BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell, who clashed with the King, to retire

Nicholas Witchell - BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell to retire after 47 years
As well as royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell was also anchor of the Six O'Clock News - Getty Images/Tim Whitby

Nicholas Witchell, the BBC royal correspondent who was famously branded “awful” by the King, is to retire after 47 years.

Witchell will step down next year and joked that it was time he “shoved off”.

He was appointed to the royal job in 1998 and most recently reported on the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II and the King’s Coronation.

Explaining his reasons for stepping down, Witchell said: “I am 70 years old. I’ve done 47 years of continuous service. It’s time I shoved off to focus on other things.

“It has been a huge privilege for nearly half a century to work for simply the best news broadcaster in the world alongside some of the very finest producers, camera operators, editors and others.

“I hope Britain realises what it has in the BBC and cherishes it.”

‘He’s so awful, he really is’

Witchell has covered royal births, deaths and marriages over the years, but his most memorable encounter occurred on the slopes at Klosters in 2005.

During an official photocall with the then Prince of Wales, Witchell shouted a question about the Prince’s forthcoming wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles.

The Prince, unaware that his comments would be picked up by microphones, said sotto voce to Princes William and Harry: “I can’t bear that man. He’s so awful, he really is.”

Richard Burgess, director of news content for the BBC, praised Witchell for his reporting on Queen Elizabeth II’s death last year, saying that it “defined much of the BBC’s coverage, combining insight with expertise and sensitive commentary”.

Witchell was, however, criticised at the time for sharing rumours about the monarch’s medical treatment in the hours before her death.

He was said to have upset members of the Royal family in 2002 when, in a Radio 4 obituary, he made reference to Princess Margaret’s “copious consumption of whisky”.

Before covering the royal beat, Witchell was an anchor on the Six O’Clock News. During one bulletin in 1988, a group of women invaded the studio to protest against Section 28; Witchell sat on one of the protesters while Sue Lawley valiantly continued to read the autocue.

Burgess said in a note to staff: “Nick will continue to work with us until early next year and there will be plenty of opportunities to say goodbye, but please do join me in thanking him for his remarkable service and loyalty to BBC News and wishing him the best of luck for the future.”

Witchell’s royal duties are expected to pass to Jonny Dymond, who was appointed as royal correspondent in 2017.

Dymond said of Witchell: “I could not have asked for a better colleague. Will miss his editorial strength, his no-nonsense approach, his dry appreciation of the BBC and its occasional foibles.”