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They fell out on the ski-slopes thanks to THAT notorious ‘hot mic’. But Prince Charles and BBC’s ‘awful’ Nicholas Witchell were eventually RECONCILED in the deserts of Saudi Arabia…=


Even after 50 years of distinguished journalistic service, Nicholas Witchell is remembered for one incident above all other. 

There was already tension in the air when, in 2005, Charles, William and Harry held a brief press conference and photo opportunity on the slopes at Klosters. 

Charles and Camilla would soon marry – after much debate and amid considerable opposition. We now know thanks to his memoir, that Prince Harry was among those who did not approve. 

It hardly helped that their family holiday had, they said, been disrupted by an army of paparazzi photographers.  

Perhaps the tension was responsible for what happened next. 

Charles with his sons Prince William and Prince Harry during the Royal Family's ski break  in March 2005

Charles with his sons Prince William and Prince Harry during the Royal Family’s ski break  in March 2005

Nicholas Witchell, BBC Royal Correspondent, is to retire after five decades of service

Nicholas Witchell, BBC Royal Correspondent, is to retire after five decades of service

Surrounded by cameras, journalists and microphones, the BBC‘s long-serving Royal Correpsondent, Nicholas Witchell asked an agreed question as to how the Prince of Wales felt about the forthcoming wedding.

Charles gave a somewhat unhelpful answer – ‘I’m glad you’ve heard of it’ – then sitting next to his sons, expanded on his true feelings. 

‘I hate doing this….Bloody people. I can’t bear that man anyway. I mean, he is so awful, he really is. I hate these people’ 

However privately he thought he had been speaking, Charles’s words were caught by a microphone on the slopes and subsequently broadcast to the world.

(William answered his own questions rather more smoothly, saying of his role at the wedding: ‘As long as I don’t lose the rings – that’s the one responsibility.)

Reporting on the episode at the time, the Guardian’s then Royal Correspondent, author Stephen Bates, gave a blow by blow account. 

‘The mumbled exchanges began with Charles asking his two sons: “Do I put my arms around you?”

Prince William replied: “No, don’t, but you can take the horrible glasses away.”

‘Charles said: “Do not be rude about my glasses, I couldn’t bear it if you were.”

‘Urged by a member of the press to “look like you know each other”, the two princes leaned into their father, who put his arms around them.

‘Charles then muttered: “What do we do?”

‘William replied: “Keep smiling, keep smiling.”

 

Prince Charles lost his temper at a press conference on the slopes when Nicholas Witchell asked  about his wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles

Prince Charles lost his temper at a press conference on the slopes when Nicholas Witchell asked  about his wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles 

Pictured: Charles as he visits an historical site under reconstruction with Saudi Minister of Tourism in February 2014 in Saudi Arabia

Pictured: Charles as he visits an historical site under reconstruction with Saudi Minister of Tourism in February 2014 in Saudi Arabia

Pictured: The wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla, then Duchess of Cornwall, in 2005

Pictured: The wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla, then Duchess of Cornwall, in 2005

The Prince of Waleses’ spokesman at the time, Paddy Harverson, explained the situation later:

‘Nicholas was in the firing line when the prince was expressing his general frustration at the paparazzi and it boiled over at the first person to ask a question.

‘It wasn’t personal. He does regret saying it. He really didn’t mean to take it out on Nicholas.’ 

Witchell, who always described himself as bemused by the incident, has recently announced he is to retire from the BBC after half a century of service.

But, as he explained recently, there was an intriguing postscript -a reconciliation, of sorts, years later in the deserts of Saudi Arabia.

Mr Witchell told the Telegraph: ‘For several years, there was no contact. Quite a number of years, actually. Then a press secretary came to the conclusion that this was absurd. 

‘We fell out on the icy ski slopes of Klosters and there was a sort of rapprochement in the desert of Saudi Arabia. We had a very friendly conversation but one wouldn’t expect that moment to be brought up and analysed.’

He added that the day had gone far from smoothly from start to finish, noting that ‘people weren’t in the best of moods that morning’.

Yet the contretemps did nothing to harm his career in the long run, he concluded.

Until then, in fact, a man once known as the ‘bionic carrot’ thanks to his ginger hair, had been best known for detaining a lesbian protester who had infiltrated the BBC studios and the Six O’Clock News.

Witchell famously sat on her and covered her mouth with his hand to stop her shouting.

Pictured: The veteran BBC broadcaster talks to Camilla the following year

Pictured: The veteran BBC broadcaster talks to Camilla the following year

Mr Witchell and Charles had further run-ins after the incident, most notably during an environmental fundraiser in Washington DC ten years later.

The reporter asked the King why he ‘still cared so much’ about environmental issues, to which Charles replied: ‘Well, I’ll turn it round the other way. I think you’d be more surprised if I didn’t care about these things.

‘But I think particularly in terms of what I’ve been talking about now, there’s an awful lot to worry about.’

The pair have also worked together on the British Normandy Memorial, of which Witchell is a trustee, having founded the Normandy Memorial Trust in 2016.



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