Air Mail: Prince William & Kate ‘are more private and can be very stubborn’


While Graydon Carter’s Air Mail has a decidedly anti-Sussex agenda, the outlet ran a pretty great analysis of what’s been happening in Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace in 2024. As in, BP looks competent, modern and straight-forward, while KP has staggered from one self-made catastrophe to another, mostly because Prince William and his staff are all incompetent. John Arlidge wrote this analysis piece of the past three months from a communications standpoint: “A Tale of Two Royal Households; When King Charles had bad news, his communications chief put on a master class in damage control. If only Kate had done the same.” Arlidge gives big props to Charles and Camilla’s big communications hire: Tobyn Andreae, who was an editor for the Mail for years. Some highlights:

Crisis management: It is also clear that the P.R. game has changed. Buckingham Palace, where the King and Queen’s press team works, and Kensington Palace, where William and Catherine’s spin doctors labor, are far less involved in the day-to-day business of engagements and royal tours, and increasingly embroiled in crisis management…Are the palaces’ finest up to the job? You might think that the younger, more digitally native royals and their advisers would be more adept at handling the modern media environment, while fuddy-duddy Charles and Camilla would not. But one of the most surprising subplots of the medical drama that has played out in London over the past few months is how well Charles and Camilla have played their hand compared with William and Catherine.

When Charles & Camilla hired Tobyn Andreae: It is even more remarkable when you consider that when he was appointed as communications director a year and a half ago, many wondered whether Tobyn Andreae was the right man for the job. It was not just that he was former co–deputy editor of the Daily Mail, a title whose reverence for the institution of the monarchy does not stop it putting the boot in. Prince Harry is suing the paper’s owner, Associated Newspapers Limited, for invasion of privacy, and it was the Daily Mail that coined the term “Waity Katie” to describe the then Kate Middleton’s long courtship of Prince William, a nickname she apparently despised, not to mention scoffing at her “social-climbing” family. Andreae was also said not to have the proper touch for a communications head. He was “too posh to gauge the mood of the man or woman in the street,” one member of the royal press pack observed.

Charles looked steady: Yet Charles, guided by Andreae, exhibited a clear understanding of what the public required in his hour of need and a moment of peril for the monarchy. In a statement issued to coincide with prime-time broadcast news bulletins, he told the world that following his recent treatment for an enlarged prostate, tests revealed that he had cancer. He would be stepping back from royal duties to receive treatment, supported by his wife and family. To calm fears over the seriousness of his condition, footage was released of him working from home. Doctors and cancer charities praised the King for doing what most men don’t: responding quickly to symptoms of illness and speaking frankly.

KP’s team bungled everything: The Waleses, guided by Lee Thompson, who cut his teeth at Freud Communications, a P.R. agency, before moving to CNBC and NBCUniversal, where he was praised for his digital and social-media skills, were less sure-footed…Kate’s amateurish Photoshopping of her family photograph, released on Mother’s Day in the U.K., revved up the global online guessing game about her health. Her apology for the “confusion” the image had caused, but not her decision to doctor it, opened up her and her family to derision. By now distrust of Kensington Palace was such that when the Waleses allowed newspapers to publish a grainy image of them during a visit to a farm shop in Windsor, many wondered if it wasn’t them at all, but rather doppelgängers.

Other forces at play: Thompson and the Waleses appear no match for Andreae and the King and Queen, but those close to both Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace say other forces are at play. Paddy Harverson, a media strategist who has worked with most of the senior royals, points out that Catherine and William needed time to come to terms with her diagnosis and explain it to their three young children. True and reasonable. But with 20/20 hindsight, waiting weeks and weeks to reveal the truth was far too long. Those close to the Waleses also criticize newspapers for reporting on the social-media speculation, “which they knew to be batsh-t crazy but ran with it anyway because it produced headlines and clicks, which generate revenue.”

Charles & Camilla are more experienced at crisis-management: Some observers draw a distinction between the Waleses’ and the King and Queen’s attitudes to the press. One seasoned royal correspondent points out that Charles and Camilla are “much more experienced in crisis management than any other members of the royal family. They have seen it all and have the scars to prove it and, as a result, are much more relaxed these days about how much information they share.”

William & Kate are inexperienced: By contrast, “William and Kate are more private and can be very stubborn,” he says. “When they get an idea in their head—for instance, ‘we won’t share any medical details’ or ‘here is the one picture we want to release to the media’—it can be hard to shift them.” He adds that “thanks to Harry’s endless court cases in London, people assume that he is the brother who loathes the press, but, if anything, William hates the media more. He naturally wants to protect his family, but that does not always mean he and Catherine make the right decision.” Some observers, for instance, say it was a misstep not to follow Charles’s lead and release some private pictures of Catherine at home reading “Get Well Soon” cards.

[From Air Mail]

One thing which goes unmentioned by Arlidge is that Kensington Palace’s courtiers clearly believed that they didn’t need to clarify or provide proof of life because William and Kate are not the king and queen. Like, that was repeated endlessly for months – Charles has to be seen and do these things because he’s the head of state, while Will and Kate are merely the understudies and therefore no one needs to know what they’re up to. That was an argument which fell flat, with me at least – William and Kate are the next in line, they are the Prince and Princess of Wales, and the 75-year-old king has cancer. They should have gotten more sh-t about their secrecy and shenanigans just because of the constitutional and state issues at play. William and Kate projected arrogance, a sense of “how dare the peasants want to know what’s going on with Kate’s health, why can’t they just believe all of the faked photos we’re handing out??” But yeah, I agree – Charles and his team have handled the comms side of everything so well this year.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Kensington Palace.