My own association with William goes back about a decade to the period when I was Royal Correspondent for ITV News. I had previously been Asia Correspondent, but had got shot in a riot in Jakarta and had decided that I wanted to steer clear of war zones for a while. No one ever came into journalism wanting to be a royal correspondent, but I wasn't in a position to choose and I didn't think I would stay long.
I don't know whether the fact that I had just been wounded made me seem like a slightly different beast, but it was decided that it would be a good idea for William and I to get together. It was clear to me that the purpose of the meeting was to convince the young Prince that not all journalists had two heads and breathed fire. He wasn't wholly keen and the lunch was postponed a couple of times. But eventually, we did get together at a restaurant in Fulham.
I was very careful to ask him as little about his life as possible, since I knew - or suspected - that he disliked the way the media treated him as a commodity and I didn't want him to feel that he was being traded. I told him lots of stupid and indiscreet stories from my time on the road and we joshed along happily. I liked him a lot. He was - is - a good bloke. He certainly doesn't like to take everything in life too seriously.
It seemed to start something, because we gradually built a relationship. I went off to Lesotho with his brother shortly afterwards to make an hour-long documentary for ITV, the proceeds of which went to found Harry's charity, Sentebale. It was the first time either of them had talked publicly about their mother, though I knew it was a subject that exercised them both greatly.
They were written up at the time as reluctant royals and in many ways this was a true picture of their sentiments. They quite openly blamed the paparazzi for their mother's death in Paris and believed the press more generally to be responsible for hounding her into an early grave. On occasions, it made them very, very angry.
They were also wound up by the constant leaks of personal information to the press. The stories kept coming, week in week out, and they had periodic bouts of trying to work out who it was that was betraying them. Trust was the defining issue in all their relationships and I was tolerated because I proved repeatedly that I could - and did - keep my mouth shut. I took the view that if I didn't tell anyone anything, then nothing could leak. And it didn't.
Until, that is, one day in 2005, when I woke up to a very surprising story in the News of the World. To cut a long tale short, I had said I would help William pull his gap-year videos together and he had called me to say that he was in London and would I fancy meeting up for a beer to talk about it. I asked him to tell security at the gate I would be in on Monday, but I didn't mention it to anyone else so I was pretty surprised to read a small story about our proposed meeting in the News of the World the following morning. When William and I got together to discuss how this could possibly have leaked, I mentioned that as Royal Correspondent (I was now Political Editor), I had heard that some newspapers routinely tapped into people's phone-messaging services.
William called in his private secretary, a ruthlessly effective former SAS officer called Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, and the rest is history. I did notice, however, that almost as soon as Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire were arrested, the leaks about William and Harry's private lives dried up. They have had the pleasure of discovering that no one ever was betraying them, after all.
I suspect this development has contributed more than any other to their ability to retreat effectively from the public gaze and this in turn will increase their ability to survive the strains of their strange existence.
I have been asked about a thousand times since the interview I did with William and Kate what kind of couple they are and it is always hard to know what to say.
They have a tight circle of close-knit friends and I should stress that I am not one.
But quite a lot of information has passed through my brain these past 10 years, which has allowed me to form a relatively clear picture of what kind of guy William is.Report Typo/Error
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