There were low-key whispers in aristo circles about Prince William and Rose Hanbury for months before the infamous “Rural Rivals” story appeared in the Sun in the last week of March 2019. It was said that the then-Duchess of Cambridge was trying to “phase out” the powerful Marchioness of Cholmondeley (Rose) over some unknown beef. A sprinkling of breadcrumbs and British euphemisms meant people quickly got the gist of the beef: Kate was mad that Rose was allegedly banging William, and Kate was trying to Mean Girl the marchioness, only the Turnip Toffs were taking Rose’s side. Soon enough – like, within a day or two – William basically contacted Richard Kay at the Daily Mail and Kay wrote a completely bonkers piece which was clearly based on William’s ass-covering story. William spent the next few months getting his lawyers to send out threats to any British outlet trying to get to the bottom of the story.
That’s the timeline of stories and events as they happened in the media, from late March through April 2019. During that same time, there was wall-to-wall abuse and character assassination of the Duchess of Sussex. It’s long believed that William engaged in an explicit quid pro quo with the media: bury the Rose story and I’ll give you stories about Meghan. This curious passage appears in Prince Harry’s Spare:
Towards the end of April 2019, days before Meg was due to give birth, Willy rang. I took the call in our new garden.
Something had happened between him and Pa and Camilla. I couldn’t get the whole story, he was talking too fast, and was way too upset. He was seething actually. I gathered that Pa and Camilla’s people had planted a story or stories about him and Kate, and the kids, and he wasn’t going to take it anymore. Give Pa and Camilla an inch, he said, they take a mile.
They’ve done this to me for the last time.
I got it. They’d done the same to me and Meg as well.
But it wasn’t them, technically, it was the most gung-ho member of Pa’s comms team, a true believer who’d devised and launched a new campaign of getting good press for Pa and Camilla at the expense of bad press for us. For some time this person had been peddling unflattering stories, fake stories, about the Heir and Spare, to all the papers.
I suspected that this person had been the lone source for stories about a hunting trip I’d made to Germany in 2017, stories that made me out to be some fat-bottomed seventeenth-century baron who craved blood and trophies, when in reality I was working with German farmers to cull wild boar and save their crops. I believed the story had been offered as a straight swap, in exchange for greater access to Pa, and also as a reward for the suppression of stories about Camilla’s son, who’d been gadding around London, generating tawdry rumors. I was displeased about being used like this, and livid about it being done to Meg, but I had to admit it was happening much more often lately to Willy. And he was justifiably incandescent.
He’d already confronted Pa once about this woman, face-to-face. I’d gone along for moral support. The scene took place at Clarence House, in Pa’s study… Willy put it to Pa: How can you be letting a stranger do this to your sons?
Pa instantly got upset. He began shouting that Willy was paranoid. We both were. Just because we were getting bad press, and he was getting good, that didn’t mean his staff was behind it. But we had proof. Reporters, inside actual newsrooms, assuring us that this woman was selling us out. Pa refused to listen. His response was churlish, pathetic. Granny has her person, why can’t I have mine? By Granny’s person he meant Angela. Among the many services she performed for Granny, she was said to be skilled at planting stories.
What a rubbish comparison, Willy said. Why would anyone in their right mind, let alone a grown man, want their own Angela? But Pa just kept saying it. Granny had her person, Granny had her person. High time he had a person too.
[From Spare, by Prince Harry]
After that, Harry tried to compare what William was going through with how the media was coming after Meghan. That’s when, Harry writes, “Willy snapped: I’ve got different issues with you two! In a blink he shifted all his rage onto me.” Harry doesn’t repeat what William was raging about, but he makes it clear that William was screaming his head off over the phone. William was so loud that Meghan came outside to hear what all the racket was and she overheard some of what William was screaming about. She walked back inside the house, crying.
Anyway… yeah… if William’s original rage was about people in Charles and Camilla’s selling him out, I wouldn’t be surprised if Clarence House was behind some of the stories in that time period. Harry is repeating the conversations he had, of course, and he’s not doing investigative journalism, after all. I always believed that the Rural Rivals story came from Norfolk, not Clarence House. I believe that Rose and William were indiscreet, and/or Kate was indiscreet when she tried to phase out Rose.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.