Yahoo UK's 'Future of the Monarchy' panel - hosted by Omid Scobie
King Charles’s coronation marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Royal Family, but it is also a moment to take stock, look back and figure out how the Windsors found themselves here - some say on the brink of crisis.
Omid Scobie – Yahoo’s royal executive editor – hosts our ‘Future of the Monarchy’ panel and asks expert guests Robert Jobson, Catherine Mayer and Afua Hagan, if King Charles will be able to do steer the ship as successfully as the late Queen Elizabeth..
The 'Future of the Monarchy' was hosted by Yahoo in April 2023 shortly before the coronation of King Charles III.
Joining Omid were author and co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party, Catherine Mayer; King Charles’ biographer and royal editor at The Evening Standard Robert Jobson; and journalist and broadcaster Afua Hagan.
Watch the full clip above
OMID SCOBIE: Hello, and a very warm welcome to Yahoo's "Future of the Monarchy" discussion with me, Yahoo's royal executive editor Omid Scobie. We are just days away from King Charles III being officially crowned. But what is poised as a moment for celebration is also an opportunity to delve into what the future of the monarchy will look like under Charles's leadership.
Over the next hour, we're going to examine the challenges up ahead for the House of Windsor and explore some of the darkest moments of the royal family's past, from family dysfunction playing out in the public eye to the ill-gotten gains of their ancestors on full display at the coronation. Our expert panelists will be helping us dissect just what's in store for the royal family.
We're thrilled to welcome author and co-founder of the Women's Equality Party, Catherine Mayer, biographer and royal editor at "The Evening Standard," Robert Jobson-- I should say King Charles's biographer-- [CHUCKLES] and journalist and broadcaster Afua Hagan. Thank you so much for joining us, guys.
Now, no matter how many times it's been brushed under the carpet, the royal family's historic links to the slave trade keep coming back into focus. Recently, King Charles announced his support to open up the Royal Archives to support a special investigation into the monarchy's links with the barbaric trade and human suffering that dates back to the 17th century.
The move has not been met entirely with praise. There's also been criticism, some saying he hasn't gone far enough. And there are also some on the other side saying that he's pandering to leftist wokeism.
The calls for an official apology and possibly even financial reparations could become a defining moment in Charles's reign and legacy and a barometer of just how far he's prepared to modernize the monarchy. So how has this dark history shaped how the Windsors are viewed by the public? And just how should the King approach this historical stain? Let's take a quick look at the royal family's uncomfortable links to the slave trade.
Uncomfortable history indeed. Now, Catherine, there's obviously been so much talk about demands for an apology. But is this something that the royal family can do if we haven't heard the government do the same thing?
CATHERINE MAYER: I think absolutely. One of the things about the endurance of the monarchy in this country, but also in the other realms where it still retains the head of state role, is that it's done this by kind of a process of constant adaptation. And part of that adaptation is not waiting for things to happen to it but to make those things happen.
Now, one of the excuses that you'll hear with anything where they get criticized, whether it's about their failure to do enough or soon enough in terms of acknowledging the history of slavery and their huge role in it or, for example, paying inheritance tax, they will say, oh, but it's up to legislators to decide this. We just do what we're told. That's of course not true at all.
It's always been a process, or long been a process, of working together. And if they wanted something to happen, all they would need to do is talk to the government of the day, you know, if they wanted something to move in a direction that would be in keeping with public opinion, shall we say. So they could have done more. They could do more. They could be doing a lot more than they're doing.
What we're seeing is-- instead, we're seeing them pulled by public opinion. But we're also seeing them caught in the tides not just of an increased consciousness, not just around colonial history but also around existing inequalities that are playing out today and how that really is reflected within their own structures and family.
So we're seeing that. But we're also seeing them caught up in the culture war. And it's being very unhelpfully politicized and covered in the press here. So it's a really interesting situation.
OMID SCOBIE: Afua, the public opinion largely want to see some kind of acknowledgment or apology come from the royal family. But when you look at the sort of royalist demographic, those sort of older, more patriotic Brits, you will see that there's an overwhelming opinion that this isn't required. It's not something they want to see. By Charles taking this step forward, and it is admittedly a very small one, does he risk losing his own supporter base?
AFUA HAGAN: He does a bit. But he also has to realize that he has to modernize, right? And modernizing the royal family means keeping up with the times and keeping up with the pulse. And yes, there is a certain generation who will say, look, like you said in your intro, that this is leftist, wokeist nonsense and that, you know, slavery is done and dusted, it doesn't affect us today.
But that's another reason why we need to have more accurate history taught in our schools, because the effects of enslaving people has real-time effects on the outcomes of Black and Brown people in this country today because of the institutionalized racism that we see in the health service, that we see in the police service, and how we have lower outcomes for Black and Brown people, whether that is how much income they will earn, what type of housing they are in, what health outcomes they will have.
So we need to realize that it's not just something that's happened, that can be swept under the carpet, and it doesn't matter today. It does matter today, and it's still happening. And yes, perhaps King Charles does lose the support of some of his fan base.
But without sounding too crass and without sounding too cold, that fan base are not going to be here forever. And it's the younger people and the younger fan base who are probably the ones that do want to see more of a conversation about this, that are going to be around for a longer period of time. It's horrible to say that. But it is true.
OMID SCOBIE: Yeah.
AFUA HAGAN: And so King Charles would really do well to take real steps towards addressing the royal family's involvement with enslaving Africans but also the effects that it has today and what that can mean for an apology and reparations. It's not enough just to say, OK, I'm going to let you look in the archives. I'm going to let you lift the curtain on what we actually already know.
CATHERINE MAYER: One person to look in the archives, as well.
AFUA HAGAN: Absolutely.
CATHERINE MAYER: It's hardly, kind of, throwing them open to scholars.
AFUA HAGAN: Exactly, and she's going to be doing that until 2026. That's a long time. What we actually need to do is-- I'm all for looking at the archives. But that's not really what I want to see.
What I want to see is the royal family addressing the fact that, yes, we founded the Royal African Company. Yes, we bought and sold in shares. Yes, essentially we enslaved thousands of African people. What effects does that have today? What are we going to do about it? Are we going to apologize? Yes, they should.
But also, let's look at the artifacts that we have in our stores. Let's look at the crown jewels and things that are with the crown jewels that were taken during times of war, not things that were gifted to the royal family; that's completely different-- things that were taken during times of war, things that were taken during times of colonialism. And let's give them back to the rightful owners. These are real steps that need to be taken. And if King Charles III loses some of his fan base, I think so be it.
OMID SCOBIE: It puts him in a very difficult position because, of course, by admitting everything that you've just listed, they're also admitting to the fact that so much of what they have today is built on that. And when you start sort of pulling at the thread, you do threaten sort of dismantling so much more than that.
Robert, this is a sort of, I guess, a surprise decision to many by King Charles. There hadn't been much talk about it in the months leading up to the reign change. Do you-- did you see this coming along? Do you know that this was something he had discussed?
ROBERT JOBSON: Yeah, I was in Barbados when it was handed over. I was in Barbados with William and Kate, so I covered it. It was obviously coming in that direction. And a lot of-- an awful lot of development since the Black Lives Matter movement in the Caribbean in this and a lot of momentum behind it.
I mean, I hear what both you say. But I think that this has been on the agenda of education for a long time. And I remember, when I was a kid, studying in a comprehensive in the '70s. I did a whole project of the slave trade, was very passionate about it. So I think it's always been there. I think more needs to be done.
But equally, I think Charles is right to do what he's doing. I think it's the right step to do it. I think he's absolutely right that he puts an academic in the archives and starts the process because that's where you're going to get more and more information that they can base a proper investigation upon.
But equally, things need to be speeded up because, you know, how long is this reign going to last? I mean, you know, it might not even be finished this time before the reign's over at this rate. So in my opinion, we need to speed things up.
We need to be-- this monarchy's now in a new time. It's a new reign. And things need to be done differently. They need to be-- I think that we've just seen on panorama how the younger generation are not really interested in monarchy and that they really-- they can't rely on the goodwill of what was surrounding Her Majesty the Queen.
I mean, Elizabeth, I think, if we'd had a Republican vote for president, she'd have won it hands down. That's not necessarily the case with King Charles. So I think Charles-- although I personally think he's a terrific person. I think he's a deeply spiritual man. I think he's a man of great intellect. I think he's also a man that I think has done great things in terms of trying to preserve our planet for all of us.
But in terms of being the King of the United Kingdom and the other realms and head of the Commonwealth, I think things need to be speeded up. I think we need to-- there need to be much more liaison with Prince William-- William, Prince of Wales.
