Never complain, never explain: thus the iron law of good Royals handed down many years ago by the late Queen Mother. So the Royal Family is, to a large extent, a free hit for our free and fearless press. If they don’t say anything in response to the constant stream of knocking copy, it merely confirms that the press was right in making it all up. And if they do say something, that makes them Very Bad Royals; therefore they deserved it.
Never was this heads-we-win-tails-you-lose arrangement more clearly on view than during the last days of Diana, Princess of Wales. The attitude of the tabloid press towards her was not merely dishonest, but abusive. The screeching U-Turn executed on her death was one of the greatest exhibitions of rank hypocrisy the Fourth Estate has undertaken, and there are rather a lot of those to choose from.
But one part of the media establishment has always refrained from encouraging the press in their desire to score sales and clicks off the Royals, and that is the broadcasters. Until this morning, when ITV’s Good Morning Britain broadcast an interview with Thomas Markle, father of the Duchess of Sussex, with whom she’s not currently on speaking terms.
As this had been trailed well beforehand, it can be safely said that the interview was not some aberration, a mere accident. The GMB team, from directors to editors to hosts, knew what they were doing. And what they were doing was to legitimise an already hostile - and bordering on abusive - press attitude towards the newest Duchess.
The Murdoch Sun has told readers “MEGHAN Markle has been branded ‘Duchess Difficult’ by Palace insiders as her demands become too much for aides, according to reports”. This came hard on the heels of “ROYAL newbie Meghan Markle left Kate Middleton in tears over her demands for Princess Charlotte’s bridesmaid dress, it emerged”.
Who says so? “Royal sources”. The joke newspaper that is the Express also claimed “As another member of her staff prepares to leave, is this why the former Meghan Markle is now called Duchess Difficult?” That’s “according to reports”. Again.
Meanwhile, Richard Kay at the Mail is claiming “Scarcely a week goes by without the Duke and Duchess of Sussex kicking over the royal traces, from announcing plans to abandon their palace home and moving to Windsor Great Park, to sending out their highly unusual Christmas card”. Says who? Don’t ask, he knows the Royals. Honestly.
All of this was known to the GMB team when they decided to run the Thomas Markle interview. And whatever ITV’s own take on the event, which, more or less, tells how Markle père hasn’t heard from his daughter in months, wants her to respond to his daily texts, that he’s sorry for the photo stunt, and he wishes Meghan and Harry a happy Christmas, the press response is going to be far, far nastier. How do we know this?
We know this because former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, now providing GMB with a shield against bad press coverage, has given his pals in the Fourth Estate the green light to go after the Duchess of Sussex, in a series of Twitter pronouncements.
Taking out his king-size onion, Morgan says of Thomas Markle “I genuinely feel sorry for him”. Then he tips his press pals the wink as he deigns to instruct the Duchess as to what she should do next. “Come on Meghan, do the right thing & call him. He’s your dad”.
Royal correspondents and editors across tabloid land, and beyond, will need no further hint: their column inches are being filled with anti-Meghan knocking copy as I type. And then Morgan goes into maximum-reach vomit-inducing mode.
To the suggestion that Diana, who was periodically estranged from her own mother, would have “sorted out the ongoing situation”, he concluded loftily “I think she would. It’s a very sad situation that needs to be resolved. Diana would have hated it”.
As Billy Connolly said, there’s going to be some swearing. F*** OFF. Seriously, f*** right off. The idea that Piers intercoursing Morgan knows what Diana would have done is for the birds. This is monumentally crass, especially given Meghan’s husband just happens to be Diana’s son, and knows better than most what she would have done.
Piers Morgan ought to know about how coverage of the Royals can get out of hand. After all, the editor of the Daily Mirror in that last year of Diana’s life was … Piers Morgan.
And not for the first time, Good Morning Britain has been used to green-light hostile press coverage. That Morgan is the programme’s Monday to Wednesday co-presenter is not a coincidence. The failure to keep him under control, and the deliberate selection of Thomas Markle as an interview subject, have done the rest.
Shame on you, ITV. You just approved another campaign of Diana-style abuse.
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