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September 12, 2022updated 07 Oct 2022 7:15am

The Queen maintained good media relations but fought to protect privacy

By Dominic Ponsford

The Queen maintained a good relationship with the media, and provided tangible support for ordinary journalists.

But she was ready to fight to maintain the privacy of herself and close family members when required.

In 1983 The Sun paid $6,200 to the Newspaper Press Fund (now the Journalists’ Charity) as part of an out-of-court settlement after the Queen sued for breach of privacy over an article alleging Prince Andrew and then girlfriend Koo Stark spent nights together at the palace.

The Sun’s source was a royal servant and the principle that those who work for the Queen should stick to the confidentiality clauses in their contracts was a principle she was ready to go to court over.

In 1988, The Sun paid more than $180,000 in an out-of-court settlement after lawyers for the Queen took action for breach of copyright over publication of a photograph featuring the Duchess of York and her new daughter, Princess Beatrice, planned for the royal family’s Christmas card.

In 1993 The Sun paid £200,000 to charity in an out-of-court settlement after again being sued by the Queen for breach of copyright, this time for publishing a leaked text of her Christmas broadcast two days early.

In 2003 Daily Mirror journalist Ryan Parry secured a job as a royal footman to reveal the inner goings on at Buckingham Palace. He was following a well-tried tabloid strategy to expose security flaws by going undercover.

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But then-editor Piers Morgan also used the access to reveal pages of extra detail about the private lives of The Queen and other royals, including the fact she kept cereal in tupperware containers and listened to Radio 2.

This was another occasion when The Queen took legal action against the press on her own behalf, swiftly securing an injunction for breach of privacy to prevent further disclosures.

In 2013 the Royal household sought to protect the privacy of royals by urging the media not to publish pictures of royals outside their official duties. This followed Prince Harry being photographed inside Nandos in pictures published by Mail Online and the Mirror.

The Queen’s legal disputes with The Sun did not stop her maintaining cordial relations with its long serving royal photographer Arthur Edwards.

In 2015 Edwards reflected on his dealings with the Royals in an interview.

He said Charles was his favourite Royal and of The Queen he said: “On the very few occasions that she’s spoken to me I think she calls me Mr Edwards. When she gave me my MBE she said to me: ‘I can’t believe I’m giving you this.’

“And then she said: ‘How long have you been coming to Buckingham Palace to photograph me?’ And that was a few years ago I got the MBE, I said: ’27 years, ma’am’. She said: ‘Well let’s have our photograph taken together.’ Which I thought was very nice.”

Behind the scenes The Queen supported ordinary journalists via her position as patron of the Journalists’ Charity. It is a role she held from her coronation in 1953 to her death last Thursday at the age of 96.

In 2014 The Queen (and Prince Philip) accepted an invitation from the charity to attend a reception (pictured) at Stationers’ Hall to mark its 150th birthday. Senior journalists from across the industry attended the event, including Daily Mail owner Lord Rothermere and then Culture Secretary Sajid Javid.

Former chair of the Journalists’ Charity Laurie Upshon wrote about The Queen’s association with the charity on its website.

He said: “During my career I had attended several royal events and always wondered how to talk to the Queen if you met face to face – and how does she carry out that role with a smile on her face, shaking hands and being polite to hundreds of people day after day, year after year.

“I found out. She was an absolute professional. It was her life, her duty, her vocation, too.

“I spent about an hour with her, introducing her to journalists from newspapers, television, radio and online and of all ages from those at the peak of their careers to those just taking their first steps. Throughout she was charming with a keen sense of humour.

“The Queen wasn’t just a figurehead patron, keen to learn the problems facing the charity in modern times. She wanted to know how journalists worked in a frenetic world of instant news, feeding many masters and outlets in this fragmented multimedia age.

“She wanted to know about training and, in particular, she was surprised to learn from the NCTJ’s Joanne Butcher that shorthand was still being taught as an essential skill for journalists. She engaged with the young journalists we had invited. Many there will remember the day for the rest of their lives.”

Having The Queen as patron made a tangible difference for the charity, he said: “I have been involved with the charity for many years now and have always thought that raising money for journalists was very much like passing the hat round for bankers, estate agents, MPs or lawyers. The difference, of course, was that the Queen was OUR patron – and what a difference that made.

“On behalf of all the charity’s trustees, staff and supporters, I’d like to express our heartfelt condolences to Her Late Majesty’s family, and to His Majesty King Charles III.”

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