But more important than that, there needs to be, I think, younger people around him in terms of advising him. Some of these advisors are all interested in getting lords and ladies and knights and whatever, NVOs, PVA, whatever they are. And frankly I think they're all a waste of time.
What we do need now are younger people with different perspective to advise the King and the royal family going forward because William is over-- he's 40. You know, he's not a young man. And there need to be young people advising them, not people that have self-interest, whether they get a land or whether they get a knighthood, whether they get a cushy number somewhere.
It's all well and good banging on about the Prince's Trust. Prince's Trust is yesterday now. You know, we're now dealing with a time of a new reign. And I really do believe that we need to start listening to the under 30s and even the under 20s because if the monarchy does have a longevity, it's those people that matter.
And in my view, there's a lot of stuffed shirts at the palace. There's a lot of people that are not necessarily in it for the long term because they're too old. There are a lot of people in terms of-- that I don't think are necessarily doing the King a service.
But one thing I would say about the King-- and, Catherine, you wrote a brilliant book on the King, too--
CATHERINE MAYER: Thank you.
ROBERT JOBSON: --is that he does listen to younger people. He has a royal connection with younger people. And if he's allowed to do his job without too much noise, he will cut to the chase. He's somebody who really does care. And I think he's somebody that has made a real difference to the lives of many Black, white, Asian, lots of different people that are able to start businesses and become a success.
But the other thing I'd say on this specific thing is that we have to be very, very careful with history. And I'm a history graduate, and I'm passionate about it. You know, where does this stop? Where does the line start? And where does it stop? Because there's obviously an agenda.
I think you should apologize unreservedly for the abhorrence of slavery, you know, as William Wilberforce moved to do all those years ago. But then what about the reparations from the African tribal leaders that actually were actually pushing the slaves, capturing their rivals of the other tribes to sell them? Are they culpable, too?
What about the people that were indentured, the Indians, the Asians that were indentured, that had to serve 20 years or 15 years before-- in slavery effectively-- before they were free? So there's a lot-- this goes a lot deeper.
And the colonial past of Great Britain, abhorrent that it was, there's been a lot of advancement that was-- that came as a result of that. And really I think that we have to look very carefully because we are an island. We're no longer an empire with a huge bank account. You know, do we bankrupt Great Britain due to our past, when we were an empire?
It's a very difficult subject. But the King, as Catherine rightly said, should take a lead, is taking a lead. But the government has to back him with cash. And I don't think they will.
OMID SCOBIE: You talk about, how far does this go? But it feels like we haven't really even started. As you say, it's just one historian from the Historic Royal Palaces--
ROBERT JOBSON: Oh, it should be much more than that.
OMID SCOBIE: --on their own accord looking into this. It sounds like this is something that was in the works anyway, that the King has piggybacked off. And I think when you take a look at, say, the Netherlands, for example, the monarch over there and the announcement he made, he gave a three-year plan. He announced exactly how much money would be going into it. And it sort of had a start--
ROBERT JOBSON: The Belgians were appalling what they--
OMID SCOBIE: --and an end to talk about.
ROBERT JOBSON: --did in the Congo, what the Belgian king did in the Congo. It was abhorrent.
OMID SCOBIE: So let's talk about--
AFUA HAGAN: And take France, I mean--
ROBERT JOBSON: Look at France--
AFUA HAGAN: Yeah, absolutely.
ROBERT JOBSON: --the land of the free-- free, the Republic of France.
CATHERINE MAYER: But if you--
AFUA HAGAN: That still has-- sorry.
CATHERINE MAYER: No, go ahead.
AFUA HAGAN: That still has countries today that pay money to France. You know, people that live in certain countries in the Caribbean and Africa can vote in the French elections. They still have colonialism ongoing today.
ROBERT JOBSON: Well, it's a [INAUDIBLE].
AFUA HAGAN: Exactly.
CATHERINE MAYER: Yeah, I mean, that's your point earlier. Colonialism is not something in the past. And although I absolutely take your point about the complexities of history, where I would disagree is about the way it's taught and the way it's perceived because all of the opponents that you've seen-- as I said, this is becoming subsumed in culture wars very unhelpfully. And they will kind of say, done and dusted, that phrase you used. And of course it's living--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE] '70s. I wasn't taught it. I went and--
CATHERINE MAYER: Yeah, but we're not talking about--
ROBERT JOBSON: --studied and did a project on it. And I found out about it myself. Education--
CATHERINE MAYER: Yeah, but I went to an English school. And I got taught the Second World War twice and nothing about colonial history.
ROBERT JOBSON: I did all that, but--
OMID SCOBIE: Which is the same for the majority, I think.
ROBERT JOBSON: Well, I think--
CATHERINE MAYER: No, but--
ROBERT JOBSON: --it's up to you to learn it, isn't it?
CATHERINE MAYER: No, but--
AFUA HAGAN: But it shouldn't be.
CATHERINE MAYER: Let me continue with this thought because what I was going to say is, I mean, there are so many things already to unpack here because, first of all, you know, your point, outcomes and structural inequality is still absolutely here. So you can say that colonialism plays a huge part in it.
The realms are literally still a colonial construct. The Commonwealth is a post-colonial, colonial construct. It is part of everyday life. So one of the things is about access and transparency and accountability.
The royal family benefits from huge degrees of secrecy that no other institution of that size or scale or heft or importance does. That's just completely wrong. They shouldn't really be in a position of just allowing one historian to come in like that any more than they should dictate who uses footage of royal occasions, which they can, or, you know, as--
ROBERT JOBSON: Totally agree.
CATHERINE MAYER: --as the head of state.
ROBERT JOBSON: Totally agree.
CATHERINE MAYER: Well, I also agree with what you said about they're very ill served by their advisors, and Charles and Camilla, I think, more than the queen. The queen had some pretty good advisors at various times.
ROBERT JOBSON: But the queen also was some-- a pretty canny lady.
CATHERINE MAYER: She was, yeah.
ROBERT JOBSON: And I think she listened to a lot--
CATHERINE MAYER: And they've got--
ROBERT JOBSON: --more people perhaps.
CATHERINE MAYER: And he has got people who have his ear who are not doing him a good service at all. But they also have another problem which we've sort of been talking around, the sort of elephant in the room here. Yes, young people not only are not interested in them. But one of the things that happened with the marriage of Harry and Meghan was that people who had never seen the royal family in any way reflect them-- so young people, people of color-- went, oh, look, finally this is something for me.
ROBERT JOBSON: So true.
CATHERINE MAYER: And the failure of that project has not just made people lose interest, it's made them actual active opponents of the monarchy. And the monarchy has existed-- like, people always go, oh, it's got 75% popularity. No, it had a mixture of people who were passionately pro-monarchy and people who didn't care much one way or the other, 25% Republicans. That number is potentially swelled by the people that you were talking about. And there is nobody to fill the gap. And you talked about how old William-- one of you mentioned how old William is.
ROBERT JOBSON: Yeah, 40.
CATHERINE MAYER: 40. He also-- you know, William and Kate are already looking like a kind of steady, middle-aged couple. They don't have that, sort of, glam and outreach and all of that that Harry and Meghan-- even though Meghan's actually a bit older-- was able to have.
ROBERT JOBSON: Well, but Harry's nearly 40. So I'd say--
CATHERINE MAYER: No, they're all--
ROBERT JOBSON: I would say that actually they're all a bit old. And--
CATHERINE MAYER: Yes, but look who comes below. Then you have this huge gap.
ROBERT JOBSON: There's a huge gap, yeah.
AFUA HAGAN: Between-- yeah.
CATHERINE MAYER: And so everyone kind of goes, oh, he's slimming down. Charles is slimming down the monarchy. That's a great thing to do. Well, actually it's slimming itself down.
ROBERT JOBSON: It's naturally--
CATHERINE MAYER: And they've got nobody to come into that gap.
OMID SCOBIE: Before we talk about the sort of modernity crisis and lack of youth within the institution, Afua, I just want to ask in terms of this particular topic, the uncomfortable history of colonialism, we've obviously seen that first step made. How do you think this should look moving forwards?
AFUA HAGAN: Well, I completely agree with what both of you said, Robert and Catherine, is that we need to speed up this kind of "investigation" into the evidence of the royal family's involvement in slavery because we know that they were involved. It doesn't take one woman three years to be able to tell us that. We know that.
And it's great that she's doing that research for a book. And like you said, he's kind of-- the King has kind of piggybacked off that. So we need to get to a point where there is an unreserved apology that needs to happen really, really quickly because we know--
ROBERT JOBSON: Well, that can happen now.
AFUA HAGAN: Yeah, exactly.
ROBERT JOBSON: That's what I don't understand. Just say it.
