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A new addition to the staff of King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort, has raised questions about the couple’s future media strategy and the much-debated relationship between the royal family and the British tabloid media.
Tobyn Andreae, former co–deputy editor of the Daily Mail and, before that, the Mail on Sunday, officially assumed the position of the King and Queen Consort’s communications secretary on Monday, BuzzFeed News can confirm.
In the July story that broke the news of Andreae’s hiring, Sunday Times royal correspondent Roya Nikkhah wrote that the couple’s choice of the tabloid veteran “caused some eyebrows to be raised in royal circles,” not least of all because, Nikkhah reported, unlike the then–future king’s previous communications secretaries, he had no experience in public relations. (BuzzFeed News could find no evidence that Andreae has ever worked in communications — according to British media industry stories over the years, he has worked in a reporting or editorial capacity since at least 1994, when then-22-year-old Andreae was working at Tatler magazine.)
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a spokesperson acting for Andreae said, “Over the course of a 25-year career in national newspapers, Mr Andreae worked for publications that contained a great diversity of news stories and opinions on all matters of public interest, including members of the royal family. To cherry-pick individual stories or views as being representative of those publications’ entire content and commentary — or Mr Andreae’s personal opinions — would be a willful misrepresentation of the way in which all news organisations operate.”
Andreae is not the first person from the news media industry to lead the King’s press team, but the monarch’s most recent communications secretaries with such experience hailed from the BBC, not the tabloids. (The one exception is Sally Osman, who had a brief stint as a Daily Mail reporter in her early career before working for the King and then the Royal Household from 2013 to 2018.) An analysis of the careers of the five most recent people to hold the position of the now-King’s communications secretary shows at least some history in media relations.
The new hire’s lack of PR experience is particularly interesting given that a now-defunct job listing for a Buckingham Palace assistant communications secretary requires “extensive experience of working within a busy, high-profile communications office, preferably at a management level.”
Instead, Andreae’s work history reveals that the King’s new communications secretary has spent the past 25 years rising through the editorial ranks of the UK’s biggest tabloid. Andreae started at the Daily Mail as an executive features editor in 2002 (he was featured in a 2006 Guardian story about the difficulties of that position). In 2010, he was promoted to one of the top editor positions at “Femail,” the newspaper’s women-focused section. He left the Daily Mail to assume the executive role of co–deputy editor at its sister publication, the Mail on Sunday, in 2016. Andreae returned to the Daily Mail as its co–deputy editor in 2018, and held that position until the royals formerly known as Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, chose him to run their press team.
A look at some of the stories published about the royal family while Andreae was an editor at both outlets shows that it’s a hiring decision that could prove problematic — or at least awkward — to the King and Queen Consort, not to mention the other members of the royal family
Last year, I published a piece detailing the evolution of the British media’s coverage of the princess formerly known as Kate Middleton since she stepped into the global spotlight in April 2004. As many longtime royal watchers will remember, for years, Kate was pursued by the UK tabloids — sometimes physically threatening her personal safety. Much of the coverage over the years was classist and sexist. Even after she married Prince William — now the Prince of Wales — she was the subject of pointed personal criticism from the British “red-top” press.
For many years, one of Kate's leading critics was the Daily Mail — specifically, the paper’s opinion columns and its women-focused section, Femail. In his first period of employment at the Daily Mail (spanning 2002–2016), Andreae held senior editorial positions in both of these sections of the paper.
It was Daily Mail columnist Amanda Platell who coined the now-infamous derisive moniker “Waity Katie,” used to mock the years she spent with William without a marriage proposal. Platell used it in at least three pieces she wrote while Andreae was an editor for the features desk. “Twenty-eight years old and still without a proper job, all Waity Katie seems to do these days is attend weddings. Perhaps she's practising for her own,” Platell opined in a May 2010 column that labeled Kate a “grasping woman.”
The “Waity Katie” coverage continued when Andreae moved to the Femail section. During his tenure as one of its top editors, Femail published countless articles criticizing William’s girlfriend and then wife. Stories snidely remarked upon the middle-class and “upwardly mobile” Middleton family, full of “steely social-climbing matriarchs.” In a column published before William and Kate’s wedding, the bride-to-be’s weight was dissected and judged.
After she became the Duchess of Cambridge, every aspect of Kate’s appearance was scrutinized for fault — and these stories were inevitably published in Femail. She was “no trendsetter.” Her eyebrows were deemed trashy. Her graying hair was called a “disaster” or in need of a ruthless trim.
Although Andreae declined to comment on specific stories — and the Daily Mail declined multiple requests for comment from BuzzFeed News — multiple media industry beat stories from these years indicate that Andreae was one of the head editors — if not the head editor — of the Daily Mail’s Femail section when these stories were published. Did they reflect his own views about his new employer’s daughter-in-law? Or was Kate just a commodity to be turned into content?
