John Humphrys’ frustration as BBC ‘used as PR exercise’ by Prince Harry

John Humphrys signs off his final episode of R4 Today

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The veteran journalist, 77, was best-known for fronting BBC Radio 4’s Today programme for 32 years, until he stepped down two years ago. Humphrys recently announced his departure from Mastermind and Samira Ahmed is tipped as the frontrunner set to replace him. During his five-decade career at the BBC, he has grilled countless politicians and had a few tense moments with the Royal Family. 

Humphrys clashed with Prince Philip after he argued that the Queen should have paid the “expensive upkeep” of his racing yacht so he didn’t have to sell it. 

He was also rejected three times by Her Majesty, when he asked her for an interview in multiple “carefully prepared” pitches.

After the Queen turned him down for a second time, she hinted that his combative style was to blame.

She said: “What’s more, Mr Humphrys, if one were ever to do such an interview it would most certainly not be with you.”

In 2017, Humphrys anticipated a clash with Harry too after the royal was invited to be the guest editor of the Today programme.

He believed the Queen’s grandson took on the opportunity because he “wanted publicity for some of his praiseworthy charity work” over the years.

In Humphry’s Daily Mail column last year, he wrote: “Harry was free to make choices… It was his for the asking.”

The BBC star felt that when “he spoke the nation listened… he had a pulpit”, which was highlighted after he was “applauded” for marrying Meghan Markle.

Humphrys argued that it was “unsurprising” that when Harry was invited to host Today, “he used it… to deliver messages close to his heart”.

At the time, Humphrys, who had fronted the show since 1987, refused to appear alongside him. 

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He explained: “I’m afraid to say I declined the opportunity to present the programme that morning… I knew what would happen. 

“I would want to ask what his minders would regard as impertinent or embarrassing questions and that would be the end of that.”

Humphrys’ then-editor Sarah Sands had “tried hard” to sweet talk him by trying to get an interview with Prince Charles but it did not work.

He continued: “But Charles wanted only to talk about trees and I wanted to talk about other things as well. No deal.”

In 2019, Humphrys reflected on Harry’s takeover of the show and admitted he still felt “grumpy about it to this day”.

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He claimed his frustration over the royal’s appearance stemmed from the bemusement his father, Edward George Humphrys, a French polisher, had for the Royal Family. 

In another Daily Mail column, Humphrys wrote: “Maybe I have my father to blame for my reaction to Today’s triumphal announcement…”

He recounted the exchange ahead of his choice to not appear on the BBC show: “‘That’s fine’, I said grumpily to my boss, ‘Just so long as we get to ask him some proper questions.’”

Humphrys said that he would be happy so long as they did not “allow him to use the programme as a PR exercise for himself and his family”.

His distrust in that happening was proven by when Humphrys decided not to present the show that Harry was due to appear on.

Humphrys continued: “Nobody took a blind bit of notice of me.

“Prince Harry did exactly that, of course, and the programme was a great success – by which I mean that the audience loved it.”

When Humphrys reflected on his decision to pull out of the show, he admitted that it was not a good choice.

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He said: “So I was wrong and I remain grumpy about it to this day.”

Humphrys’ disliking of the royals was demonstrated again in his 2019 memoir, A Day Like Today.

There he claimed that the Royal Family should be respected “only if they earn it”.

In another column he praised the Queen for doing a “pretty good job” during her now-69 years on the throne.

Humphrys wrote: “She has scarcely put a foot wrong, respect and affection for her are at stratospheric levels.

“Even a lifelong republican like me can accept that the monarchy is safe – but the Royal Family is different.”

Humphrys admitted that he was most impressed by Princess Anne, who he liked for not adding more members to the royal payroll. 

He said: “She’s still the most hardworking of the lot. 

“The way that she’s dealt with her own children, by not making them HRHs, proves that she doesn’t believe in it either.”

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