My Mentor: Katharine Witty On Dickie Arbiter

'He's helped me to understand how the palace press office works and who has power'

Dickie was a press secretary to the Queen and a reporter before that. He got the first few words with Diana when she was married and he was organising the press when Diana's coffin came off the plane, so he knows the royals from both sides.

I spent weeks on the phone to him before the wedding and he gave me some very good advice. "Don't treat it like a university degree," he said. "Just keep your wits about you on the day and you'll be fine."

Since then we chat most weeks and chew over ideas. The palace is a strange institution and he's helped me to understand how the press office works and who has the power and who doesn't.

It's a funny job because you're reporting about people whom you very rarely get to meet one on one. Face time with any of them is always very valuable because you actually see what they're like.

No one really knows them other than their close friends and Dickie has helped me to be careful of people who claim to know what they're talking about. If you put those people on air, the royal family would look at it and say, "Katharine Witty clearly doesn't know that this person is not a close friend of ours."

I feel very grateful to him because when you're going from a general news reporter to a specialist people instantly expect you to have depth of knowledge. I knew that in order to give myself a bit of authority I had to have a few people to help me out and he was certainly the most important.

Katharine Witty is Sky News' royal correspondent. Prince Andrew talks exclusively to Sky News in 'The Queen at 80', Thursday, 9pm

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