AFUA HAGAN: We know what the facts are. We know what the facts are. So apologize for it, number one. And that-- like Robert said, that can be done any time and should be done--
ROBERT JOBSON: Should've been done in Barbados.
AFUA HAGAN: Yeah, and should be done very quickly after the coronation because then that really gives us a sense of what King Charles III wants to do going forward. That should be his first big act after the coronation, is to apologize unreservedly for--
ROBERT JOBSON: But the trouble you've got there is that--
AFUA HAGAN: --enslaving thousands of Africans.
ROBERT JOBSON: --then you start one apology-- I know I'm saying do it now. But what about the Indigenous people in Australia?
OMID SCOBIE: But I think you take one thing--
ROBERT JOBSON: That is just--
OMID SCOBIE: --at a time.
AFUA HAGAN: Yeah, and that's--
ROBERT JOBSON: Well, no, they would argue they're just as important as what happened in the Caribbean.
AFUA HAGAN: And Indigineous people--
ROBERT JOBSON: They were used in polo matches and things-- like, they're heads were cut off.
AFUA HAGAN: --in Canada.
ROBERT JOBSON: So it's pretty awful.
AFUA HAGAN: As well, what happened to Indigenous people--
ROBERT JOBSON: And the Indigenous and the tribes in Canada.
AFUA HAGAN: --and what happened with the children's homes. Yeah, there's-- [INAUDIBLE]
ROBERT JOBSON: Kind of a lot of apologizing to go on.
AFUA HAGAN: But it has to be done, doesn't it? So I think--
CATHERINE MAYER: An apology tour would actually be a better look than that Caribbean tour of William and Kate.
AFUA HAGAN: Well, absolutely.
ROBERT JOBSON: I was on that one, I must admit. It wasn't-- it wasn't quite as bad as it was presented, I can assure you. It really wasn't.
AFUA HAGAN: But, Robert, this plays into the point that you very astutely made. They need better advisors. If you had better advisors--
ROBERT JOBSON: Younger people need to be there.
AFUA HAGAN: --younger people behind closed doors telling you that, you know what, if you stand there with that fence and put your hands through, it's gonna look a bit, mm-mm.
ROBERT JOBSON: Well, that was taken by Chris Jackson, that picture--
AFUA HAGAN: But that's the thing, is that--
ROBERT JOBSON: --who's been taking all these pictures.
AFUA HAGAN: --if they had [INAUDIBLE]--
ROBERT JOBSON: But the famous Raheem Sterling doing exactly the same thing--
AFUA HAGAN: No, it's different.
ROBERT JOBSON: And by the way-- by the way-- that fence was there before, because we were in Trench Town. And it's not the safest of places.
AFUA HAGAN: But the point is--
ROBERT JOBSON: That fence was there.
AFUA HAGAN: But the point is better advisors--
ROBERT JOBSON: If they tore it down, it would have looked odd.
AFUA HAGAN: But better advisors will be able to tell you that that's not going to play out well. Let's perhaps do it another way.
ROBERT JOBSON: I must say--
OMID SCOBIE: Well, let's--
ROBERT JOBSON: --having been there, just to clarify this because it's easy from a long distance-- and with great respect, none of you were there. I was. It was a mayhem in Trench Town. And with a great respect to the advisors, yes, they should have seen this on a recce. But what do they do? Tear down a fence that's actually there for the protection of the teams there?
And I think that-- the photograph was taken by a very trusted photographer, someone that [INAUDIBLE] on the site. And that was put out. And then the gender switched. Then they took the photograph of all the Black footballers and Raheem Sterling doing exactly the same. And that was a bad look. But you've got to remember that was mayhem.
CATHERINE MAYER: But the colonial outfits--
OMID SCOBIE: It was a series of moments.
CATHERINE MAYER: But the colonial bits on the--
OMID SCOBIE: It was a series of moments.
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE]
OMID SCOBIE: And I think for as much as we--
ROBERT JOBSON: From a distance, it looks like that. But it wasn't quite like that.
CATHERINE MAYER: But from a distance matters. I mean--
ROBERT JOBSON: Yes, it does matter.
CATHERINE MAYER: The whole point is actually from a distance.
ROBERT JOBSON: Yes, I know that. But there was mayhem. There were thousands of supporting people there. And so decisions don't get made in-- there were mistakes made. But you know, I would sit there and blame the advisors, and it's easy to do that. But someone should have seen that on a recce. Someone should have been more prepared.
AFUA HAGAN: Absolutely, yes, they should have, 100%.
ROBERT JOBSON: But or have said-- or really, actually, William and Kate should have said, well, this isn't a good looks.
CATHERINE MAYER: That's my feeling, is--
ROBERT JOBSON: That isn't a good look.
CATHERINE MAYER: --it does ask--
OMID SCOBIE: We can't spend years praising the royal family for thinking about optics in every moment of their staged lives--
ROBERT JOBSON: I think they would drawn [INAUDIBLE]
OMID SCOBIE: --and then overlook--
ROBERT JOBSON: They were drawn to that, as well--
OMID SCOBIE: --a faux pas--
ROBERT JOBSON: --because all the kids were-- --on that occasion.
ROBERT JOBSON: --screaming and saying they wanted at--
OMID SCOBIE: We've got to move on.
ROBERT JOBSON: But then again, we do-- I know optics are good from afar. But they're also, when you're on the front line, which I was, it wasn't quite as your thousand-miles-away viewpoint was stated. And I would just like to stress that. And also, the car thing, the whole business of that car colonial, totally the request of the Jamaican army-- nothing to do with the British. But then again, you could argue they should have seen that coming.
But the British, the colonial army were very proud about that moment and insisted upon it. So what do you do? You're there guests.
OMID SCOBIE: I've seen royal advisors bulldoze--
ROBERT JOBSON: Not when you're the guest to the realm.
OMID SCOBIE: --government and officials in every occasion.
ROBERT JOBSON: Yes, that's right. When you're on an official visit, yes. But if you're in a realm, the realm takes complete control of that visit. And it's nothing to do with the palace. Facts.
OMID SCOBIE: Well, we can talk about some of that image advice later on. But first, we have a modernity crisis on our hands. Charles is beginning his reign in the 70-year shadow of his mother, who many would argue was the country's greatest ever monarch. Queen Elizabeth II was a unifying force who, in many ways, was even more popular than the institution itself.
People from every demographic had great respect for her. But judging by recent polls, Charles is going to face an uphill battle if he wants even a fraction of that same support. According to an independent survey conducted for Yahoo, just 37% of Britain's 18- to 24-year-olds plan to watch the coronation compared to 60% of over-65's.
And another poll recently from the BBC showed that 38% of young people think the monarchy should be abolished altogether and replaced with an elected head of state. It begs the question, what can the Windsors do to reinvigorate interest among young people? How can they modernize? We asked some of King Charles's loyal and some less-than-loyal subjects to share their views on the royal family.
- So what do you both think of the royal family?
- I quite like them because I think, as a country, they just mean a lot to us.
- I don't think much of them are very good people.
- Yeah, I feel like they just do what's best for them.
- I don't really find them relevant. There's just so much controversy for literally no reason.
- As far as the royal family is concerned, I think it's important that they stay--
- In some sense, it's really symbolic for the country.
- Do you think they're worth the money that we pay them?
- No, and especially with the coronation and seeing how much they're spending on that when there's a cost of living crisis, and there's people living in poverty all over the place, absolutely not.
- Their wealth is over-- overpowering.
- Like, we don't really see much results with what they do.
- Why are we giving so much money? And yet I just don't have an idea of where my money's going to, what it's really helping.
- I think, when you look about how much they bring into the country in terms of, like, tourism, people coming to Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, I think they probably are worth it.
- Who is your favorite member of the royal family? You have to pick one.
- I quite like Kate. I think, yeah.
- Yeah, I would say Kate.
- I think she's a really elegant woman.
- She seems the most real out of everyone.
- Most favorite? Just because he's cute, Harry.
- He's so funny. [INAUDIBLE] kingdom for [INAUDIBLE]. I thought that was really cute.
- Yeah, that was so cute.
- At least they seem to be doing something to move away from the traditions.
- If you had to pick someone who is your least favorite from the royal family [INAUDIBLE]?
- Andrew. Andrew.
- I don't think anyone's a big fan of him these days.
- Least favorite is Charles.
- He's definitely out for power. Let's be honest.
- I don't think he's necessarily any worse than any of the others. He's certainly not as bad as some of them. But again, what's the difference between him and the queen, really? It's just, yeah, the next in line.
OMID SCOBIE: Real mix of opinions there. Now, Afua, when you speak with young millennials and Gen Zers out there, rather than having any kind of anti-monarchist sentiment, there's a real sense of apathy and not caring at all.
