The BBC was accused of giving credibility to ‘overblown and unfounded claims’ about the Royal Family last night as it broadcast a controversial documentary about William and Harry – which also included a piece to camera from Meghan Markle’s lawyer.
In an extraordinary joint statement, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Clarence House said it was ‘disappointing’ that the broadcaster had chosen to air allegations surrounding Harry and Meghan’s departure from Britain.
Lawyers for the Royal Family were on standby over the two-part BBC2 series which included claims by Omid Scobie – a royal journalist dubbed Meghan’s mouthpiece – that insiders from other royal households had briefed against the Sussexes.
Buckingham Palace has reportedly threatened a boycott on future projects with the BBC after courtiers were not allowed to view the programme before the first episode was aired last night.
Though the Palace only provided a written statement, the episode featured an appearance from Jenny Afia, a lawyer from Schillings who represents Meghan, who insisted bullying claims printed about the Duchess were ‘false’.
Meanwhile, in a strongly worded joint statement, given to the BBC ahead of last night’s broadcast, the three royal households representing the Queen, Charles and William said: ‘A free, responsible and open Press is of vital importance to a healthy democracy.
‘However, too often overblown and unfounded claims from unnamed sources are presented as facts and it is disappointing when anyone, including the BBC, gives them credibility.’
The hour-longer episode one of the divisive two-part series, which was aired on Monday night, featured:
- Claims by Omid Scobie – the journalist who co-authored the controversial Finding Freedom biography about the Sussexes – that negative stories about the Sussexes had been briefed by other royal households
- Counter-claims by journalist and MailOnline columnist Dan Wootton that people ‘behind the scenes’ had come forward to the press after ‘getting annoyed’ at the behaviour of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
- An on-camera interview by Meghan Markle’s lawyer in which she denied claims that the Duchess of Sussex had ‘bullied’ royal staff
- An apology by a private detective who admitted he had targeted Prince Harry’s then girlfriend Chelsea Davy in 2004
- Claims that Prince Charles had been ‘angered’ by a decision by Harry’s press secretary to release a statement criticising the press’s coverage of his relationship with Meghan Markle while he was on a royal trip to Oman
In the strongly-worded joint statement given to the BBC ahead of last night’s programme, representatives for the Queen (pictured), Prince Charles and Prince William said: ‘A free, responsible and open Press is of vital importance to a healthy democracy
The BBC was accused of giving credibility to ‘overblown and unfounded claims’ about the Royal Family last night as it broadcast a controversial documentary about William and Harry (pictured in July 2018)
The episode featured Dan Wootton who spoke about his story, which became known as ‘Tiaragate’. It also featured Jenny Afia a lawyer from Schillings who works with the Duchess of Sussex
Private investigator apologises for targeting Chelsy Davy for surveillance while she was dating Prince Harry
A private investigator has apologised for targeting the Duke of Sussex’s ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy when they were dating, saying Prince Harry was seen as ‘the new Diana’.
Gavin Burrows, a witness in ongoing legal cases against News of the World and the Sun, alleged that Chelsy Davy’s phones were monitored after she started dating Prince Harry, 37, in 2004.
Mr Burrows said Harry was seen as the ‘new Diana’ in the early 2000s and claimed editors told him that putting Harry on the front page sold more copies of newspapers than his brother Prince William.
Speaking to the BBC in new documentary The Princes and the Press, Mr Burrows said: ‘There was a lot of voicemail hacking going on, there was a lot of surveillance work on her phones, on her comms.
‘Chelsy would brag to her friends when she was going to see him.’
Mr Burrows’ claims have been strongly disputed and are yet to be tested in court.
He alleged that Ms Davy’s communications were targeted, saying investigators were interested in her medical records, details of her education and her ex-boyfriends.
The private investigator, who began working for News of the World in 2000, apologised for his behaviour, which he said was because he was ‘greedy’, and added that he regretted his treatment of Prince Harry.
He added: ‘I was basically part of a group of people who robbed him [Harry] of his normal teenage years.’
Mr Burrows, who was one of many private investigators who worked for UK newspapers during what later became known as the phone-hacking scandal, said there was a ‘ruthless’ culture in some areas of the media at the time.
Solicitor Callum, co-ordinating the ongoing legal actions against News Group Newspapers, said the scale of the use of private investigators by newspapers from the early 1990s until 2011 was ‘phenomenal’.
Harry is taking legal action against News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun and the defunct Sunday newspaper News of the World. He is also suing the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Reach Plc.
