Lawyers at ready as BBC accused of ‘giving credibility to overblown royal split claims’

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Courtiers were not given the opportunity to view the programme called The Princes and the Press before it aired on Monday night on BBC Two (PA Archive)
Courtiers were not given the opportunity to view the programme called The Princes and the Press before it aired on Monday night on BBC Two (PA Archive)

Lawyers for the royal family were said to be on standby on Tuesaday after the BBC was accused of giving credibility to “overblown, unfounded claims” in a controversial documentary.

Courtiers were not given the opportunity to view the programme called The Princes and the Press before it aired on Monday night on BBC Two.

The first of the two-part programme explored the relationship of Prince William and Prince Harry with the media, including claims that sources close to royal households gave briefings to journalists.

Next week’s episode is expected to explore the legal cases brought against British newspapers by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The row with the BBC prompted Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Place to issue a rare joint statement, which was shown at the end of the programme last night.

“A free, responsible and open press is of vital importance to a healthy democracy,” it said. “However, too often it is overblown and unfounded claims from unnamed sources that are presented as facts and it is disappointing when anyone, including the BBC, gives them credibility.”

Buckingham Palace has reportedly threatened a boycott of future projects with the BBC as a result of the controversy. But a source close to the BBC said they were “surprised” by the Palace reaction.

“It’s almost a masterclass in how not to do PR. All they have managed to do is bolster the viewing figures and spin a completely inaccurate narrative that bears no resemblance to the programme that aired,” the senior source claimed. “And as for threatening the BBC saying the Palace will no longer co-operate, it’s completely over the top.

“The Palace can’t control the narrative of every documentary about the royals on the BBC. As for not being given a right to reply, of course they were given that right.”

The programme, presented by the BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan, included an interview with a lawyer for the Duchess of Sussex, who insisted that bullying claims printed about Meghan were false.

Jenny Afia, from the law firm Schillings, told Rajan: “Those stories were false. This narrative that no one can work for the Duchess of Sussex, she was too difficult and demanding as a boss and everyone had to leave, it’s just not true.” Last night’s episode also included an interview with private detective Gavin Burrows, who admitted that he had targeted Prince Harry’s then-girlfriend Chelsy Davy.

He said she was subjected to voicemail hacking and surveillance after she started dating the prince in 2004, as Harry had become “the new Diana” due to the level of tabloid interest in his life.

The BBC says Mr Burrows is a witness in legal cases against the News of the World and The Sun, but that his claims are yet to be tested in court and are strongly disputed.

Harry brought legal proceedings against News Group Newspapers (NGN) and Reach — formerly Mirror Group Newspapers — in 2019, just days after it was announced that Meghan was suing the Mail on Sunday after it published a letter she wrote to her father.

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