AFUA HAGAN: Absolutely, and in that YouGov poll, 78% of the 18 to 24-year-old bracket said they just didn't-- didn't really care about the royal family. And actually, that's going to be the real death knell for the royal family, people just not caring, not caring if they do anything at all. You know, the royal family exists for the people, and they have to have the support of the people to be able to continue.
I mean, I'm surprised, in your poll, that even 37%, 38% said they would watch the coronation. I'm surprised it was even that high because you're absolutely right. Younger people just don't care about the monarchy, don't care about the royal family, and it really was a missed opportunity, with Harry and Meghan, to bring younger people, to get them more interested in the royal family.
You know, you had this kind of-- you know, a combination of a glamorous A-list Hollywood kind of couple, and that, you know, really gained interest from a lot of people who, beforehand, didn't care about the royal family, and like you said, Catherine, could see themselves. I mean, let's not pretend that Meghan Markle is the the bastion that we hold up for all Black women in the UK. She's not. Right? And we shouldn't put that amount of pressure on her.
But there was a lot of people, myself included, who saw her and thought, OK, this is a family that's modernizing. This is a family that has a person of color in it. This is a family-- you know, this dynasty, I can buy into this a little bit. But an absolute dashed opportunity, wasted, and that will be felt throughout the realms and countries in the Commonwealth.
And I actually think that the royal family are underestimating the strength of feeling that people have about the way that Meghan Markle has been treated. So it's not just that you're losing a younger audience. You're also losing swathes of people from the global south, who will look at it as Black and white, as, excuse the pun, there was a person of color in the royal family, and you didn't make her feel welcome.
So why should we support having this particular family as our head of state? Or why should we support our country being part of this kind of post-colonial hangover that is the Commonwealth? And so there's so many people that King Charles III has to bring back into the fold, younger people, people from the global south. Massive job on his hands.
OMID SCOBIE: Robert, we spoke earlier about how Harry and Meghan are pretty much in the same age category as William and Kate, but clearly, the Sussexes did something to connect with that younger generation in a way that the Waleses aren't. Do you think--
ROBERT JOBSON: I think that's been overstated personally.
OMID SCOBIE: I think-- I speak personally, not just from polls, but also from the feedback I have from--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE]
OMID SCOBIE: Exactly, and I'm in the same age as--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE] the same-- you know, you're not young at all, Omid.
OMID SCOBIE: No, not at all.
ROBERT JOBSON: No, you look good, but you're not. But the fact is--
OMID SCOBIE: But that's the point. I think there's different levels of youth within an age, and Harry and Meghan really were able to connect with a demographic that--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE]
OMID SCOBIE: We see less--
ROBERT JOBSON: But you know, I don't agree with a lot of what was just said there. I think that-- I personally think that Harry and Meghan had their own agenda. I don't think that she wasn't welcomed. I think she was.
I think that there were certain members of the royal family that didn't have open arms, but others did. The King, I think, did his very best to welcome her, and I think he did. And I dispute what people say about that.
But that said, it didn't work, and that was a mistake. And that is big error by the-- the royal family in that respect because whatever they needed to do, they needed-- they didn't do with Diana. They needed to make her feel really part of it. And I think he did try, but there were certain members of the royal family extended that didn't do enough.
Now, I was on a trip to-- I think you were, too, to where we went to Australia. And then she was trying very hard on that trip. Did a really good job.
OMID SCOBIE: It was probably the peak moment.
ROBERT JOBSON: But she was definitely nervous, and she was-- she was feeling pressure. And I don't-- and I could see it because I'd covered Princess Diana before. And I remember watching her and thinking, this is all going to blow up because she was under so much pressure, and she was doing her best, her damnedest to be perfect.
OMID SCOBIE: That's quite a big conclusion to come to. I mean, I think we think of the circumstances, she was pregnant, and it was her first major--
ROBERT JOBSON: Oh, no, i'm not criticizing. I mean--
OMID SCOBIE: So I think-- no, I understand. But I think, of course, any person, I think, would be nervous stepping--
ROBERT JOBSON: No, no, but nervous isn't the--
OMID SCOBIE: Overwhelming arena.
ROBERT JOBSON: But you have to be very careful because you get trolled, like I've done before, by moronic people. But the fact is-- you know, people that just don't even listen or don't even read properly. But the fact is, what I'm trying to say to you is that she was under a lot of pressure on that trip, and maybe, just maybe, they shouldn't have put her under that pressure. Maybe, just maybe, she shouldn't have even been traveling.
CATHERINE MAYER: They have a history-- I mean, you mentioned Diana. They had--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE] she was pregnant. She wasn't traveling and doing tours like that when she was pregnant. That was a very different thing.
CATHERINE MAYER: They have a history of not being good to people who come into their midst and not-- and not understanding. It's-- you know, as you-- you mentioned my book. I mean, one of the phrases that I coined after spending a lot of time with Charles and the other royals was Planet Windsor because I realized it operates to entirely different--
ROBERT JOBSON: Well, of course [INAUDIBLE]
CATHERINE MAYER: And none of them know--
ROBERT JOBSON: But Harry-- but on that trip, on that trip, the people around should have done more to support Meghan. And I think Harry, in particular, should have done more to support--
CATHERINE MAYER: But he's-- but he's a member of Planet Windsor. Can I-- can I also pick-- because I think we're kind of going astray into the recollections may vary territory. And the thing is, I know that none of us-- you know, there will be some areas of agreement and disagreement on that. But what-- where we are agreed is that it's done extraordinary damage, and the failure of that project, whatever the reasons for it, and that the royals themselves are really underestimating it for a number--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE]
CATHERINE MAYER: No, exactly, completely agree with you on that. And there are many reasons for that. One of them is around the-- looking at polls. They look at polls, and they go, oh, Harry and Meghan aren't very popular. That means there's no damage.
Absolute nonsense. It is playing out globally. It is playing out exactly as you said.
And also, you know, I saw somebody recently who's a sort of real, proper insider, who I've been having quite vigorous discussions with for years about where the royal family is. And this person said to me, in surprise, that he had come round to my viewpoint that they were in real crisis now.
When-- back in sort of around the mid 2013, 2014, somebody identified to me, again, an insider, the main challenges they saw for the royals, and those were that one of the Caribbean realms might choose the time of Charles's accession to depart. Well, that was already happening before then.
That he might not be chosen as the head of the Commonwealth. Well, he has been, but that isn't really as big a deal as they're making out. And that Camilla's title might not be sorted out by the time the queen died, that these were the great existential challenges.
And instead, you know, what I had said, and what this other insider is agreeing with me, is we are witnessing the beginning of the end. It's not the beginning of the end of the monarchy, but it's the beginning of the end of a monarchy that can rely on being popular. And that is a huge thing that's just a complete game--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE]
CATHERINE MAYER: Not a phrase I use often, but a game changer.
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE] the King has seen that, by the way. He's trying to reduce the dependency upon the sovereign grant and things like that, that he sees, he has to--
CATHERINE MAYER: He sees it, but it's like crisis management. And one of the things is, if there was better advice, a, they wouldn't be in the pickle they're in. But b, the advisors would not-- you know, one of the-- I keep mentioning the way it's swerving into culture war territory.
You see, again and again, the sort of reflex of the advisors is to take them into this area of polarization. You know, you mentioned Sussex squad. Well, there's another equivalent. I don't know what they're called anymore because it's not the Cambridge--
ROBERT JOBSON: Oh, I know--
OMID SCOBIE: [INAUDIBLE]
CATHERINE MAYER: [INAUDIBLE] Rangers, whatever. But my point is that--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE] you know, [INAUDIBLE] would be extreme.
CATHERINE MAYER: But what did it-- what it is, is it's polarization. We live in a polarized world.
ROBERT JOBSON: Yeah, that's true, yeah.
CATHERINE MAYER: The royal family itself, on their website, they define the role of the monarch as being to unify. So the last thing that those advisors should be doing is advising behaviors that push it all into Kate's Rangers territory and anti-- you know, they should not be joining in that fight.
AFUA HAGAN: But this is the thing, is that--
ROBERT JOBSON: Why are they joining that fight?
AFUA HAGAN: Well, because it generates headlines. I mean, let's be honest, is that there's so much briefing, and I absolutely agree with you, is that the royal family have fallen victim to the culture wars. You know, it's presumed, if you like Meghan, then you're a lefty. If you like Kate, then you're right.
You vote this way. You vote that way. It's so polarized, so polarized, and you're absolutely right in saying that is not the role of the monarch at all. It's to unify people, and they've absolutely done the opposite. And I think, you know, also--
ROBERT JOBSON: Well, they haven't done enough. I don't-- I don't think they've necessarily done the opposite.
