of Archie to the photographers these wouldnt be quite the major deal they are laughably imagined at the moment.
Having said all that, we papers have got to stick together. So in the spirit of colleaguery, I am very pleased to offer the lawyers of the newspapers in question a series of historical precedents I have unearthed from the global archives all of which relate to other royal women who were no better than they should be. I believe they show why your current approach is the right one, and offer them humbly for presentation to the courts in due course.
Newspaper response to complaint by Anne Boleyn
We are saddened to learn you claim distress at our meticulous coverage of public-interest questions regarding your fingers. The public are very interested in them. As you know, our article Does Anne Boleyn Have Six Fingers? was one of the very first newspaper questions to which the answer is no. We pride ourselves on our pack-leading journalism. Our coverage of this issue amounted to valuable estimable public service journalism, and no one will ever say that you have six fingers again. Certainly not for centuries, still, even when it is definitely untrue. However, you need to understand that this generous service on our behalf is a two-way street, and it is time for you to honour your side of the bargain. Why will you not repeatedly sit for our portraitist, displaying all your fingers, in a manner that would quell residual gossip? What is it you have to hide? Is it a rudimentary finger? People are beginning to ask again, and it is only right that we report their allegations. Furthermore, I am afraid your failure to understand our mutually beneficial relationship means we have had to run a portrait using Photoshoppe, which is captioned: How Anne Boleyn might look if she had six fingers. We are saddened to have been driven to this. Please consider our feelings.
Newspaper response to complaint by Elizabeth I
We must caution Your Majesty against your frankly hysterical complaint regarding our hugely popular, long-running front-page series Is Queen Bess a Maid Or No? Like many newspapers, we breathed a sigh of relief when an investigation found your mother, Anne Boleyn, was killed not by a relentless campaign of conspiracist shittery, but by an executioners blade. A reminder that gossip doesnt kill people swords do. Alas, it is a great and most portentous sadness to us to find you repeating some of her mistakes. While during her life we shat on her every week for everything, to the point where she presumably didnt know whether she was coming or going, we now speak of her as someone who got it absolutely, tragically right always as far as dealing with us is concerned. She was a saint. She worked with us. You should, too. Whats the worst that could happen?
Newspaper response to complaint by Marie de Medici
We were disappointed to receive your extraordinary complaint over our coverage of your attendance of the Galileo summit in Italy. This newspaper has made no secret of its concerns over Mr Galileos fashionable theories that the Earth goes round the sun, or of our concerns that he is being manipulated in a way we cannot quite put our finger on, but which will allow us to maintain our policy of thinking his insistent warnings probably arent really that big of a deal. Without wishing to lapse into technical jargon, we are confident that he will get his in due course. Above all, your complaint reeked of hypocrisy from top to bottom: you also like to tell us that the world is round, but you were pictured walking on flat earth on your arrival. Both things cannot be true.
Newspaper response to complaint by Catherine the Great
We are extremely concerned by the emotional and eccentric tone of your complaint regarding a thoroughbred stallion with whom you have been linked. It would appear from your highly unconventional and unseemly missive that you think we said you had sex with a horse, and you go on to say in emotional terms, not befitting an imperial majesty that you didnt. But if you look closely at what we published, you will see that all we said was that some people on the internet were saying you had sex with a horse. This is a matter of fact. They were saying it. At least two of them, one of whom may or may not be our chief reporters secret account. We have the greatest of respect for our readers and present them with such things in order that they may make their own judgments. Ergo, you have insulted our readers. If anything, we are now the ones being traduced by you. We would really question the wisdom of getting angry about things you ought more regally to accept. We think youll find its counterproductive. VERY counterproductive.