By all accounts Mark Bolland, assistant private secretary to Prince
Charles, is clever, shrewd and a master of diplomacy. But he is also
something of an enigma.
From a Middlesbrough comprehensive he has risen, quickly but quietly,
through a series of increasingly high-flying jobs. But apparently with
none of the brash, naked ambition you might expect from one who has
climbed so high. Former colleagues describe him as ’a bit of a thinker
and and very cautious, particularly about anything to do with
The few personal details that have emerged are of a fairly normal
bachelor of 30. He is said to be something of a Dr Who fan; likes cats,
political biographies and eating out. But while most graduates of his
age are just getting into their stride Bolland has hit the jackpot. He
joined the Palace last August and, if the headlines over the last few
weeks are to be believed, will be a prime mover in the latest bid by HRH
to project a more sympathetic image.
In fact the truth may be rather more prosaic.The Prince’s press
secretary Sandy Henney is quick to rebut any claims of yet another media
’relaunch’ of the Prince and says Bolland’s exact role is evolving as
Stephen Lamport, Charles’ newly-arrived private secretary, reviews his
portfolio and reassigns duties.
Bolland will, says Henney, be: ’exceptionally useful to Charles’s staff
because of his knowledge and contacts’, but as a communications adviser
rather than a PR man.
Indeed a behind the scenes role would seem to be much more suited to
Bolland’s character. ’He’s a fixer not a PR man,’ says a friend from the
world of public affairs.
Bolland went straight into a career in public affairs after graduating
from York University, first with a Canadian PR consultancy and then into
marketing with IBM in the UK. It would be fair to say that until this
point his career was fairly undistinguished. But by the time he joined
the Advertising Standards Authority in 1988 his potential was becoming
apparent to his bosses. According to Caroline Crawford, now director of
communications for the ASA: ’He clearly had the ability to succeed in
Crawford highlights the political awareness for which he is well known
and which was put to good use as adviser to the ASA’s director general,
Lord McGregor. So much so that Bolland followed Lord McGregor to the
Press Complaints Commission when he became its chairman. Subsequently,
aged just 26, he became the director of the PCC.
One seasoned media correspondent commented: ’He has sharp political
antennae and this incredible nous to realise what is going to run and be
embarrassing and what is going to go wrong. He developed that skill at
It was, apparently, McGregor’s successor Lord Wakeham who pulled a few
strings and recommended Bolland as a press aide to the Prince. Many will
not envy him such a demanding role but as one friend says ’he likes
being at the centre of things’.
His maturity belies his years - as one journalist observed: ’For someone
aged 30 he has the sophistication of a 50-year-old.’ Crawford says that
even when she knew him in his early twenties, ’he never conveyed the
impression of being young.’ But far from being a young fogey she says:
’He had a mature and sensible approach to work.’
Industry sources suggest that he will take a fairly innovative approach
to the job of presenting Charles in a better light.
He is certainly no stranger to Royal affairs and it has been rumoured
that he warned Diana’s advisers against the Panorama interview. But, as
one Royal PR adviser points out, the idea that Bolland is telling the
Prince what to do is more media invention than reality. ’He (Charles)
doesn’t even like PR people,’ he says.
1987: Adviser to director general of the ASA
1988: Executive assistant to chairman of PCC
1992: Director of PCC
1996: Assistant private secretary to Prince Charles.