Royal relations go public

Despite a poor nuptial track record, the union of young Windsor to Miss Public Relations should benefit all parties – or will it?

If, as now seems certain, Sophie Rhys-Jones marries Prince Edward, the event will mark a significant milestone in the history of public relations.

When a relatively young industry finds among its ranks a royal princess, it has arrived.

Not so long ago, it would have been said that Sophie had been received into the very centre of polite society but, as we all know to our infinite sadness, the Royal Family is among the most rancorous in the land.

Nevertheless, when Sophie slips on that ring, public relations will have slid effortlessly into the pages of Debrett’s which, when you cast your mind back to the huckstering days of gin and tonic man, is an achievement that ranks alongside the elevation of marauding pirates such as Drake.

There is, of course, an element of chance in all this. Now that royal princes are free to cast their eye across a wider field than the daughters of gentlefolk, anyone in the country might fall lucky.

Instead of marking the arrival of public relations, next year’s wedding could, for example, have seen the rise to royal prominence of the weather girl.

Princess Diana’s marriage does not count, in more ways than one. As Lady Diana Spencer, she was the daughter of an Earl and therefore chosen in a past tradition. Had she been a commoner, there would by now be an Honourable Company of Child Minders.

Apart from the beneficial implications for public relations, the impending nuptials are laden with ill-portents. I am perhaps among the few to recall that in 1963, a 60ft Denby Dale pie dish made to celebrate the impending birth of Prince Edward sank on the Aire and Calder canal.

It did not require a soothsayer of Ancient Roman wisdom to sense in that accident the unseen hand of malign fate.

Apart from balding prematurely, Prince Edward seems to have survived the pre-natal warning quite well. He wisely left the Royal Marines – where, as we have since learned, his comrades were wont to fill not only his tunic but every one of his bodily orifices with wet mud.

He then joined the theatrical world, where the custom is to fill one with nothing worse than gushing insincerity. True, the Royal It’s a Knockout was his creation but, compared with subsequent royal indiscretions, it was a mere lapse.

There is another cause for concern. Miss Rhys-Jones will be the second person of Welsh origin with a double-barrelled surname to make the fateful excursion into a royal wedding.

Let us hope that her union fares better than that of her predecessor Anthony Armstrong-Jones, now Lord Snowdon, who took on the fearsome Princess Margaret and was forced to retire hurt from the marriage after several bruising rounds.

There is yet another coincidence. Whereas Miss Rhys-Jones is a practitioner of public relations, Lord Snowdon is a devotee of another of the fashionable newer professions, namely photography.

If the trend continues, Prince William will in due course plight his troth to a poodle clipper.

Of course, there are those of a stuffy disposition who will declare that it is this very process of dalliances with ordinary folk that lies at the heart of the Royal Family’s current malaise.

Prince Andrew’s liaison with a former chalet girl and freeloader was, with the benefit of hindsight, unwise. Similarly, given her robust nature, Princess Anne ought not to have set her sights lower than a brigadier, though we should be grateful that she was prepared to give it a go with a captain.

Much has been made of the fact that the Royal Family’s difficulties, marital and otherwise, stem from bad advice.

Here the omens for Prince Edward’s forthcoming wedlock ought to be promising, not only for the young man himself but for the entire family. What better turn of fate could there be than that the House of Windsor should at last claim as one of its own a genuine public relations expert?

Sadly, however, it would seem that once again The Firm has got it wrong. Instead of listening to Sophie, who has the accumulated wisdom of a thousand press conferences and product launches, the Royal Family presumes to instruct her. Seldom can there have been a more vivid instance of the blind leading the sighted.

According to one report, the “grooming of Sophie” included a tip from the Palace on how to deal with photographers. “If they turn up at your home, send them out a cup of tea,” it said. “Do not become familiar or on first name terms.”

I doubt that Her Majesty, bless her, could make a cup of tea. True, as a Princess in the dark days of war, she was photographed tinkering under a car bonnet, a picture designed to suggest a practical contribution to the Allied war effort.

Since then, however, the only sight we have had of her actually doing anything, other than opening Parliament and such-like, was the self-conscious barbecuing of a sausage in that fateful television documentary that first shed light on the mystery of monarchy and caused it to wither and fade.

As Sophie knows, giving cups of tea to the paparazzi would just as surely destroy the mystery of public relations.


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