HAPPY, the news was good. After a night in a London hospital for what Buckingham Palace described as ‘preliminary investigations’, the Queen was allowed to recuperate at home at Windsor Castle.
As is customary in royal medical bulletins, the palace statement was scant on detail, with no information at all about the nature of the complaint that necessitated her admission to the private King Edward VII’s Hospital in the first place.
Officials have always tried to balance the privacy of the monarch in matters of her health with the right for the public to know about our 95-year old constitutional head of state’s wellbeing.
But by claiming that the Queen was resting at Windsor – a detail instantly relayed to TV viewers, radio listeners and newspaper and news website readers – when in fact she was in hospital, suggests that the thinking of royal officials was not just muddled but dishonest.
HAPPY, the news was good. After a night in a London hospital for what Buckingham Palace described as ‘preliminary investigations’, the Queen was allowed to recuperate at home at Windsor Castle
As is customary in royal medical bulletins, the palace statement was scant on detail, with no information at all about the nature of the complaint that necessitated her admission to the private King Edward VII’s Hospital in the first place
No wonder it provoked a howl of protest at how the palace was managing the particulars of the Queen’s current condition.
Yesterday’s commentators waited in line to ask the palace about its approach.
Even Nicholas Witchell, veteran royal correspondent of the BBC and one of the Corporation’s most respected voices, was moved to observe: ‘We weren’t given the complete picture.’
Witchell added: ‘The problem, it seems to me, is that rumour and misinformation always thrives in the absence of proper, accurate and trustworthy information.’
The Queen at a reception at the Global Investment Summit in Windsor Castle on October 19, 2021
It is understood that Wednesday’s trip to London’s King Edward VII’s Hospital (pictured above) was for a brief visit for some ‘preliminary investigation’
It is clear the palace wanted to protect the Queen’s right to patient confidentiality.
It also didn’t want to create a frenzy with TV cameras and photographers squatting outside the hospital, with all the inconveniences and intrusions to the staff’s comings and goings.
There may have been security concerns.
It is dangerous to not tell the whole story. It recalls the similarly misleading communications put out by royal officials at the time of the birth of Prince Harry and Meghan’s son Archie two years ago, when a statement that the Duchess of Sussex had gone into labour was circulated eight hours after she had actually given birth.
Many will doubtless say that the palace was right to protect the Queen from the inevitable publicity rush and that the ensuing argument, while petty and inconsequential, is a valid opinion.
But I believe the issue is one of trust. Anything less than truthful will erode that trust.
The Queen (right with Boris Johnson), at a reception for Global Investment Summit in Windsor Castle on October 19, 2021
If the media – and therefore the public – cannot rely on the Royal Household to be straightforward, there will be increased concern about the Queen’s health going forward.
When Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital with Covid-19 last year, the media was rightly briefed about the Prime Minister’s condition.
The palace didn’t consider that there were potentially dozens upon dozens of staff members at Windsor Castle and the hospital that would have known that reports broadcast by the BBC or elsewhere were false.
One of the reasons that Prince Philip stepped back from royal duties at the age of 96 was because he didn’t want the palace putting out regular bulletins about the state of his health if he didn’t feel up to doing an engagement on a particular day.
He found the whole brouhaha that went with updates about his wellbeing a ‘bloody intrusion’. The Queen, as head of state and monarch, does not have this option.
She has enjoyed extraordinary health during her seven decades on the throne. But, as she gets older, the Queen is susceptible to illness. Last week, she was photographed using a walking sticks for the first time in public.
Her daughter, unlike the Queen Mother, who refused to wear glasses and was never seen, has accepted the inevitable aging process gracefully. She stopped dying her hair at 64 and let it go grey. It is now white.
The Queen arrives to attend the opening ceremony of the sixth Senedd in Cardiff, Wales, on October 14, 2021
While there will always be alarm when the Queen is admitted into hospital, I believe that the public would be more concerned if they were not informed of the truth.
Last year, questions were raised when it was claimed that Prince William had contracted Covid-19 while he was Prince of Wales. It was only for William to confirm that he had actually contracted the illness a few months later by Royal officials.
While privacy arguments can be used to protect other members of Royal Family, they must be carefully considered when it comes down to the monarch.
Twenty-two years ago, Prince Andrew – in an unguarded moment – suggested that Buckingham Palace had been lying to the media for years.
At a reception for journalists he said: ‘You [the Press] cannot believe you are being told the truth, because for the last 20 years you probably haven’t.’ Comparing the palace machine to the Soviet-era regime, Andrew said: ‘It was like Russia.’
Anyone who has covered the Charles and Diana marital saga as I did for this newspaper will be able to recall the many denials made by smooth-talking royal apparatchiks. There were also many stories that turned up to be true.
No one is suggesting that the modern palace is returning to these ancient practices. Furthermore, the health of the monarch is more important than the tittle-tattle regarding the Prince and Princess Of Wales.
There is a sacred trust between our Queen of the Anointed and her people.
It doesn’t matter how well-intentioned it may be, but it shouldn’t be compromised by half-truths or evasions.