AFUA HAGAN: I think they have done the opposite in their treatment of Meghan.
ROBERT JOBSON: I think they're just too complacent.
ROBERT JOBSON: And I think we should also remember that-- well, you talked about people that come into Planet Windsor. Let's not forget the way that Kate Middleton was treated when she joined the family as well. But let's also not forget how the royal family shut that down. It took a while, but they did shut it down. They did--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE] as a working class [INAUDIBLE] working two jobs.
AFUA HAGAN: Absolutely. That's exactly what I'm--
ROBERT JOBSON: They didn't shut it down at all. It went on for years.
AFUA HAGAN: But that's what I'm saying.
OMID SCOBIE: They got married at Westminster Abbey. It was the moment--
ROBERT JOBSON: Yeah, but before that--
OMID SCOBIE: [INAUDIBLE]
ROBERT JOBSON: When they split up-- before that--
OMID SCOBIE: And before Kate--
ROBERT JOBSON: Let me finish. Let me finish because I do think it's important because it's easy to misunderstand if you can't finish. But the fact is she had 10 years of this.
AFUA HAGAN: But that's exactly what I said.
ROBERT JOBSON: Let me finish. No, no, but--
AFUA HAGAN: But actually, if you'd let me finish, that's exactly what I said. But that's exactly what I said, is that she had it for a long time. But like you so rightly said, when they got married, they shut it down. But when Meghan and Harry got married, the royal family didn't shut it down, and that was a massive mistake.
OMID SCOBIE: Robert, do you think that's what young people see on the outside? Because there's obviously-- there's a reason why young people are either disinterested, or--
ROBERT JOBSON: Oh, I think they think they were very badly treated, the young people. I mean, I speak to my son. He's 21, and he says, it's-- the way they were treated was appalling. They really-- he thinks that there was racism from the royal family, and he believes that there wasn't enough done to accommodate them. So--
OMID SCOBIE: But that's--
ROBERT JOBSON: I can only judge it from younger people I speak to, and that, absolutely, they think that.
OMID SCOBIE: So with that in mind, how do those around the monarch and other members of the family tackle that problem?
ROBERT JOBSON: I've got to speak to people that are 21, 22, 23, who don't want to become a knight.
CATHERINE MAYER: And also stop being this secretive. You know--
ROBERT JOBSON: That's the other thing. Very important.
CATHERINE MAYER: This lack of accountability, this lack of transparency, and this idiotic secrecy, and all the briefings that they do. You know, the number of times I read something along the lines of William and Kate are maintaining a dignified silence about "Spare." Friends of the couple said--
ROBERT JOBSON: Well, let's be honest, some of that was just utter piffle, and some of it was well briefed. But--
CATHERINE MAYER: No, no--
ROBERT JOBSON: I mean, I believe--
CATHERINE MAYER: But you know-- but you know the way the briefing system works.
ROBERT JOBSON: Well, yeah, but it doesn't-- it's not quite-- I think there's guilt to be had. There's certain things that are not right about that, but you know, having been someone who broke the story that Charles was to marry Camilla in 2005 on an anonymous source. I'm not going to criticize anonymous sources. However, I had a source.
CATHERINE MAYER: But the sources had to be--
ROBERT JOBSON: I had a source. I'm saying that some people don't.
CATHERINE MAYER: Robert, that-- that is one thing, but the sources have to be anonymous because--
ROBERT JOBSON: Of course, they do. I'm not criticizing--
CATHERINE MAYER: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No, I am. What I'm saying is that they're all NDAd up to the-- up the wazoo, and they--
ROBERT JOBSON: They have to be. Of course, they do.
CATHERINE MAYER: And it is an-- it's a very secretive institution that is--
ROBERT JOBSON: So's our government. So's our government.
CATHERINE MAYER: No, no, our government, you can still do freedom of information--
ROBERT JOBSON: Yeah, but you're not going to find out the source on a-- on a exclusive story about the prime minister.
OMID SCOBIE: We're going to jump into the press in our next segment, but before we move into that, I just want to say, we're obviously moments away from the coronation. We've heard about plans for a huge anti-monarchy protest from the Republic group. Do you think that's something that unnerves the royal family, Catherine?
CATHERINE MAYER: I-- my suspicion is that it doesn't unnerve them in the right way. That's sort of the point I've been trying to make, is I think that they are caught in their own tides of polarization, and so they have a kind of-- they're always sclerotic, but they have a kind of reflex that turns away criticism more than it listens it-- listens to it, and doesn't learn from it in the right way.
So I mean, one thing, I was horrified by the response of an unnamed Palace aide to "the Guardian" series about the cost of the crown. "The Guardian" series on the cost of the crown is asking all sorts of absolutely legitimate questions--
OMID SCOBIE: At the right time.
CATHERINE MAYER: At the right time of a big institution, and they got-- they gave the snarkiest bloody reply. It was something like, oh, well, this is very creative. You know? And it was sort of like, they were saying, to these journalists, that it was impertinent to ask questions.
This institution needs to stop doing that. If I-- if I were an advisor, which of course, is never going to happen because they-- I mean, we should all be advisors. But they'd never ask us, and we'd never say yes.
But if we were, one of the things we would do is put in the kinds of advisors you're talking about, who understand this stuff, who stop them from actually putting their lances up. I mean, another thing that happened that was so funny, when my book was first published in 2015, my biography of Charles, and I quoted an unnamed source describing the palaces as being like Wolf Hall. And they immediately, all the aides, immediately bore that out by fighting with me and each other, you know, and sort of trying to stab each other behind the--
ROBERT JOBSON: The best way to think of them is like Wolf Hall, [INAUDIBLE] I think. I mean, I've done-- covered for 33 years, this beat, and I always think it always gets a bit messy. Dress them up in the "Madness of King George" outfits, and then you'll see exactly who's trying to do what because they're all gunning for their own position to get the ear of the King, and the King's bonkers anyway.
So it's quite interesting, the way it goes. You know? So I think that what you're-- what you're saying, though, is absolutely true, that I think the transparency issue is something that the King can address, should address, and needs to address immediately.
OMID SCOBIE: You worked closely with his aides and people around him as you wrote your latest biography on him. Do you get a sense that that is what's happening right now? Or is that just a wishful thinking?
ROBERT JOBSON: Wishful thinking.
OMID SCOBIE: All right. Well, with that in mind, we'll move on to our next topic, the press. The royal family's had a long and complicated and tempestuous relationship with the British media, but perhaps never before has there been such antagonism on display as a past three years. Most notable are Prince Harry's claims that negative stories about him were leaked by aides from other royal households in order to benefit members of the family higher up the line of succession.
Harry calls this the invisible contract, but now, these claims, which the Palace have still refused to comment on, are in the public domain, and the relationship between the press and the Royals is under the spotlight like never before. So, Robert, as the royal editor of the "Evening Standard" and a royal correspondent for over three decades, how would you describe the relationship between the press or a member of the Royal Rota that covers it and the Palace?
ROBERT JOBSON: Well, first of all, the Royal Rota is simply a way of getting some access. Before it used to-- when I started on "the Sun," we had the PA. It was [INAUDIBLE] the only people on that rota. Now, at least, they give access to some of the "Fleet Street" reporters, and those ones in the national newspapers will report somewhat boring information about what they're doing.
So all this stuff in Harry's book, where he's-- he's been overdramatized, I would say number one. And the rota involves photographers, too, that are simply there to take the picture, and then they-- they then pass that picture around to all the different places so that you haven't got 17 photographers inside a royal job.
It's slightly dull. It's not as dramatic or wonderful as it's been painted by Harry. It's boring, but basically, that's what they do.
So when you go and cover a job in Skegness of William and Kate in an ice cream parlor, you've only got one photographer, one reporter, and one radio man. That's it. That's basically it. But the way it was described by Harry was like something out of a fantasy shop.
The other thing, I would say, is that the relationship with the media, at the moment-- look, you know, when you've got a member of the royal family, and he [INAUDIBLE] suing every newspaper in town, it's not going to be-- it's not going to be a great relationship. And I think that that's damaging not only the relationship between the Sussexes and the newspapers, but also the Windsors and the newspapers because they're going to be in this game of polarization as well, where you've got a pantomime villain and a pantomime hero. And that's where we're at the moment. It's all a little bit-- if it wasn't so serious, it would be laughable.
OMID SCOBIE: There is, of course, Catherine, the side of royal reporting that is just the rota, but as we've spoken at large about today, it's also about briefings and that sort of on background information that comes from the Palace. A lot of the time, as we've seen, that's been about other members of the royal family rather than the ones that they're working for. So what Harry has described may have been sort of called overexaggerated by some members of the press. There is truth within that as well.
