The royal family’s occasionally stormy relationship with the media will come under the spotlight once again on February 19, when a controversial and previously ‘shelved’ BBC documentary is finally broadcast.
The BBC itself soberly reports that the two-part documentary was postponed over rights issues, which involved problems about the inclusion of archive royal family footage. But a BBC spokesperson said all clearance issues “have now been resolved” and the original program will be aired.
Back in December, the Guardian reported that lawyers representing the royal family had intervened after learning the documentary would explore controversial tactics of Prince Charles’s former spin doctor, Mark Bolland. It’s said that Bolland was behind a number of astute PR tactics, which were used to boost the public appeal of Charles after the 1997 death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Bolland’s role in using Princes William and Harry to bolster the appeal of their father will also be explored.
The royal documentary was written and presented by Steve Hewlett without the involvement of any royal officials, and the first episode was originally due to air on January 4. While the program was cleared by BBC lawyers and the highest level of management, its broadcast was frozen when a letter was received from representatives of Prince Charles and his wife.
Testimony from Charles’s press secretary, Sandy Henney, is given in the documentary, according to the Radio Times. She speaks about the royal family and Charles’s image after Diana’s death.
“He was getting some pretty virulent criticism — bad father, unloving husband… If you’ve got a middle-aged balding man and a beautiful princess, it’s a no-brainer as to who is going to get the media coverage.”
The royal family, and Prince Charles particularly, have had a difficult relationship with the media in the past. When facing the press at a Swiss Ski Resort in 2005, he famously spoke under his breath to his sons about to BBC News reporter Nicholas Witchell.
“These bloody people. I can’t bear that man. I mean, he’s so awful, he really is.”
A new biography says that Prince Charles “still feels guilty” about bringing Princess Diana into a royal world she “couldn’t handle.” But it seems that Prince Charles needed considerable professional support himself to handle his own public image after she died.
Whether any original footage from the royal documentary will be left on the cutting room floor will be hard to ever know, but the program’s contents should make a number of revelations concerning how the Prince Charles we know today was crafted in the aftermath of 1997’s tragic events.
[Image – Karen Minasyankaren/AFP]