BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell will retire next year after 47 years at the broadcaster.
The BBC’s director of news content Richard Burgess told news and current affairs staff by email on Tuesday morning that Witchell will depart “in the early part of next year”.
“There will be plenty of opportunities to say goodbye,” Burgess wrote, “but please do join me in thanking him for his remarkable service and loyalty to BBC News and wishing him the best of luck for the future.”
Joining the BBC through its news training scheme in 1976, Witchell has served in posts including Ireland correspondent and diplomatic correspondent. In 1984 Witchell was the first co-presenter of The Six O’Clock News, alongside Sue Lawley, and in 1989 he fronted the newly-launched BBC Breakfast News with the late Jill Dando.
Witchell was also the “main TV reporter at the Ministry of Defence” in 1982 during the Falklands War, Burgess said, reporting the loss of HMS Sheffield and the visit to the islands by Margaret Thatcher, and “one of the first journalists to learn of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales” in 1997. He became royal correspondent in 1998, “after a bit of arm twisting”.
Witchell’s tenure as royal correspondent included a notable 2005 incident at a photo call in Switzerland in which he called across to King Charles III, then Prince of Wales, to ask how he and his sons felt about his upcoming wedding to Camilla Parker-Bowles (now the Queen).
The King responded: “Well, it’s a nice thought. I am very glad you have heard of it anyway,” before saying under his breath to his sons: “These bloody people. I can’t bear that man. I mean, he’s so awful, he really is.”
Witchell said of his retirement in Burgess’ email: “I am 70 years old. I’ve done 47 years of continuous service. It’s time I shoved off to focus on other things. It has been a huge privilege for nearly half a century to work for simply the best news broadcaster in the world alongside some of the very finest producers, camera operators, editors and others.
“I hope Britain realises what it has in the BBC and cherishes it.”
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