It’s been many years since the duchess was the favored target of the tabloids (and, as I noted in my piece last year, her press coverage has been overwhelmingly positive or at least neutral since Meghan joined the royal family), but it seems difficult to believe that she’s forgotten that time in her life. Having your phone hacked 155 times by one tabloid reporter (specifically, former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman, who admitted to this in court in 2014) seems like something that would stick with a person. In her March 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, in a roundabout way, even confirmed that the “rude” moniker “Waity Katie” still bothers the new Princess of Wales, after all these years. How does she feel about this new hire? Might Andreae’s editorial past create tension between the Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace press offices? (A spokesperson for the Prince and Princess of Wales declined to comment to BuzzFeed News.)
But the columns critical of Kate pale in comparison to the fact that, during Andreae's tenure as one of the top editors at the Mail on Sunday, the paper published one of the most damaging royal stories in recent history — a story that threw the planning of a royal wedding into chaos and, ultimately, was an impetus for the breakdown of a father–daughter relationship.
I am, of course, talking about the news that Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle, had staged photos in collaboration with a British paparazzi photographer, published by the Mail on Sunday on May 12, 2018 — one week before the royal wedding.
The Mail on Sunday revealed that photos published around the world of Markle puttering around his Mexican hometown preparing for his daughter’s wedding had been faked. The paper gleefully reported that Markle was working with the paparazzi and implied that he may have received a cut of the photo licensing profits even as Kensington Palace was issuing warnings to publishers to leave him alone.
Meghan specifically attacked the Mail on Sunday for publishing this story in her 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey. The paper, she claimed, “had apparently known [about the staged photos] for a month or so and decided to hold [the story] until the Sunday before our wedding because they wanted to create drama, which is also a really key point in all this. [The tabloids] don't report the news, they create the news.” (The Mail on Sunday did not reply to multiple requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.)
The Mail on Sunday’s story threw the media circus surrounding the royal wedding into chaos, especially within the Kensington Palace press offices. My former colleague Mark Di Stefano wrote a great story at the time about how, in the aftermath of the photos being published, the Palace press team “lost control of Harry and Meghan’s wedding.”
“The Palace press aides are like ostriches sticking their heads in the sand and they keep getting shafted up the bottom," a former tabloid royal correspondent said of the frenzy that followed the Mail on Sunday’s story.
The publication of these images ultimately resulted in Markle’s absence from his daughter’s royal wedding (although there’s some debate — prompted by Markle’s own comments — over whether he didn’t want his attendance to embarrass his daughter or whether the stress from the media/public backlash to the photos triggered a heart attack that required immediate surgery).
More significantly, however, the Mail on Sunday’s story was an inciting incident to the breakdown of Meghan’s relationship with her father, as she told Oprah Winfrey during the March 2021 interview, due to the fact that he initially lied when asked if he had collaborated with the tabloid press, something she described as a “betrayal” to Oprah. (For the record, Markle confirmed that he lied when Meghan and Harry asked about his cooperation with the tabloids in an August 2018 interview with the Mail on Sunday.)
As one of the Daily Mail’s deputy editors, Andreae was second-in-command at a paper that published a story that threw a royal wedding into chaos and was a key factor in the destruction of a father-daughter relationship. (Andreae’s spokesperson declined to provide details on specific stories; the Mail on Sunday did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
Perhaps the King and Queen Consort’s strategy is to keep friends close and enemies closer? Did they decide that a person knowledgeable about how to thoroughly disrupt a press office would be the best person to run one? Was there a moment of hesitation over how the publication of such a damaging story would affect their relationship with Meghan and Harry?
Particularly because, as was noticed and dissected by news outlets and gossip blogs when news of Andreae’s hiring broke, the Sussexes have been engaged in contentious lawsuits with Andreae’s former employers over the past few years. (Harry is currently suing the Mail on Sunday. Representatives for the Sussexes did not respond to a request for comment on this story.)
In this newsletter, I’ve looked at royal coverage published during Andreae’s tenure — a small portion of the royal stories printed in the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday in the past 20 years.
But what if one were to expand that scope to the total of both outlets’ royal coverage during his employment? It would include stories that have been called out by royal fans and Sussex fans alike over the years for being unfair, classist, misogynistic, sensational, distasteful, and, in the case of pieces about Meghan, racist. At the time the news was made public, some interpreted Charles and Camilla's hiring of Andreae in this light. As noted gossip blogger Elaine Lui wrote about the new communications secretary, “Hiring someone who is still freshly wafting Daily Mail stink is a tacit endorsement of the work that they did while they were there.”
In the March 2021 interview, Harry talked to Oprah about an “invisible contract” between the British royal family and the UK tabloids. “If you as a [royal] family member are willing to wine, dine, and give full access to these reporters, then you will get better press,” he said. According to Harry, royals who refuse to play this game of quid pro quo will be targeted by the tabloids. (Neither the Daily Mail nor the Mail on Sunday responded to multiple requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.)
Are King Charles and Queen Camilla playing that game? Will there be any signs of the new Buckingham Palace communications secretary’s influence in the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday’s royal coverage?
We’ll have to wait and see.