Ratpack who fought royal publicity war by proxy

Kim Sengupta on how the leak machine worked for favoured journalists

It is a rather tired cliche for tabloid newspapers to describe a chosen hack as "the man who really knows the Royals". Some of them, according to their colleagues, know more about the goings-on at Crystal Palace than Kensington Palace.

Yesterday one of them who really did know at least one of the Royals extremely well went public. In the Daily Mail Richard Kay described his relationship with Diana, Princess of Wales and said she had called him just six hours before her death to discuss her future.

It was the last of many calls over the years and in retrospect must have been rather poignant for Mr Kay. Thanks to the Princess he had not only got a series of noteworthy scoops , but the pair had built up a close friendship. As the soap opera of "Charles and Di" unfolded across the media, the Mail's good-looking and urbane Royal reporter led the field in exclusives. The reason was simple - he had unique access to Diana. Not surprisingly, this led to accusations by some jealous rivals that he had become nothing but a "mouthpiece .... a poodle", charges which did not unduly worry his editor and, by proxy, his bank manager.

Charles and Diana had been sold by the Press as a match made made in heaven, a fairy- tale romance ending in the spectacular Wedding of the Century. It was a media production and thus it was perhaps fitting that its imploding should become public through the work of a journalist, Andrew Morton, former Daily Star royal reporter, in his book Diana, Her Own Story.

From then on the Press and later television was to be the conduit for the bitter acrimonious battles between the Prince and Princess of Wales. Newspapers divided into camps and their journalists were seen by the two sides as sympathetic and to be fed with juicy morsels or feared and avoided.

Stories about Royalty, especially the younger ones, and especially Charles and Diana, sold newspapers and became ammunition in the circulation war between the tabloids. Here The Sun had a natural advantage. Its editor, Stuart Higgins, had known Camilla Parker Bowles ever since he was a West Country district reporter for the paper and had kept in assiduous contact. This paid off handsomely with a series of exclusives, some but not all buttressing the Charles-Camilla camp.

The Sun's contribution was recognised in with a commendation in the Scoop of the Year category for l994 in the UKPG awards. This time the recipient was their highly praised Royal reporter, Wayne Francis, for a story he had brought in about Camilla Parker Bowles getting divorced from her husband.

The following year Mr Higgins himself got an award on another divorce story, about the Queen writing to Charles about parting from Diana.

Other Royal journalists also picked up their share of exclusives as each camp jockeyed with the other for the most favourable publicity. Clive Goodman, of the News of the World, found himself at home carrying out a mobile-phone conversation with Princess Diana in which she told him about her night-time mercy visits to hospitals. The paper had been staking her out in the hope of catching her seeing another man.

Other members of the Royal family have their own favourites. Charles Rae, formerly of Today and now on The Sun, has broken a number of stories about the Duchess of York, while The Mirror's James Whitaker has brought in exclusives from both the Charles and Diana camps.

However, one of his most famous scoops was about the very old members of the Royal family when he revealed how relations of the family had been locked away and hidden from the public in a mental home.

One broadsheet journalist who had built up a special relationship with the Prince of Wales' camp is Charles Clover of the Daily Telegraph, who shares the prince's interest in conservation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Professional Sales Trainee - B2B

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: First things first - for the av...

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive - Graduate / Entry Level

£22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...

Guru Careers: PR Account Director / SAM

£50 - 60k (DOE) + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: A PR Account Director / SAM ...

Guru Careers: Research Analyst / Business Insight Analyst

£32 - £37K + extensive benefits: Guru Careers: Research Analyst / Business Ins...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back