Harry And Wills expose royals’ dirty secret
THERE are a lot of misconceptions about the royal family.
That everyone gets a tiara - sadly only married women do and they don't get to keep them. That the Queen is a sour puss - she is by all accounts very droll. And, that at all times they behave with genteel propriety and play by the rules.
If there is one thing that this week has proven it is that last point is a furphy as evidenced by the media skirmish currently playing out in London.
Here's how things have gone down.
In the wake of the broadcast of Harry and Meghan's explosive documentary earlier this week, "a source close to William" told The Times he was worried about Harry after the royal couple revealed the toll public scrutiny and media attention was having on their mental health.
Later, a Kensington Palace source told the BBC that William felt the Sussexes were "in a fragile place".
Then yesterday, a source close to the Sussexes told CNN that "the institution around the British royal family is full of people afraid of and inexperienced at how to best help harness and deploy the value of the royal couple who, they said, have single-handedly modernised the monarchy".
Another "source close to Harry" told The Sun: "Harry is back at Frogmore Cottage and has never been stronger. This is an institution full of people panicked they may potentially look out of touch and ultimately to blame for a lack of support."
All of which reads like a tit-for-tat media volley with sources lobbing quotes back and forth across the net.
And herein lies the slightly grubby truth about the Windsor clan - they, at times, leak like sieves, using newspapers to get their own objective across. (Keep in mind, three of the sources above are highly credible news organisations and can't be dismissed as scurrilous tabloids spreading nonsense).
This is by no means a new M.O. with an occasional strategic whisper in the right Fleet Street hack's ear having long been part of the royal arsenal. While the Queen might be a big fan of the stiff upper lip, her family seemingly has no compunction about trying to shape the narrative at times.
It might run counter to the royal family's image as removed, imperious creatures but the Windsors are acutely sensitive to the way they are seen publicly.
Rewind to the early '90s and Charles and Diana were each using sympathetic newspapers to reveal damaging information about the other and to cast themselves in a rosy light during the toxic, drawn out car crash that was the twilight years of their marriage.
Royal biographer Tina Brown has written that Sarah Ferguson believes it was Diana who tipped off the paparazzi that she was ensconced in a south of France villa with her financial advisor John Bryan, which produced some of the most sensational tabloid front pages of the decade.
Who can forget - The Princess of Wales embarked on the Chernobyl of leaks when she clandestinely worked with journalist Andrew Morton on his explosive 1992 book, Diana: Her True Story.
Prince Charles is not above similar tactics. In 1998, The Sun ran a detailed story about Prince William's first meeting with Camilla Parker Bowles, down to what she was drinking (a G & T, natch).
In 2015, the paper's former royal correspondent Charles Rae told a documentary that it was the Prince of Wales' press supremo Mark Bolland who had given the information to the paper (Bolland has denied the claims.)
A similar situation played out when it was reported in 2002 that Prince Harry had spent a day at a rehab centre after Charles found out his youngest son had been smoking marijuana.
How did the media find out? Biographer Penny Junor has alleged that "A deal was struck, the order of events were reversed. It was spun into a good story about Charles recognising his son had gone off the rails and doing something about it."
In both these instances, Harry and Wills were said to have been left angry that intimate details about their lives had found their way onto the front pages, allegedly to bolster their father's image.
Earlier this year, five of Meghan's friends anonymously spoke to People and discussed (among other things) her fractious relationship with her father and how she had been miscast by the media. It is nearly impossible to imagine that given the closeness of Megan's cadre of mates they would have broken her trust and spoken to a magazine without her approval. (The Guardian has reported that of the quotes from Meghan's friends, "the royal household has never denied was authorised by the duchess.")
So, back to this week. Contemplating quite who or which flunkie from which royal household allegedly revealed what starts to sound more like a Real Housewives reunion special than the dignified goings on of a reigning family.
What we know for sure is this: The fallout from Harry and Meghan's powerful revelations will continue to be felt for a long time to come.
And, given the family's history, there will be 'sources' and 'insiders' popping up in news stories for a long time to come.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working for some of Australia's biggest media brands.