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A Right, Royal Mess…

21st November 2019

The relationship between the Royals and the British media has often played out across the tabloid pages of history not too dissimilar to that of a Shakespearian play. Looking back over the past fifty-odd years and you’ll find love and resounding affection, but you don’t have to look too hard to stumble across drama and scandal; you may even find humour (remember the Queen parachuting out of a plane at the 2012 Olympics?).

But when the nation tuned into Emily Maitlis’ BBC Newsnight interview with the Duke of York to discuss his questionable relationship with Epstein, I don’t think anybody was expecting to see quite the tragedy unfold.

Despite (we assume) years of receiving what could possibly be the best media training that there is to offer, Prince Andrew showcased in front of the entire world what happens when you are ill-equipped, unprepared and have ignored crucial advice when face-to-face with a highly intelligent and skilled interviewer.

What should have been a PR exercise to help exonerate Prince Andrew from the Epstein narrative, the car-crash interview resulted in (inevitable) negative global headlines and condemnation – and less inevitably – millions of Pizza Express memes.

By failing to show empathy for victims at the heart of this media story, presenting himself as unapologetic, and quite frankly not very bright (or perhaps he just has selective memory?), the Duke has caused irreversible reputational damage not only to himself, but to an institution that is already rocked by its own internal problems (Harry vs. well, everybody).

It’s unlikely that Prince Andrew will recover from this. The subsequent news that he’ll be stepping down from his Royal duties already tells us how the Palace views this moment in history.

What will be telling is how the Royal Household moves on from this moment. Transformation is a key Shakespearian theme throughout his plays, and the Royal Family certainly knows how to transform (even if it sometimes has felt itself being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century). Only time will tell how this historical moment will rock, or shape, the Royals.

There’s also a bigger question at play here. Whilst the Prince has failed his trial by media, consumers and social media, surely he should now be questioned in an arguably more appropriate legal setting…