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n December 1993, when Prince Edward was a couple of months into his romance with Sophie Rhys-Jones, he issued a plea for privacy to newspaper editors. ‘I am taking this unusual step of writing to you directly,’ he began, ‘in the hopes of stopping your reporters and photographers from destroying that part of my life that I am entitled to regard as private and more importantly Sophie’s life.

   ‘We are not planning to get married – we only met each other in the last few months – but we are good friends. If this situation changes we will let you know in a proper and formal manner.’

   His request, however justified, did little to help. ‘I never understood,’ the Prince admitted to me later, ‘why commentators started saying things like “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw bricks (sic)”. I had just said: “Stay away, lay off – please.”’

   The tone was similar to that of a robust statement issued by Prince Harry’s communications secretary last month, which officially confirmed his relationship with Californian-born Meghan Markle, the Toronto-based Suits actress who has more than a million Instagram followers, writes a lifestyle blog and is a UN ambassador. She visited Kensington Palace just days after the statement was released.

   ‘His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment,’ the statement said. ‘Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments. Some of it has been hidden from the public – the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of the papers; her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door; the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home ... the substantial bribes offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend; the bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker and loved one in her life.

   ‘Prince Harry is worried about Ms Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her. It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms Markle should be subjected to such a storm ... He knows it is unusual to issue a statement like this, but hopes that fair-minded people will understand why he felt it necessary to speak publicly.’

   There was a time when the royal family smiled a lot and said nothing. Prince Harry is not prepared to do this; he wants to be master of his own life. In the Eighties it happened to his uncle Prince Andrew when he dated the American actress Koo Stark. He kept quiet. It happened to William and Kate, who issued statements and complaints. I wish for Harry’s sake his impassioned plea would change things, but I fear it will not and eventually it will be the same for Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

   For those on both sides of the pond, this year has been rather an eventful one. On behalf of everyone at Majesty I should like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and a prosperous 2017.

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