CATHERINE MAYER: There's a lot of truth in it. I mean, I-- yes, he got-- he got lots of sort of details about how the media works wrong. I didn't find that surprising at all because, again--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE] Windsor, yeah.
CATHERINE MAYER: People-- but it's not just the royals in that case. If you talk to celebrities who are relentlessly in the public eye, they often don't actually understand the media. They just suffer from it, which is a different thing.
On the other hand, he does know perfectly well that the hacking scandal started because they-- it was uncovered because of the hacking of royal phones of aides and, in fact, Prince William.
ROBERT JOBSON: And other journalists, including myself, yeah.
CATHERINE MAYER: And-- well, yes. I mean, it went-- but it went very broadly.
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE]
CATHERINE MAYER: Yes, but my point about that is the hacking scandal was the harbinger of something that we need to take into account here, which was an overall change and, in fact, decline in what's termed mainstream media. The mainstream media has been losing the economic model that sustained it and thrashing around, looking for alternatives. And some of those alternatives involved kind of grasping for the social media platforms that were undermining them, and the online world that was undermining them, and becoming more and more clickbaity.
ROBERT JOBSON: That is related to a point of time, though, isn't it, sort of 20-odd years ago because the media has changed a lot in that 20 years.
CATHERINE MAYER: Yes, so the point that--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE] date for him to make these legal claims because we're talking about-- their lost in time about 2001. Aren't they? They're not--
CATHERINE MAYER: Well, I don't--
OMID SCOBIE: A crime is a crime, and although [INAUDIBLE] techniques are different today. It's still a--
ROBERT JOBSON: The techniques are very different.
CATHERINE MAYER: I'm not-- I'm not trying to prejudge his cases, though I certainly understand why he's bringing them. What I'm talking about is, overall, the media environment has changed. And one of the things that I find really depressing is how bad-- I mean, rural reporting is a really tough job.
Most people don't understand how hard it is because of how limited access is. They think of it as a branch of show biz reporting or something. It isn't. It's really tough, but it has declined.
The standards of journalism across the board have declined. I'm not saying anything about anyone here present. I'm not pointing fingers. What I'm saying--
ROBERT JOBSON: I think they've improved.
CATHERINE MAYER: Oh god, I don't. I mean, you look at-- you look at--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE] the tabloid press in the '80s and '90s, come on, they were--
OMID SCOBIE: I think we've lost-- we've lost paparazzi culture. We've lost sort of stalking. We've seen [INAUDIBLE]--
CATHERINE MAYER: [INAUDIBLE]
OMID SCOBIE: And voicemail hacking is no longer technically possible.
CATHERINE MAYER: But you--
OMID SCOBIE: But I think that there are other practices that go on behind the scenes.
CATHERINE MAYER: But also, we haven't lost paparazzi culture. "The Daily Mail" derives a huge amount of its income still from the Sidebar of Shame, and it is absolutely still there. It's just that people get the photos on their phone, so paparazzis are less prevalent than they were.
But one of the other things is the broadsheets, the sort of so-called quality end of journalism, have actually become more like tabloids. Tabloids may have lifted, in your terms, in terms of what--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE]
CATHERINE MAYER: But there has been, I think, overall, not just a decline in journalism--
ROBERT JOBSON: There's been a dumbing down, too.
CATHERINE MAYER: There's been dumbing down, but polarization. We're back on that culture wars thing. And you know, it used to be that, if you were on-- you know, I was on "Time Magazine" for a very long time, and we had to attempt a kind of distanced appraisal of things.
You know, as a journalist, you saw your role. You probably didn't recognize your own via the prejudices you brought into things as well as you might have done. But you, nevertheless, attempted to judge things in a sort of analytical way, not in a personal way, whereas, like with royal reporting-- I mean, I was on a radio show the other day with somebody who's a royal biographer.
And she was going, I can't forgive Harry for this. It's like-- and I actually said to her, it's not your business to forgive him. You're supposed to be a bloody journalist.
ROBERT JOBSON: Quite right, yeah.
AFUA HAGAN: Yeah, yeah.
OMID SCOBIE: Absolutely. Afua--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE] should need that step back to appraise the situation. I can't forgive her-- who cares what you think?
CATHERINE MAYER: Yeah. I don't suppose he does.
ROBERT JOBSON: Well, I don't suppose--
AFUA HAGAN: Exactly, exactly.
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE]
OMID SCOBIE: Afua, we've seen Prince Harry launch sort of legal cases against "the Mirror Group," the publishers of "the Daily Mail, and "the Sun" for phone hacking cases going back into the past, but some as recently as 2016 in terms of illegal newsgathering practices. Now, one thing he's spoken about is some of the attempts that his family made to sort of stop him from taking those moves, ultimately, because they threatened the relationships that they had with the press. How important do you think that relationship is with the press for the royal family today? And do they need it still?
AFUA HAGAN: Oh, my goodness, they definitely still need it. They absolutely still need it because they want their-- they want positive stories about themselves to be out there to justify the palaces that they have, the coronation that everyone's just about to pay for. They want to be seen to be doing good things, going to foodbanks, doing charity work, Kate talking about her early years plan.
They need the press on their side to be able to deliver their good news, and they want their good news to be what people are talking about. But unfortunately, you know, like you so rightly said as well, a lot of the broadsheets have definitely gone into some dumbing down, whether it's stories about letters that were sent three years ago. I don't know why we're finding out about these things now.
Because, you know, as well as people in the Royal Rota going to these charitable events and covering things like the coronation. They do have to find their own stories. You know, and so it's really really important for the royal family to have positive press on their side to counteract all the other stories that will come out.
And it's really important that certain palaces have nice briefings and make sure that the nice pictures of them go out, that they are written about positively because then they'll be more popular with the public. And the royal family exists because of the people, so it's fundamental that they keep the press on their side, absolutely.
OMID SCOBIE: The newspaper business is obviously shrinking. Less people are buying print papers than ever before. Some might argue that the royal family are the oxygen keeping some of those papers alive. Now, if the royal family wanted to, they could take that away at any time. So why do you think they haven't tried to sort of find a different way to connect with the public that isn't through the pages of "the Daily Mail" or "the Mirror" or "the Telegraph?"
AFUA HAGAN: I mean--
CATHERINE MAYER: But they have tried social-- they've tried social media, and we all know how dangerous that is. But also, when you see-- I mean, it's really funny because, for years, I've advocated for the royals to talk directly and not be shielded. But then of course, you had Andrew's car crash interview, and that's probably--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE] when they talk directly to the-- they do it so badly.
CATHERINE MAYER: They do it very badly.
OMID SCOBIE: It's where all the mystique goes out the window.
ROBERT JOBSON: But reading this--
AFUA HAGAN: No, but [INAUDIBLE] media training--
CATHERINE MAYER: But I also think one of the-- one of the problems, and again, it links to the dumbing down, is this habit of covering the royals like a branch of show biz, which has intensified in the age of the crown and all the films about the royals. And actually, it's this enormous institution that takes tons of public money that has soft powers, that has actual sort of head of state duties and constitutional roles.
We should be scrutinizing it, and they should enable that scrutiny. And then you can start to detach that from the members of the family whose private lives should remain private unless they're Prince Andrew.
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE] I mean, the-- the fact is on that, as [INAUDIBLE] absolutely correct. But you know, we cannot separate, as some people like to do, the royal family from parliament and parliament from the royal family. We have a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. It is the system.
That is the system of government of this country. It has evolved over 1,000 years. It's evolved since, you know-- very much so since the interregnum.
But the bottom line is-- and the bottom line is, is there is government, and therefore, it needs to be more transparent. And what Catherine is saying, they need to take on board now because, otherwise, this sense of a secret society, which is what it seems to give the impression of, would not be tolerated if this was a Republic.
AFUA HAGAN: But unfortunately, as well, the royal family cannot be separated from show biz and gossip because there's so much--
ROBERT JOBSON: It should be.
AFUA HAGAN: It should be, but it can't be.
OMID SCOBIE: [INAUDIBLE]
ROBERT JOBSON: But that's what--
AFUA HAGAN: Exactly.
ROBERT JOBSON: I don't agree with that. I don't think that's true.
AFUA HAGAN: But the thing is, the dysfunctionality feeds into all of that. You talked about the crown, which is on, and then we have, you know, other things that are happening in their lives that are also playing out. I mean, Prince Andrew-- that story's a mess. Even what's happened with Harry and Meghan, it's a perfect Netflix six parter. And so it can't-- you can't help but have all these things happening within the royal family that people are genuinely going to be interested in, that is playing out in dysfunctional fashion--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE]
AFUA HAGAN: And that-- and that appeals to that kind of show biz side.
