A version of this story appeared in the December 3 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
Earlier this week, we wrote to you from Barbados during Prince Charles’ whirlwind tour as the Caribbean island took its first steps as a republic.
We were one of several media outlets invited to join the heir to the throne’s flight to Bridgetown to cover the celebrations marking the Queen’s removal as head of state.
For the journey, the Prince of Wales flew on RAF Voyager – an Airbus A330 owned by the UK for use on official overseas visits by members of the royal family and government ministers. Charles most recently hopped on board with wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall for their four-day trip to Jordan and Egypt.
The UK owns several Voyager planes, which are normally used for air-to-air refueling and strategic air transport. However, one plane in the fleet was converted in 2016 for VIP transportation – and this was our ride.
Sometimes jokingly referred to as “Heir Force One,” last year it received a £900,000 (nearly $1.2 million) makeover – to repaint the plane from military gray to the colors of the Union flag (red, white and blue livery).
Inside it looks, well, pretty much like any other passenger aircraft. The refueling plane has been refitted with business class-type seats in the front and middle sections, and regular coach seats in the rear. Any traveling press sit in the back with military personnel who might also be on the flight.
In line with pandemic protocols, face coverings are currently used onboard and social distancing was taken into consideration when assigning seats to passengers. And in case you’re wondering what movies were on offer, you may be surprised to learn there aren’t any in-flight entertainment options or screens in the back of headrests.
The most frequent questions we’re asked when people hear we’ve taken a ride on the plane tend to revolve around what the food is like. Sadly, the answer there is pretty boring: It’s fairly similar to commercial flights, with a meat, fish or vegetarian option (though perhaps a little tastier than normal).
Traveling within the royal bubble is always an interesting experience, though much of it is spent waiting for a security escort in and out of secure areas.
For example, Voyager is home-based at RAF Brize Norton, an air force station in Oxfordshire. For security reasons, non-military personnel can’t be left to wander the base freely, so journalists must gather and wait to be escorted in groups.
The highlights of any trip with members of the royal family are those unscheduled, off-the-cuff moments in between the many engagements each day.
The trip to Barbados was such a short visit that there was little downtime to catch Prince Charles, whose focus was firmly on joining officials for the republic celebrations and reaffirming the close relationship between the two countries.
However, shortly after landing back in the UK on Wednesday morning, he did make a point of coming to chat with us for a few minutes.
With little fanfare or forewarning, he strolled back as we were gathering our belongings to deplane, making sure to say hello to new members of the traveling press and thank the group for joining the tour. A simple gesture and one he doesn’t have to make, but which goes a long way in maintaining a relationship with the media.
Analysis: Meghan’s latest victory in privacy battle matters.
The Duchess of Sussex claimed another win Thursday in her protracted legal battle with Associated Newspapers Limited, publisher of the Mail on Sunday, over a letter she sent to her estranged father in 2018.
Britain’s Court of Appeal dismissed the publisher’s challenge of a previous judgment that the duchess had a reasonable expectation of privacy when penning the letter.
Moments after the judgment was delivered, Meghan released a strongly worded statement. She called the latest result “precedent setting” before outlining her hopes that it would help to change the UK newspaper industry.
It was a bold endeavor by Meghan as, had the case gone to trial, it could have led to more revelations about how the royal household operates or set up a showdown in court against her dad. Instead, her case has once again shown that when newspapers go too far, there are legal avenues to pursue. And the rulings make it clear that while the members of the royal family are public figures, they don’t have to live every aspect of their lives in the public domain.
But don’t expect this to be the last word on the matter. Following the judgment, ANL said it was considering an appeal to the UK’s Supreme Court.
Meghan’s statement in full
“This is a victory not just for me, but for anyone who has ever felt scared to stand up for what’s right. While this win is precedent setting, what matters most is that we are now collectively brave enough to reshape a tabloid industry that conditions people to be cruel, and profits from the lies and pain that they create.
“From day one, I have treated this lawsuit as an important measure of right versus wrong. The defendant has treated it as a game with no rules. The longer they dragged it out, the more they could twist facts and manipulate the public (even during the appeal itself), making a straightforward case extraordinarily convoluted in order to generate more headlines and sell more newspapers – a model that rewards chaos above truth. In the nearly three years since this began, I have been patient in the face of deception, intimidation, and calculated attacks.
“Today, the courts ruled in my favor – again – cementing that The Mail on Sunday, owned by Lord Jonathan Rothermere, has broken the law. The courts have held the defendant to account, and my hope is that we all begin to do the same. Because as far removed as it may seem from your personal life, it’s not. Tomorrow it could be you. These harmful practices don’t happen once in a blue moon – they are a daily fail that divide us, and we all deserve better.”
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
Prince Charles’s former aide liaised with ‘fixers’ over honors.
An investigation into the cash-for-honors scandal at the Prince’s Foundation has found that the Prince of Wales’ former closest aide did coordinate with so-called fixers over honors for a donor, according to the PA Media news agency. Michael Fawcett, who resigned as the charity’s CEO last month, was also involved in directing money from a Saudi businessman’s charity to an organization of which Charles was previously patron, PA reported. Sue Bruce, chair of Charles’ charity, called the recent turmoil a “difficult chapter” and said “lessons will be learned.” The findings were the result of an independent investigation into fundraising practices and ordered by the foundation. They were carried out by auditing firm Ernst & Young, PA said. CNN has reached out to Fawcett for comment.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Sophie, Countess of Wessex visits The Lighthouse, where she works with volunteers making snacks and drinks for service users, and Christmas care packages for children, on December 2. The Lighthouse is a hub in Woking, southwest of London, that hosts a range of creative projects to support, encourage and empower those who find themselves on the margins.
IN THE ROYAL DIARY
Kate gets into the Christmas spirit.
Deck the halls! The Duchess of Cambridge will host a special community carol service at Westminster Abbey next Wednesday. The festive event, supported by the Royal Foundation, is set to be a celebration of all the hard work that individuals and organizations have done throughout the pandemic to support their communities. The service will also “bring together inspirational individuals from across the UK who have gone above and beyond to care for and protect those in need.” Prepare for carols sung by the abbey choir as well as readings and musical performances from other guests. Kensington Palace said the service would blend “traditional elements with a modern and inclusive feel to encompass people of all faiths and none.” It’ll be broadcast by ITV later in December.