Last night’s first episode of The Princes and The Press detailed media coverage of the young royals from 2012 to 2018, when Harry and Meghan became engaged.
It included claims of ‘competitiveness’ between the different royal households. Dan Wootton, then a Sun a journalist and now a colluminst at MailOnline, also spoke about his ‘Tiaragate’ article about the Duchess in November 2018.
The article carried claims of a row between Meghan and members of the royal household over her pick of a tiara at her wedding with Prince Harry. It is claimed Meghan wanted to wear an emerald tiara, but her first choice was vetoed by the Queen.
A row is alleged to have ensued, in which it is claimed Harry said: ‘What Meghan wants, Meghan gets.’
Mr Wootton also addressed bullying claims made by Meghan’s staff against her – claims that she denies and are currently subject to a palace investigation.
He said: ‘It took six months for it to get out after the wedding so when people like to say the press are going for Harry and Meghan, you had it in for Harry and Meghan. I completely disagree.
‘It was actually these people behind the scenes who started to get annoyed, before any of it was public.
‘At that point no national newspaper had dared to really dive into this huge war that was developing behind the scenes.
‘And part of that was that no-one in the royal rota was really prepared to break that story either.
‘So I did take someone like me, as an outsider and actually say “no I’m going to do it”.
Journalist Omid Scobie, co-author of the controversial biography of the Sussexes, Finding Freedom, meanwhile said negative stories had been leaked about Meghan, although he did not name those involved. ‘There were some people who felt she [Meghan] needed to be put in her place.
‘I think by leaking a negative story, that’s punishment,’ he said.
‘There’s been rumours for quite some time that a lot of the most damaging and negative stories… have come from other royal households or from other royal aides.
‘From my own research and reporting that’s exactly true.’
Meanwhiel, Jenny Afia, a lawyer from Schillings who works with the Duchess of Sussex spoke on camera and denied reports that Meghan was ‘difficult’ to work with.
She said: ‘Those stories were false. This narrative that no one can work with the Duchess of Sussex that she was too difficult, demanding a boss, and that everyone had to leave is just not true.’
It is understood that the BBC provided a written memo, outlining relevant allegations, but refused requests to provide an advance copy of the two hour-long episodes.
Insiders said the rift between William and Harry will be examined in even greater detail in next week’s instalment.
Royal advisers believe the Queen, Charles and William have not been offered a proper right to reply.
Journalist Omid Scobie (pictured), co-author of the controversial biography of the Sussexes, Finding Freedom, meanwhile said negative stories had been leaked about Meghan, although he did not name those involved. ‘There were some people who felt she [Meghan] needed to be put in her place’
In an extraordinary joint statement, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Clarence House said it was ‘disappointing’ that the broadcaster had chosen to air allegations surrounding Harry and Meghan’s (pictured with Prince William and Kate Middleton in March 2020) departure from Britain
They fear the BBC’s decision to include them in a documentary, fronted by self-declared republican Amol Rajan, will give its claims a level of legitimacy.
Last night’s programme included an interview with private detective Gavin Burrows, who admitted he had targeted Harry’s ex-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.
Last night’s programme included an interview with private detective Gavin Burrows, who admitted he had targeted Harry’s ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy
He said Ms Davy (pictured here with Prince Harry in 2006) 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
Mr Burrows said he worked for the now-defunct News of the World and other newspapers, and told the BBC: ‘There was a lot of voicemail hacking going on, there was a lot of surveillance work on her phones, on her comms.’
He apologised for his part in targeting Miss Davy, who is now married, and for the impact on Harry, saying: ‘I was basically part of a group of people who robbed him of his normal teenage years.’
He is now a witness in a legal action over alleged phone-hacking being brought by Prince Harry and others against the publisher of the News of the World, News Group Newspapers, which disputes his claims.
Queen’s former press secretary says the BBC’s decision to let republican Amol Rajan direct royal documentary that infuriated Palace means it may not be an ‘honest appraisal’ of feuding princes
The Queen’s former press secretary today let rip at the BBC’s decision to release a two-part documentary hosted by anti-monarchist Amol Rajan about William and Harry’s ‘tumultuous’ relationship after Megxit as the royals and their lawyers threatened to go to war with the corporation over ‘disputed’ claims in the show.
The Duke of Cambridge, the Queen and Prince Charles are reportedly threatening to boycott the broadcaster over the two-part series.
The monarch and her heirs are together expected to collectively complain to regulator Ofcom for the first time in history, with lawyers braced to launch action following the programme’s airing.
