Revealed: Secrets from the Royal beat

By Paul Charman

The Queen will step down to make way for Charles to become King within three years, the ‘Godfather of Royal Reporters’ Robert Jobson predicted at a London Press Club ‘In conversation’ talk this week, sponsored by Cision.

And “there are definitely tensions going on in Kensington Palace” between Meghan and Kate as the Royal Princes Harry and William opt for separate staffs and separate homes, Jobson revealed at a packed talk at the Hyatt Regency The Churchill Hotel in London.

Jobson, Royal correspondent of the London Evening Standard, was promoting his new controversial biography of the Prince of Wales – Charles: Thoughts, Hopes and Dreams. He was joined by Ken Wharfe, Princess Diana’s royal protection officer from 1986-93, and author of Guarding Diana, ghost written by Jobson and published last year.

Wharfe revealed for the first time how he nearly lost the seven-year-old Prince Harry when the young Prince wandered out of bounds from Kensington Palace. “I finally managed to get through to him on the walkie-talkie. When I asked him where he was, he said ‘outside Tower Records’ in Ken High Street!

“I have never run so fast in all my life”, recalled Wharfe. “Good story if we’d got it!’, mused Jobson meanwhile.

But on the handover of the crown to Prince Charles, Jobson said:

“I talk about in the book how that (the Queen’s) job will be coming to an end soon. She won’t abdicate as such because that’s become an anathema since 1936 but she will hand over power and responsibility to the Prince of Wales. The time she is talking about is when she’s 95 – there’s a precedent with the 1937 Regency Act for that to happen. Effectively she can say ‘I can retire’ – and no one will begrudge her that.

“Her long-term memory is good, but her short-term memory is not as good and the reason you don’t see her at the Cenotaph on the last two occasions is because the walking backwards is an issue, and stairs are an issue.

“As a result, every week the Queen and the Prince of Wales meet privately one-to-one – no courtiers, nobody else, to go through everything. She’s very aware that a transition is in process.”

And Charles as King?

“Well, he’ll be the longest serving heir to the throne in history. People say it will be a tough act to follow, I agree with that. But he’s going to be quite a tough act to follow as Prince of Wales in my opinion.

“What he does best is to convene with people, bring people together. He can’t interfere constitutionally, he can’t get involved in political situations but I do think he will continue to ‘mind’ a lot, as he calls it. He won’t be able to speak publicly in the same way he has done but as long as he is cleared by government ministers to act in that way, there won’t be a problem.

“The other thing is that you have got to hope that the government ministers respect his position as they respected the Queen’s position who speaks openly and clearly about what’s going on in the world. If the Prince of Wales does the same thing, exactly the same privacy should be afforded to him. But we’ll have to see if that happens because if the politician breaches that policy then that might put the monarchy in a difficult position.”

He conjectured that had Charles been King during the first Iraq War, “I do think Blair would had a much tougher time over his dodgy dossier, there would have been a lot more in-depth conversation with the Prince demanding more in-depth information”

Asked about his “surrogate father role” with the Princes by BBC presenter Samantha Simmonds chairing the discussion, Ken Wharfe admitted “it was difficult to be honest because of the separation – and by the mid 80s there was a separation – although it wasn’t in the media.”

He recalled how “at the end of tea there would be a knock at my door with the Princes asking: ‘Hey Ken! – any chance of a fight?’. So there I was when the pillows get flown and you get kicked in all those parts you don’t want to get kicked in, and I’m on the deck but suddenly aware that someone has walked in the room, and there was the Prince of Wales, saying “It looks like you’re getting beaten up!”. That was a difficult one for me, there was I on the floor with his kids, when actually he should have been on the floor. I felt very uncomfortable.”

On the atmosphere at Kensington Palace, at present shared by the two Princes and their families, Jobson said he had been shown around changes which would convert the Palace into offices and apartments for Prince William when he becomes Prince of Wales.

“But there is a bit of paranoia going on at the Palace at the moment with leaks and stuff going on. It’s a bit of a goldfish bowl and Harry is slightly paranoid about this – and so is Meghan. Do the two women get on? Why should they?

“Not all sisters-in-law get on at Christmas, I don’t know. One’s in a different place, one’s got two or three kids, another’s just got married. One’s an American, one’s from a very middle-class English family. The press has built them up as the new Fab Four but that’s all a bit contrived. So there’s definitely tensions going on there.”

Photo caption: Robert Jobson talking to Press Club members about the background to his exclusives. Pictured with Ken Wharfe and BBC presenter Samantha Simmonds who chaired the event

This event was kindly sponsored by Cision.


Richard Dymond

Honorary Treasurer and Director of the London Press Club and the London Press Club Ball.

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