Time for William to get a real job

First we learn that Kate Middleton has refused a VIP upgrade on her holiday flight to the Caribbean to be with Prince William. Then, within hours, the news breaks that her royal suitor will be seconded to the SAS for the next part of his military career.

A coincidence thrown up by the start of the silly season? Or a gently orchestrated PR strategy aimed at countering negativity around this royal romance? Either way, it is difficult to read one story in isolation from the other. ‘Waitey Katie’ is increasingly attracting media flak for doing nothing but waiting for the royal engagement ring. Suggestions of an impending job in fashion or a role at her parents’ mail order party business seem to be contradicted by a constant stream of party and travel photos.

So the story of an ordinary girl turning down a first-class flight might appear, at first glance, a useful counter-balance. Except that the idea is preposterous. No ‘ordinary middle class girl’ would dream of turning down such an offer. Upon a moment’s reflection, it becomes obvious that the only conceivable reason for such a course of action is to create the story itself. Thus its value as image construction – if that is what it was intended to be – is destroyed by its own transparency.

For William, the problems of so rigorously PR-ing his series of non-jobs with the armed forces are far more profound. While no-one doubts his sincerity, decency or patriotism, there are those who feel it is unforgivable for him to be masquerading as an officer in the forces, while his fellow officers are dying in Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile, the royal image-makers are spinning jolly tales involving William watching drug smugglers being seized at sea. Now he has a sort of virtual role with the SAS. Of course, as future Commander in Chief of the armed services, he needs to be aware of the current role and history of the British military. But is it time for advisers to suggest that a real job in industry or commerce might have more resonance with an audience of future subjects? It might just be better PR than effectively commanding a desk while his presumed fiancée waits prettily doing very little.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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