OMID SCOBIE: I think the difference between MPs and the royal family, though, is that, without the press and that global interest in their private lives, the sparkly outfits, what would the royals be?
CATHERINE MAYER: But the other difference is that the royals are born into their predicament. So you know, [INAUDIBLE] I've always felt we do need to be much more human towards them as members of the press, perhaps than people who seek public office, is that they are literally born into this strange world. They don't know how to navigate this world very well. They tend to get really bad advice.
And the reason I was emphasizing their entitlement to a private life, to a point, you-- absolutely, scrutiny of private lives is entirely justified when, as with Meghan and Harry, as with Andrew, when it becomes a genuine public interest matter. But nevertheless, there are still lines that you shouldn't cross, and it should not stop the institution being treated seriously as an institution. It's not show biz reporting in that sense. That's all I meant.
ROBERT JOBSON: Yeah, absolutely right.
OMID SCOBIE: Well, speaking of that family drama, it's safe to say that the royal family is currently fractured. In January, Prince Harry revealed that the issues with his father and brother remain unresolved, and reports that the King was too busy to see his youngest son during his recent visit to the UK show just how much of the Windsors family drama is still playing out in the public eye. Elsewhere, Prince Andrew's stock has fallen so low in recent years that, according to a recent Yahoo poll, 68% of Brits think he should never return to public life.
Royal scandals, of course, are nothing new. The late queen led the family through many of them, but was rarely, if ever, touched by them herself. Charles, on the other hand, must navigate this period of familial dysfunction while being intrinsically caught up in the very dramas he's trying to resolve. So, Afua, how worried should Charles be about the impact that this internal dysfunction could have on the long term stability of the monarchy itself?
AFUA HAGAN: Oh, he needs to be very worried about it. He needs to be very worried about Prince Andrew and everything that he's been involved in, and how that impacts the royal family.
He does need to be worried, as well, about how long this reconciliation may take between William and Harry, between himself and Harry, and how that impacts how people see the royal family because, if they continuously see them as this big [INAUDIBLE]-- dysfunctional, excuse me, Kardashian-like celebrity family, then people are going to continue to question why they are paying for them. Why are they paying for them to have all of these dramas playing out?
And I think, you know, if you've got a poll that says 68% of people don't want to see Prince Andrew return to public life, that's a prominent member of the royal family. You have to take that into consideration. And let's not forget, as well, there is quite a lot of people who are still not very happy to see Queen Camilla become Queen Camilla, who still have not forgotten the 90s and the War of the Waleses.
You know, that is still something that a lot of people do care about. The popularity that Queen Elizabeth II had is not going to automatically transfer to King Charles III for many reasons, and one of the reasons-- one of the reasons will be his relationship with Camilla, what happened with Princess Diana. That still plays out for a lot of people, and I think it's a lot more people than perhaps we realize.
So all these things together make for this dysfunctional family, and so he needs to be very worried about how the royal family is eating itself and destroying itself from the inside. If he wants the royal family to remain popular, then he's going to have to neutralize some of these things. I mean, you can't take away what happened in the 90s. You can undo all that, but make the family less dysfunctional going forward if you can.
I mean, I'm thinking about Charlotte and Louis and George and Archie and Lilibet, when they grow up, and they start dating, and we're going to start talking and writing about them, I hope it's not going to play out in the way that it did for Harry and Meghan.
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE] artificial intelligence, though.
AFUA HAGAN: Yeah.
OMID SCOBIE: We've heard so much about Harry and Meghan's experiences from their own mouths through the Netflix docuseries, through Harry's book. Alongside that, Harry has repeatedly said that he wants accountability. He wants apologies. He wants conversations with his family, and time and time again, he hasn't had that.
Robert, Charles's sort of inability to convene and command his own family is one thing, but how do you think that sort of reflects on his leadership skills? Because this is something that, I would say, he probably could have nipped in the bud much earlier.
ROBERT JOBSON: Well, I think it's all a question of trust, and trust takes time to build. Harry has shown no reason why they should trust him and speak to him without [INAUDIBLE] blurting to all his pals, and he's done it time and time again. So until they can actually come up with a trustworthy situation, I think it's going to be difficult.
The King, obviously, loves both his sons the same, and we want to try to build bridges. He's not somebody who likes confrontation, never has been, but unfortunately, both his sons are quite volatile and quite confrontational. I think, really, it's time, at this point in time, that maybe two 40-year-old men, rather than being regarded as boys, grew up, became men that face people that are-- you can't say men anymore, but they grew up a be an adult and a father, and now, they're fathers themselves.
Be more adult and support their father and show respect to their father at this time, and that doesn't mean blurting out every five minutes and complaining, but actually acting as royal dukes used to in the past, which is as a leige man to the monarch. And I think that's what they've got to do at this moment in time, and if they can't do that, then I do fear for the monarchy in the long term. I think both Afua and Catherine are very right in what they're saying.
We're on a-- we may not be on the ledge. We may not be on the edge of the precipice, but they're damned close to it. And I think, if Harry and, particularly, William now has got to take the lead and maybe extend his hand and say, OK, let's just agree to disagree. Otherwise, this story will become a Kardashian show biz story that runs and runs and runs and dominates the royal story for many years to come.
OMID SCOBIE: But, Catherine, shouldn't the lead be taken by the monarch? And let's be devil's advocate for a second and say Harry can't be trusted, and he will blurt everything out. Is there anything--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE]
OMID SCOBIE: Is there anything wrong in him and Charles making amends, and that being shared or leaked or whatever it is? If Charles took that step to sit down with his son and have that conversation, to give him the accountability that is clearly needed to be taken, then I think that would be a huge change in how people see the story around the royal family.
CATHERINE MAYER: Again, there's also the optics of it, you know, quite apart from what you think would be sensible. I was with some people recently who are actual friends of Charles and Camilla, and they were aghast. And they were going, you know, like, we understand that this is a difficult situation, but surely, as a father, you would just put your arms out.
And that's the way-- you know, if even people close to them see it that way, that's, again, the way that the wider world is seeing it. So all of us who know more about the arguments within the Palace and all the emnities that there are there, and Robert made a point about how angry-- I mean, I've not spent much time around Harry or William, a little more around William, and both of them struck me as angry in different ways back then, before any of this blew up.
You know, you could see Harry was somebody who would get that sort of pink flush coming up his neck when he didn't like something. Very-- you could see everything he was thinking, and William was just clenched.
ROBERT JOBSON: Yeah, Harry wears his heart on his sleeve. Doesn't he? Yeah, very [INAUDIBLE].
CATHERINE MAYER: But which is-- which is also more appealing to be around.
ROBERT JOBSON: I think so, yeah.
CATHERINE MAYER: But my point here is that this has been brewing up in a dysfunctional family. So to your question about Charles, Charles, again, "Spare" is good on-- because people were so quick to rubbish it, they sort of missed both its historical significance, but also some of the stuff. It was very good on the description of Charles sort of always there at night with his red boxes and his writing of memos and whatever. He has--
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE] his head. That was lovely [INAUDIBLE].
CATHERINE MAYER: Yeah, but he is-- he's a bit hapless and funny and hopeless in all sorts of ways, and eccentric, but he's also absent in-- for a huge reason. You know--
ROBERT JOBSON: There was that [INAUDIBLE] wasn't there, where Harry remembered one moment when he was playing with his dad. They rolled him up in the carpet and let them out. That was hilarious, but that was one moment.
CATHERINE MAYER: Exactly. So he's basically been-- you know, Charles himself was farmed out at a ludicrously young age. He had this upbringing devoid of decent parenting, and then of course, you know, it's that thing of it replicating.
So I don't think that there is an ability there, quite apart from all the other people who, for reasons we were talking about with AIDS and whatever, all the people with vested interests in there, who had a vested interest in sort of fighting different corners. You know, we also know that there were some really good people who were working with Meghan and Harry, and who were trying really hard to make it work.
So it's not that everybody did a bad job, but it's where-- we are where we are. And where we are is somewhere incredibly damaging, but where we also are is with an institution that has never been any good at dealing with any of this and with people who have no no idea how to deal with it.
AFUA HAGAN: Yeah.
OMID SCOBIE: Afua, we're obviously moments away from the coronation. We're going to see Prince Harry over here without Meghan, without Charles's grandchildren. What do you think the sort of visual impact of those missing figures will be on the day itself?
AFUA HAGAN: That's a really good question. You know, I think, if we have a moment where we see Prince Harry processing down with Westminster Abbey by himself, that will be very powerful. You know, and it really feeds into the title, "Spare."
