Palace wars: the latest shot: A TV profile may prove crucial in the media war being waged by Charles and Diana. Cal McCrystal reports

THE BRITISH public will be presented this week with an important instalment in the seemingly endless publicity war between the Prince of Wales and his estranged wife, Diana.

Wednesday's transmission of an ITV film, Charles: the Private Man, the Public Role, is effectively a re-launch of the Prince on the 25th anniversary of his investiture.

It will attempt to redefine his profile as heir to the throne. It may even suggest that despite what Charles has lost - his wife, and his patience with the hand Providence has dealt him - he has not lost his way.

The two-and-a-half-hour programme is largely the work of Jonathan Dimbleby, a distinguished television journalist noted for his probing mind, liberal social conscience and disinclination to kowtow to the Establishment. Its presentation comes at a time of serious divisions over Prince Charles: in Buckingham Palace over the way his children are being raised; in the Church over his worthiness to make coronation vows if he broke his marriage vows; and among his future subjects over the publicity wars attending royal events.

But should the film fail to restore the princely profile, it may be to the detriment of the presenter as well as of the Prince. A recent Spectator article claims that friends of Dimbleby are worried about 'how he is going to come out of all this. The suspicion is that he will simply end up a pawn in the publicity game.'

Diana, on the other hand, might win the game hands down.

The Princess of Wales has not seen the film and will not be watching on Wednesday, according to her Palace press secretary, Geoff Crawford, having chosen instead to attend a gala dinner at London's Serpentine Gallery, organised by the American magazine Vanity Fair. Mr Crawford was unable to say if she would later view a video-tape of Prince Charles's triumph. (He is said to be 'thrilled' with the edited result). On past form, however, it would be surprising if the Princess did not try to trump his performance yet again.

At first glance, the Prince is ahead on public relations expertise. With the Palace press office pretty well behind him, he can also rely on another group, known as The Friends of the Prince and including the Food Minister, Nicholas Soames, and Lord Romsey, a member of the Mountbatten family, to muster support for the princely cause.

Charles leans heavily on Allan Percival, one of the few streetwise operators in the Palace press office (he used to be with the Northern Ireland Office), on his private secretary Richard Aylard, and on Belinda Harley, a public relations adviser, three of a nine-strong private office.

The Princess appears to be less well served. For emollient statements, neither Geoff Crawford nor her private secretary, Patrick Jefferson, can be faulted. The Prince and Princess, says the former, 'have complementary, rather than competing programmes'. But Anthony Holden, a biographer of Prince Charles, argues that they do not enjoy her complete confidence 'because they're answerable to Charles Anson', the Queen's press secretary. Princess Diana, he says, 'relies on shrewd PR instincts of her own'. Consequently, a few well- chosen newspaper reporters are in occasional receipt of a few well-chosen royal scoops.

One of the recipients is Richard Kay of the Daily Mail. With eight days to go before transmission of Charles: the Private Man, the Public Role, Mr Kay produced a front-page exclusive about a 'secret' visit by the Princess and her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, to a hostel for the homeless. The visit, he wrote, was 'significant' for sartorial contrast: the princes and their mother in humble jeans at the hostel, while Prince Charles was being photographed at Ascot 'wearing top hat and tails as he mingled with high-society friends'.

The Princess is said to have 'particularly good connections' with Mr Kay. 'He's a nice chap, slightly up-market and ex-public school,' says Richard Tomlinson, author of a forthcoming book (Divine Right: the inglorious survival of British royalty). Mr Kay, who modestly identifies his public school as 'Ipswich, a very minor one', is hesitant about talking to other newspapers. But he believes the Princess 'is winning the PR war, because she's young, glamorous, attractive and, for all her faults, the one about whom most British people wish to read'. As for the suggestion that certain journalists have become royal conduits, he says: 'Take it from me, these stories are not delivered to us, and we're not served them up. We have to get them. But at the same time, particularly over the last two years there has been increased manoeuvring by the two sides to try to present their royal clients in the best possible light. This never happened in the past.'

Diana has an advantage in not planning her engagements as far ahead as does Charles, so she has room for impulsive moves that may put his public appearances in the shade. 'There's no question she enjoys trumping Charles,' Mr Tomlinson says.

Her current activities suggest he may be right. She is, for example, on the cover of the July issue of Vogue. Last week, following her visit to the homeless, she made a very public exit from a party at the Ritz, standing in the street in a slinky new dress, with excited photographers all around. The result was another sartorial contrast; 'sexy' Di outshining 'strait- laced' Charles in kilt and jumper when stills from the film were distributed.

Few of the myriad royal biographers have failed to notice. 'She has declared open warfare on Charles,' says Penny Junor. 'This is meant to be Charles's year,' says Brian Hoey. 'Other members of the Royal family have deliberately played down their roles. But Diana is doing exactly the opposite.' A third biographer, Lady Colin Campbell, agrees. 'Nobody who wants to keep a low profile buys a sexy new dress . . . then goes off to a lavish party at one of the world's most famous hotels.'

'Charles's Year' began immediately after Diana's announcement last December that she was withdrawing from public life. During it, the Prince of Wales has been praised for his stoicism when shot at by a deranged man in Australia, while the Princess of Wales was praised for her 'dramatic rescue' of a drowning tramp in Regent's Park. He went to St Petersburg shortly after it became known she was planning a visit to Moscow (but did not go in the end). Press references to the cost of his 1994 peregrinations - accompanied by equerry, doctor, driver, private secretary, press secretary and bodyguard - were followed by disclosures about her expenditure on clothing and hair-dos.

Public responses to the Dimbleby film may not bring this PR conflict to a head; they could conceivably exacerbate it. 'We are all wondering if key questions will be asked on the programme,' Mr Kay says. 'They revolve around Charles's marriage, his estranged wife and his so-called affair. If those aren't dealt with, then we're going to feel hard done by and we're all going to say it's a lot of old snow.'

The Prince has had such difficulties for years. As Richard Tomlinson points out: 'There's always been a problem with Charles, in that he actually won't play ball. He wants to be judged by what he does, and doesn't want to pander to the press.'

Richard Aylard is credited with forcing the Prince 'not to hide his light under a bushel.' But Mr Tomlinson believes the Princess's knack of attracting publicity is also a force in the same direction. To counter the Diana machine, he will have to perfect the design of his own. 'In the end, Diana will not prevent him from being king,' he says.

Anthony Holden is less sanguine, pointing to 'an extraordinary upsurge' in support for the British republican movement. 'There is a section of the press, including the Daily Telegraph and Daily Express, who are in the Prince's party. There is also a section of the press which recognises someone its readers admire; someone deceived by her husband and treated badly by his family.

'Charles has lost almost every section of society. Diana is winning by a mile. The Dimbleby film is do-or-die for Charles.'

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan