Related video: BBC Royal Correspondent Nicholas Witchell lost for words during Royal Baby live report
With all the drama and conflict currently surrounding the royal family between Prince Harry and Meghan, King Charles III and Prince William – no doubt fuelled by Harry’s upcoming memoir Spare and the couple’s recent two-part Netflix documentary – it can sometimes be helpful to receive some high-quality analysis from an impartial royal correspondent.
Unfortunately, the BBC’s Nicholas Witchell – once described as “awful” by King Charles - has again faced criticism and claims he is anything but neutral or sensitive when it comes to the royal family, especially when it comes to the duke.
It turned out to be just one of several analyses from Mr Witchell which have attracted controversy in recent years – which we’ve detailed below.
1. “Resentment in full force”
\u201cPrince Harry claims his brother Prince William physically attacked him, according to the Guardian, which says it has seen a copy of the duke's upcoming memoir, Spare.\n\nRoyal correspondent Nick Witchell gave his analysis on #BBCBreakfast\n\nhttps://t.co/AR4jBbCUB6\u201d
In the aforementioned BBC Breakfast analysis on Thursday, Mr Witchell referred to a report by the Guardian journalist Martin Pengelly, which broke the news of the alleged physical attack by Prince William and claimed “Harry’s resentment of being the ‘spare’ is the unifying theme of his book”.
Mr Witchell added: “My goodness, we are seeing the resentment in full force in these comments on Netflix and the interviews that we are going to hear in the coming days. I think, clearly, it is just a statement of the obvious that within the family there is a tremendous sadness that it should come to this.”
The analysis was soon criticised on social media, with Guardian columnist Owen Jones writing: “Whatever you think about the royal drama, this from Nicholas Witchell isn’t journalism. He couldn’t be less subtle about his opinions, or the fact he’s deliberately trying to rubbish Prince Harry’s account.
“We pay for this nonsense!”
Another responded: “I don’t have much time for Royal goings on, but the sycophancy of BBC ‘journalist’ Nicholas Witchell is a sight to behold!”
“Nothing makes me question the licence fee quite like Nick Witchell,” added a third.
2. “The idea that anyone was out to destroy [Meghan], frankly, I think is absurd”
Also on the topic of Prince Harry and Meghan, Mr Witchell was asked to give his analysis on the couple’s Netflix docuseries about their stepping back as working members of the royal family in February 2021 – a term dubbed “Megxit” in some circles.
He appeared on the BBC News at Sixand said the first part of the series included a “suggestion that there is, what amounts really, to a conspiracy between the Palace and the press” – something he added was “where credibility is really stretched beyond what is reasonable”.
Referring to Meghan’s comments that “no matter what I did, they were still going to find a way to destroy me”, Mr Witchell continued: “First point: who is ‘they’ she is referring to? I think it is the Palace but, most particularly, it is to the press.
“But the idea that anyone was out to ‘destroy’ her, frankly, I think is absurd and simply does not stand up to proper and reasonable scrutiny.”
The words “I think” tend to indicate a personal opinion, and Twitter users at the time were quick to criticise Mr Witchell’s stance.
“When did his opinion become reported fact,” asked one.
Another made a similar point and tweeted: “When the hell did we ask for an opinion on the news? We want facts!”
3. “Where are you really from” race row was just an “ill-judged blunder”
When former lady-in-waiting Lady Susan Hussey sparked fury for repeatedly asked Ngozi Fulani of the charity Sistah Space where she was “really from” during an event at Buckingham Palace, Mr Witchell was once again asked for his analysis.
“Lady Susan Hussey, 83 years old, more than 60 years of devoted service to the royal family, I think we can safely assume that she will be mortified at what is a very ill-judged blunder,” he said.
Good Morning Britain presenter Adil Ray was amongst those who called out the royal correspondent at the time, tweeting: “The racism of ‘where are you really from’ is not a BLUNDER as referred to by Nicholas Witchell. A conversation going on for many minutes is not a silly, careless mistake.
“When racism slaps us in the face we need to wake up, be woke and call it what it is. As has William today.”
4. “Perhaps [supporting the victims of sex trafficking] offers the best or only route back” to public life for Prince Andrew
At one point, Mr Witchell even went as far as to seemingly suggest that a route back to public life for Prince Andrew – after reaching a settlement with Virginia Guiffre in February last year in a sexual abuse lawsuit – is for him to support the victims of sex trafficking.
Speaking to BBC News presenter Clive Myrie, he asked: “What of Andrew’s future? Could there possibly be a route back to a public role?
\u201cNicholas Witchell suggests a route back to public life for Andrew could be campaigning for the victims of sex trafficking. I'm not sure I see it, personally!\u201d
“Perhaps the answer is, as he says at the end of this statement, for him – as he says – to pledge to support the fight against the evils of sex trafficking and by supporting its victims. Perhaps that offers the best or the only route back for him.”
The suggestion was mocked and ridiculed by viewers, with one commenting that “I’m not sure I see it. personally!”
5. “Grossly intrusive” speculation on the Queen’s health during her final hours
One more prominent example of some outlandish comments from Mr Witchell came back in September around the time of the late Queen’s passing, when the monarch’s doctors became “concerned for Her Majesty’s health”.
Speculation is never ideal in the world of journalism, and yet the royal correspondent soon began to reel off a few conditions from which she may have been suffering. He claimed there had been “rumours of cancers”, made comments about weight loss following the passing of Prince Philip, and a fall she had suffered at one point.
“Doesn’t matter who you are, you are still entitled to private patient confidentiality,” he added.
The Telegraph’s arts and entertainment editor Anita Singh summed it up best at the time by writing: “Nicholas Witchell currently speculating that the Queen has had cancer, that she had a fall last year, that she has gout, that she recently had a cannula in her hand - feels grossly intrusive to discuss someone's health like this.”
“Will BBC News just stop him doing this. Take him off air,” pleaded another.
Given Prince Harry is set to give two interviews in the coming days – one on ITV on Sunday and the other on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday – we suspect there’s more of where this came from still to come…
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