‘Press office did not lie to the media’ – Royal insider disputes Harry’s comms claims

A former member of the Royal Household’s press office has hit back at Prince Harry’s depiction of a Royal comms operation that has repeatedly lied and orchestrated cover-ups.

Buckingham Palace (Credit: Getty Images)

Many current and former Royal comms staff have been unwilling to comment publicly on Prince Harry’s autobiography, and Buckingham Palace has yet to deviate from the ‘no comment’ stance it has adopted.

However, one former staffer has broken ranks and agreed to speak to PRWeek under condition of anonymity.

They rejected the prince’s claims that the press office lied to the media on a number of occasions.

In my time in the Royal Household, the press office did not lie to the media. Most people working in our business know that lying to journalists is not just wrong, but plain stupid.”

They added: “Lying unravels when the truth inevitably gets out, and it erodes the trust that is essential to good communications and to maintaining an effective working relationship with the media.

One of the examples of cover-ups cited by the prince was in the comms around an injury he suffered during a secret training exercise with the Special Boat Service. The palace press office told the media it was the result of a rugby injury, according to the prince.

However, the source told PRWeek that the press office “published a detailed statement explaining that Harry had originally injured his knee when he fell down some stairs during training.

They said: “The press office did not explain that this happened during training with the SBS because it was standard policy not to comment on the activities of Special Forces.

The source added: The press office also said that the knee injury had been subsequently aggravated while coaching rugby, which was what the press office was told at the time and which I believe was true.

Prince Harry’s autobiography, Spare, also portrays a royal comms operation where leaks were commonplace and members of his family and palace staff were complicit in media attacks on him and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.

But the former member of the Royal Household’s press office stated: “We did not leak to the media, both as a matter of principle, but also because it is not a smart tactic – it almost always backfires on you and it breeds mistrust and internal division.

They also disagreed with the prince’s description of the Royal Rota system as being out of date, discouraging fair competition and engendering cronyism.

The system is “the most sensible way to allow the media to do their job effectively and to manage access to official engagements when there is always going to be more demand for access than there is supply of spaces available”.

They added: “It is an efficient, self-regulated pooling system organised by the media themselves, and by and large it works very effectively.

In response to Prince Harry’s claims that there’s a “sick relationship” between the press and the Palace, the former staffer said: “It was always the responsibility of the press office to maintain a working relationship with the media. Without one, the press office cannot fulfil its public obligation to allow journalists to report on the work that a publicly-funded institution undertakes on behalf of the country.

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