Buckingham Palace is also said to be concerned that avowed republican Amol Rajan, who once called the monarchy ‘absurd’, was chosen to present the show.
The Queen’s former press secretary Dickie Arbiter said the choice of Mr Rajan ‘calls into question the whole business about the BBC and bias. Will it be an honest appraisal? There’s a big question mark over that’.
Earlier this year William attacked the BBC after its failings were exposed surrounding the Martin Bashir Panorama interview with his mother Diana, which the Duke of Cambridge branded ‘deceitful’.
Claims by Omid Scobie that William and his staff leaked a story about Harry’s mental health were cut from ITV film Harry and William: What Went Wrong? hours before it was broadcast in July after the claim was rebutted by Kensington Palace.
Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told MailOnline: ‘The decision of the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William to make their reported concerns about the two part BBC programme tonight so public, makes it clear that they believe the programmes may contain incendiary material.
‘The reported protests from the Palace obviously run the risk of increasing the viewing figures, but clearly the content may be such that the Palace feels that the public should be warned that, if they watch, they are seeing a point of view which may be strongly disputed’.
Aides to Prince William insist he did not brief against his brother Harry during the Megxit saga, as a row over a new BBC documentary set to broadcast tonight
Sources told The Times that Mr Rajan, 38, is ‘experienced enough to put his views to one side’.
Part one tonight was about ‘the princes’ relationship with the media’ and ‘charts the years leading up to and including the engagement and marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’ from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, according to the BBC website.
Part two ‘examines the period from 2018 to 2021, a tumultuous time for the royals that includes the birth of Archie Mountbatten-Windsor and the royal tours of the Sussexes and the Cambridges’.
Richard Fitzwilliams said: ‘BBC guidelines require all news and current affairs documentaries to offer ‘an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond’ according to the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. Surely, after the debacle of Panorama, a shameful debacle almost beyond belief, it is appropriate here?
The Queen and Prince Charles walking to the Balmoral Estate Cricket Pavilion earlier last month. They and the Duke of Cambridge are reportedly threatening to boycott the broadcaster and complain to Ofcom
‘Although the contents of the programmes have not been revealed, it is an incontrovertible fact that the royal family have not been given a chance to view them or to respond to any claims made in them. So the BBC faces further controversy which was surely in its interests to avoid and which surely contravenes its own guidelines?’
Aides to Prince William did not brief against his brother Harry during the Megxit saga, sources insisted yesterday following a row over a new BBC documentary.
Royal insiders denied William and Harry had been embroiled in a briefing war, ahead of a programme examining the brothers’ troubled relationship with the media.
The Queen, Prince Charles and William have reportedly joined forces to complain to the BBC and threaten a boycott on future projects with the broadcaster unless the Palace is given a right to respond to potentially damaging allegations.
The BBC2 programme, The Princes And The Press, which airs tonight at 9pm, examines coverage of the brothers in British newspapers, including Harry’s relationship with wife Meghan and the couple’s decision to stand down from royal duties and move to the US.
Courtiers have not been shown the two-part documentary, and sources told the Mail on Sunday that they believed it would include claims that William and Harry – or their advisers – briefed against each other.
A senior royal source called the documentary ‘tittle-tattle’ and told the paper that the row over the programme had left the Queen ‘upset’.
Insiders at Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Clarence House were said to have been particularly angered that they were not given the chance to view the show or respond to any such claims.
Sources quickly shut down any suggestion that royal aides working for William and Harry were at the centre of a briefing war during the Megxit saga.
In fact the very opposite was true, sources said, and senior royal aides repeatedly refused to be dragged into a public war of words, despite the Duke and Duchess of Sussex giving an explosive interview to television host Oprah Winfrey.
One source told the Daily Mail: ‘It was always very clear from the top that no one wanted to be dragged down that particular rabbit hole, however egregiously people were being provoked by the Sussexes.
A veil of secrecy has been drawn around the content of the programme, which has been written and is presented by Amol Rajan (pictured), who called the monarchy ‘absurd
The palace mantra was that a period of silence would be beneficial to take the toxicity out of the situation, with the Queen going so far as to issue a personal statement making clear that there were matters they needed to deal with privately as a family.’
Royal insiders made clear last night that there was no desire to censor either the broadcaster or the programme makers. But the three royal households all agreed they should have been given a right of reply.
BBC guidelines require all news and current affairs documentaries to offer the right of reply where appropriate.
A BBC spokesman said: ‘The programme is about how royal journalism is done and features a range of journalists from broadcast and the newspaper industry.’