Royal News

Prince Charles’ ‘huge fundamental PR mistake’ in controversial documentary exposed

Charles has been the subject of many documentaries over the years, as Britain anticipates his ascension to the throne one day. BBC One released a documentary for his last milestone birthday in 2018, called ‘Prince, Son and Heir: Charles at 70′, which provided some insight into his work and family life. However, not all programmes on the heir to the throne have been so successful.

In 1994, a documentary was released called ‘Prince Charles — The Private Man, The Public Role’ where the heir was interviewed by broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby.

After tapes of his intimate conversations with his then mistress Camilla Parker Bowles had been leaked the previous year, Charles was trying to repair his reputation.

The publication of Andrew Morton’s bombshell book, ‘Diana — Her True Story’, in 1992 also helped turn public opinion against the Prince of Wales, so Charles’ inner circle decided that he needed to drum up some support from the public.

Writing in his 2007 biography, ‘Charles — The Man who will be King’, commentator Howard Hodgson explained: “They believed that if the nation could see the prince at work and at play, they would see the man they all loved and respected.

“They would witness his compassion, dedication and kindness at work, and they would see what a decent dad he was at home and how his kids really loved him.”

However, there was division among his closest confidants — not all were certain that such a documentary was a good idea.

Mr Hodgson continued: “They approached the Prince, who initially wasn’t at all sure — he was by now extremely cautious about having anything to do with the media.”

His friend Max Hastings also advised against such a programme.

He later recalled: “I said, ‘But this is a fundamental huge mistake at the heart of your thinking — that this is a sort of public war which can be waged by public relations means’.”

He was referring to Charles pushing back against Diana’s allegations from Mr Morton’s book.

Still, Charles was persuaded by other members of his team.

He went ahead with the documentary and allowed Mr Dimbleby to have 18 months of access to his household.

It was expected to be a “serious and respectable programme” which aimed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Charles’ becoming the Prince of Wales, according to Mr Hodgson.

The biographer also explained that it was meant to have “no ulterior motive and would attempt nothing more than to show what Charles did and why he did it”.

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Mr Dimbleby later reported: “The one thing that the Prince implored me to do, the only thing, was that I should do nothing to hurt the Princess, whatever I might hear from those of his friends who might be indiscreet enough, despite his injunctions to them that they would cease to be his friends if they spoke poorly of the Princess.”

However, many expected the documentary to be heavily controlled by Charles, just as Mr Morton’s book was written with Diana’s tacit approval and generous input.

Fourteen million viewers watched the programme when it aired.

Mr Dimbeley asked one crucial question about Charles’ relationship with Camilla, as the outrageous Camillagate tapes had been leaked just the previous year.

Mr Hodgson commented: “The Prince told the truth — in light of Camillagate he could hardly have done anything else — when he explained that he had committed adultery once he had been certain that his marriage had ‘irretrievably broken down’.”

His confession became the main takeaway from the documentary for the public, and left him battling with a wave of negative press.

Indeed, many believed his interview only encouraged royal fans to side again with Diana and believe Mr Morton’s account.

The biographer added that Charles had “never talked about his domestic arrangements before” so a “throwaway answer” on national TV was “clearly not a good place to start”.

Howard Hodgson’s 2007 biography, ‘Charles — The man who will be King’, was published by John Blake and is available here.

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