Our free and fearless press will cling to a story, any story like a drowning man clinging to a lifebelt if it brings the prospect of a sustained increase in sales and clicks. It will cling on yet more strongly if that story is at heart uncontroversial, with no chance of blowback or even criticism. So when the Royal Family announces an engagement, with the prospect of another Royal wedding, the press goes totally OTT.
Thus it was that the BBC’s report telling “Prince Harry is to marry his American actress girlfriend Meghan Markle … Harry, fifth in line to the throne, will marry Ms Markle next spring and will live at Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace in London … The couple, who have been dating since the summer of 2016, secretly got engaged earlier this month” signalled the beginning of wall to wall coverage for months to come.
The engagement! The ring! The fiancée’s backstory! The glamour of Hollywood! The endless photo spreads! Their friends! Lots of Slebs! The wedding venue! The fight to conduct the ceremony! The fight to commentate on it all! The crowds lining the route! The bridesmaids! Her family! The guest list! The presents! The inevitable Buckingham House balcony photocall! The fly-past! The honeymoon! And all that coverage! PHWOAR!!
Sometimes one can have too much of a good thing, and the desperation of the press right now will make sure that we have that in spades. Cheated of an announcement just before the weekend, which would have been ideal for the Sunday papers, those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet will have to work that much harder to get the readers buying. Tomorrow morning’s editions will be only the start of the Royal Wedding Overload.
For starters, there will be endless pontification by a range of singularly unappealing pundits about the revelation that “Only the Queen and ‘other close members of [Harry’s] family’ initially knew of the engagement, which took place in London”. Oh, and “The engaged couple will appear for photographs outside Kensington Palace on Monday afternoon, and will take part in a broadcast interview in the evening”. Hmmm.
Whoever is doing the interview must have the approval of the Fourth Estate. So if the press do not like the look of the questioner(s), there will be yet more righteous punditry dedicated to the usual hatchet jobs. And there will be the naysayers, hoping to gain attention by being thoroughly miserable and contrarian about the whole affair.
The misery brigade has already begun its campaign: the Spectator has whined “Meghan Markle is unsuitable as Prince Harry's wife for the same reason that Wallis Simpson was unsuitable: she’s divorced and Harry’s grandmother is supreme governor of the CofE”. Very good, it’s not 1936, the heir to the throne is a divorcee, and nobody gives the proverbial flying foxtrot. But no doubt there will be more.
In the meantime, every editorial conference will be breaking out the drinks, celebrating the gift of something, anything to paper over the cracks caused by years of appalling behaviour, bad journalism, corrupt bosses and venal politicians. Gawd Bless Em!