Queen: Expert recalls ‘communication break down’ in 1982
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The Royal Family has been scrambling to revive its reputation in the wake of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s damning interview with Oprah Winfrey. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex made a series of serious allegations against individual royals and the Palace as a whole throughout the tell-all. After the couple raised concerns about how it addresses race and mental health, many fear that the Royal Family’s international reputation is severely tarnished.
The Palace released a statement acknowledging the couple’s claims, but adding that “recollections may vary” and that the issues will “be addressed by the family privately”.
Even so, many critics are calling for substantial change in the very structure of the monarchy to tackle the issues the Sussexes raised — and the Queen is allegedly considering a diversity drive as a result.
The Mail on Sunday reported on Saturday that the Queen was going to appoint a diversity tasar in an effort to modernise the monarchy.
A royal source told the newspaper: “We can always improve. We are not afraid to look at new ways of approaching it.
“The work to do this has been underway for some time now and comes with the full support of the family.”
This is also not the first time the Queen has taken widespread criticism on board, before imposing significant change behind the scenes.
Almost 30 years ago, the Queen faced another crisis for the Royal Family’s reputation after Princess Diana leaked details of her miserable Palace life to the biographer Andrew Morton.
She and Charles had also split up, while Prince Andrew’s estranged wife Sarah Ferguson had been caught up in the infamous “toe-sucking scandal”.
Princess Anne divorced her first husband Mark Phillips, too, and a fire destroyed 100 rooms at Windsor Castle all in the same year.
The Queen noted in her Christmas speech that year, “1992 is not a year upon which I should look back with undiluted pleasure”, and confirmed it “has turned out to be an annus horribilis”.
Her solution was to create the “Way Ahead group”, led by her press secretary Charles Anson.
The team, made up of senior royals and their closest advisors, aimed to “make sure the monarchy remained relevant in modern society”, according to Mr Anson.
Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 programme, ‘Witness History’, he said: “The Way Ahead group influenced all sorts of things.
“Garden parties, you know, just making sure you’ve got a wider and wider spread of people coming to them and people, who have done modest but very good things in their local area, come to attention and are very much included.”
He told the BBC: “It was a moment to see what the monarchy meant.
“In those terms, the work that was done in the Nineties during the troubled years, those sort of feelings just came out of the ashes.”
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Podcast host Lucy Burns explained: “They started looking at a map of the Royal Family’s engagements, and started thinking about which parts of the country or which parts of the community, weren’t getting enough attention.”
The Way Ahead group would meet two or three times a year at a range of royal residences.
Mr Anson said there was no “pushback” from within the Royal Family, as they realised it was important to keep up with modern society.
He added: “At the worst of times, [the Queen] was always calm no matter how difficult the issue may be.”
Indeed, the Queen herself previously noted: “This sort of questioning can also act as an effective engine for change.”
In the wake of Prince Andrew’s early retirement in 2019 followed by Meghan and Harry’s shock announcement they were stepping down in January 2020, many predicted that the Queen already had another “annus horribilis” on her hands.
But, fresh fears were raised after the Sussexes’ latest interview, and many speculate that this war of the words will continue to escalate over the coming months.
Royal biographer Omid Scobie claimed this week that all of the goodwill work the royals do will be overshadowed by the Oprah tell-all for the foreseeable future.
He said: “I think that what the royals will find out over time is that no matter what it is they’re doing, the conversation will always somehow come back to the things we learnt at the Oprah interview.
“I don’t think you can kind of hope that something like this will go away.”
It seems that changing the workings of the Palace machinery received fresh impetus after the Sussexes’ claims and there are hopes that reform will soon follow.
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