The Life Of A Royal Reporter

There aren’t many people who can say they’ve had a drink with Harry and Wills, but for 10 years it was simply Duncan Larcombe’s job. As the award-winning British journalist releases the new edition of Prince Harry: The Inside Story, he discusses a decade covering the royal family.

How did you make the move from senior reporter to royal correspondent at The Sun?
My editor at the time realised that William and Harry had become the main story, but all of the royal correspondents in 2004-05 were from the Diana era, and predominantly aged 50 years old or more – my editor wanted somebody closer in age to the brothers, who could get to know them.

How much travelling did you do with the royal family?
I’m not the world’s biggest royalist, but the royal job is lovely to do. As a relatively young reporter I was very pleased, because I travelled to every continent. Every official trip that the royal family took, I’d be there.

Has Harry changed since his party days, or was that era of his life blown out of proportion?
He’s just an ordinary guy. He likes a drink, but I don’t think that he’s as wild as he was made out to be. There was a story run by the News of the World that said he allegedly asked a barmaid offensive sexual questions, but it turned out that she had been paid to say that.

Meghan Markle in Rwanda for Africa Day copyright World Vision Canada
What are your thoughts on Meghan Markle?
I’ve met her once: when they came out into Kensington Palace Gardens on the day of the engagement, I was there as a pundit for Good Morning America. I think a lot of royal reporters thought that she didn’t look like a ‘typical royal girlfriend’ – she was a successful actress and not a member of the aristocracy. But I think she’s conducted herself brilliantly. She seems to be head-over-heels in love with Harry, and she’s equipped to cope with the increased attention.

Prince William Kate Middleton and Prince Harry copyright RHS Chelsea Flower Show
How will Harry’s role evolve within the royal family?

I think that his wild partying days are long gone. Once they’re married, Harry and Meghan will have an absolutely crucial role to play in the success, or otherwise, of Prince Charles becoming King Charles. It is Harry, Meghan, William and Kate who make the royal family relevant to a younger audience. Harry and Meghan will go on two official royal tours a year – they’ll be globetrotters.

What should visitors to Windsor expect on the big day?
It’s going to be like a massive carnival. I covered Charles and Camilla’s Windsor wedding in 2005 and you could hardly move, but I don’t think the town will have seen anything like this before – I guess more than 100,000 people. Some TV companies have spent upwards of £100,000 just to secure a position on the High Street.

Prince William and Kate Middleton copyright RHS Chelsea Flower Show
You were at Will and Kate’s wedding – what was it like?

It was my best day at work, but also my most stressful! I was one of six journalists to be invited. What amazed me was just how good our seats were: we could see everything from Poets’ Corner. I genuinely thought that we’d be seated behind the dustbins.

The most vivid memory I have is when the Queen arrived, just before Kate and her father. The whole place went quiet – almost 2,000 people in total silence. 

Prince Harry copyright RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Why do you think Prince Harry is so popular?

This wedding will be such a focal point because Harry’s the most popular royal after the Queen. There are polls every year and I think that, for at least the past 10 years, Harry’s polled second. Those who worshipped Princess Diana see her in him, and the public has taken to him a lot since he was 12 at her funeral.

The Queen copyright RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Why does the royal family get so much global attention?

I always ask myself that question and I don’t really know the answer. I would assume that it must be because the Queen is still the Head of the Commonwealth, which takes in a large slice of the world. I was once in a tiny airport in Livingstone, Zambia, and in the souvenir shop there were postcards of the British royal family – I didn’t expect that.

What’s your advice for anyone meeting a member of the royal family?
If you are meeting the Queen, bow your head and address her as Your Majesty. Don’t ask questions – that breaks royal protocol. You’re only supposed to speak to the Queen when you’re spoken to. And under no circumstances should you put your arm around her, unless you want to be on the front page of The Sun!

In a small gathering, or one-to-one, Prince Charles is very engaging. You must address him as Your Royal Highness. If you met William, it would probably be a slightly more laid-back version of meeting his father. The brothers take absolutely no offence if you don’t use Your Royal Highness. Harry, in particular, wants you to call him Harry.

Duncan Larcombe’s revised edition of Prince Harry: The Inside Story, with new chapters about Meghan Markle, is out now. If you’re planning a trip to Windsor, read our guide to A Royally Good Day in Windsor

From top image: the Queen at Wimbledon © AELTC/Thomas Lovelock; Duncan Larcombe and Prince Harry courtesy of Duncan Larcombe; Meghan Markle in Rwanda 2016 © World Vision Canada; the royal family at Chelsea Flower Show © RHS.

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