You know, and actually, I feel for him. It probably will be quite lonely. You know, I hope that he'll be seated with his cousins and people that he knows and that he loves and that-- who love him as well. But I think it is very powerful that, you know, he's decided to make this journey without his family.
And I also think, you know, there's going to be a lot of newspaper editors that are going to be absolutely fuming that they don't have the opportunity to stare-- tear strips off Meghan Markle. They don't have the opportunity to talk about what she's wearing or not wearing, you know, to talk about if she used her left or her right leg first, you know, if she dared to roll down the window of a car or rolled it up.
Did she lean out? Did she not? Did she wave? Did she not? You know, it's going to be a lot of people that are very angry that they don't have the opportunity to do that, and I think that's a very--
CATHERINE MAYER: I wish that wasn't a real example, but that's--
AFUA HAGAN: But it actually is. You know, it's a thing that actually happened. You know, people wrote about her rolling down the window and waving out, and for some reason, that made her a brazen hussy. I still haven't managed to make that--
CATHERINE MAYER: Yeah, let's name and shame. That was Tom Bauer.
AFUA HAGAN: Yeah, and you know, it's just-- it's just absolutely ridiculous. It's a nonstory.
CATHERINE MAYER: That's not-- I mean--
AFUA HAGAN: It's not journalism. It's just bullying.
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE]
AFUA HAGAN: You know, and-- and you know, but these are the type of people that, you know, the royal family have to contend with. So I think it's very powerful that. You know, Prince Harry will be there by himself.
I think it will be hard for him, but like I said, I hope he is seated with people that he loves. But it makes a real statement that, also, they've decided just to remove some of the family from that element of-- I mean, you can only really call it bullying. Can't you?
But also, I think, you know, this is division of labor. It's division of parenting. How many of us have had occasions where you've got two things happening on the same day?
Dad goes here. Mom goes here. Mom's doing the party. Dad's doing the important occasion.
OMID SCOBIE: The challenge of every funeral, wedding, family get-together.
AFUA HAGAN: Exactly. Absolutely.
OMID SCOBIE: I think we can all agree on the devastating impact that Prince Andrew has had on the image of the monarchy. Now, that story sort of kind of faded now. I feel like it's been written out of the news cycle. However, this year, we, of course, see Virginia Giuffre begin work on her book. That supposed gag that is on her is lifted.
CATHERINE MAYER: Exactly.
OMID SCOBIE: Moments away from from the coronation, Robert, do you think the royal family are bracing themselves for more embarrassment from Prince Andrew? Because in the recent months, we've seen kind of a soft, soft hand towards him. He was alongside the King at the Easter Sunday church service. He's not as out of sight as, perhaps, I would imagine aides would like him to be.
ROBERT JOBSON: The best thing that Prince Andrew could do at the age of 60-odd is to get his golf clubs and go-- and just retire because-- and stop worrying about whether-- they've done a deal. They've done this deal. Whether it's right or wrong, I don't know. I don't agree with it. I think it should have been the full course of the law.
But as they both took that decision, then I think it's time for him to pack his bags and not have anything more to do with the royal family. He's the least popular member of the royal family, and he shouldn't really even be at the coronation, in my view. I think that he should just accept that his choice of friendship, a convicted pedophile, was unacceptable in the public--
CATHERINE MAYER: Two convicted pedophiles.
ROBERT JOBSON: Well, and a sex trafficker, I think she was named as.
OMID SCOBIE: Underaged sex trafficker.
ROBERT JOBSON: Yeah, [INAUDIBLE].
OMID SCOBIE: Splitting hairs here.
ROBERT JOBSON: No, no, but I mean, she wasn't convicted of pedophilia. She was convicted of sex trafficking. So all I would say is their friendship was unacceptable, and it's time for him to either go and fight the case legally and get it dealt with once and for all, or have nothing more to do with the royal family.
OMID SCOBIE: Catherine, should the royal family be--
CATHERINE MAYER: But can I pick up just on that one point as well? Because the thing about Andrew is, in that interview of his, he also didn't-- you know, he claimed to have not seen anything that was going on in the Epstein house. He basically-- he erased-- he erased the victims.
He then, in that settlement, gave this statement talking about, like, his sympathy for the victims, et cetera. He then, in trying to then brief about how he was actually innocent and all of that, has undone any attempt at an apology. So you know, you can't say that this is over, even if you think--
ROBERT JOBSON: No, no, no--
CATHERINE MAYER: Even if-- no, no, no, no.
ROBERT JOBSON: [INAUDIBLE] what should he do? I think that, unless they bring a case against him--
CATHERINE MAYER: It's not about what he does.
OMID SCOBIE: It's not about what he does.
CATHERINE MAYER: It's not about what he does. What I'm saying is, for the monarchy, you know, I mean, he's-- he is a profoundly otherworldly man. I traveled in China with him when he was the UK trade ambassador, and it was unintentionally full of huge laughs just because of the stuff that he'd say that you couldn't believe that he'd said.
And-- you know, but the point is that this is a really-- this has been so damaging. And what you saw was the institution giving-- giving credibility to people who then were able to exploit that credibility to the detriment of all of those victims and also giving shelter to one of its own members rather than turning him over or encouraging him to go to the law.
ROBERT JOBSON: What could they do?
CATHERINE MAYER: Yes, but--
ROBERT JOBSON: It's not been proven.
CATHERINE MAYER: My point--
ROBERT JOBSON: What can he do? What can the King do?
CATHERINE MAYER: They could've-- they've coud've-- they could have, a, discouraged any attempt to, what Ahmed called the soft hand, any attempt to rehabilitate him. And b, they could have encouraged him to answer to-- as you say, to the--
ROBERT JOBSON: I think that should have been done immediately, yeah.
CATHERINE MAYER: Well, and it's still-- he still could do, but there is no-- absolutely no return to public life for him. But another thing is, we shouldn't ignore the scandals of Charles's own making. You know, when we're talking about the crises ahead, you know, it's his misfortune that the point of accession coincides with this point of incredible economic turbulence, of people not knowing whether they can heat or eat, and therefore, a lot more, you know, sort of sensitivity to high public spending.
But that doesn't get away from the fact that, you know, for the-- there are lots of reasons for why Charles has spent his life as Prince of Wales on this huge fundraiser, but the fundraising was incautious at best. And you know, you've had stories coming out about cash in carrier bags and all of that.
I went to dinner with him back in 2013. I think I'm probably the only journalist ever to have been to one of his private dinners, where he was small group of people, 24. It was him and Camilla and a number of aides, including Michael Fawcett, around the table, and then a bunch of ultra wealthy people that he was trying to fundraise for.
There are very few modern fortunes that really bear that much close scrutiny. You know, you have only to look at what happened with the opioid crisis and what that meant for, you know, funding and all the money that was coming there from a company right at the heart of it.
And so it is a dangerous thing to fundraise. It's a difficult thing to do, and you have to be really careful. And he has not been really careful. And it means that, although he did a lot of that for very good reasons, there are potentially big scandals that will brew up with him.
So I think you cannot rule out that there will be more stories about that. There will be more stories about Andrew because, you know, there may well be-- or about Epstein, certainly. And we know that the Meghan and Harry story hasn't finished, so it's just this picture not of a smooth transition, but just of one crisis after another.
OMID SCOBIE: Afua, quick question before we go. Catherine listed a litany of potential crises that are up ahead. We've seen how the royal family shouldn't have handled things in the past. Looking forward, what do you think is the secret to sort of navigating potentially rough seas?
AFUA HAGAN: Modernizing. The royal family really needs to get a handle on being able to move with the times. You know, one of the things I believe Meghan Markle wanted to do was be able to work with charities that she chose, and you know, Harry and Meghan also had that plan of potentially living in one of the Commonwealth countries, perhaps, and doing work out there. But they were told that wasn't an option. Why couldn't it be an option?
Modernize. You know, go with the different things that people in the family can do, and it can be beneficial, and that comes from having younger people around you, having younger aides around you who can advise you better. They need to be able to modernize to navigate those rough seas and to navigate any relationships that will come in the future.
You know, I talked about Charlotte, George, and Louis, and Lilibet and Archie, and any of the other of the royal children, whoever they decide today, or who comes into Planet Windsor, as Catherine calls it, they might want to do something different. Different doesn't necessarily mean bad, but the royal family has to modernize, and modernize quickly, to deal with what's coming.
OMID SCOBIE: Well, it's time for us to take off from Planet Windsor, but as the monarchy starts a new chapter under King Charles's stewardship, only time will tell if some of the issues facing the monarchy will be resolved, and whether he'll manage to secure the future of the institution itself. In the meantime, thank you to our panelists, Catherine Mayer, Afua Hagan, Robert Jobson, and thank you for joining us.