King’s ‘warm’ tribute to retiring Nicholas Witchell 19 years after calling him ‘awful’

Witchell has covered royal births, deaths and marriages over the years, but his most memorable encounter occurred with Charles on the slopes at Klosters in 2005.

During an official photocall with the then Prince of Wales, Witchell was given permission by his aides to ask a question about his forthcoming wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles.

Charles, unaware that his comments would be picked up by nearby microphones, said sotto voce to Princes William and Harry: “Bloody people. I can’t bear that man. He’s so awful, he really is.”

Witchell admitted in an interview last year that he was “a bit taken aback” by the remarks and the worldwide publicity that they gained.

‘He really didn’t like me at all’

In the interview, he explained that Charles’s muttered putdown was not prompted by the question about his impending nuptials but instead to an earlier report Witchell had published about him holidaying in the Mediterranean aboard his friend’s yacht.

He said: “So many people think royal correspondents are in the pocket of Buckingham Palace, blowing smoke up the Royal family’s rear end.

“It did me no harm among those people to then discover that he really didn’t like me at all. 

“It’s a fact. He didn’t really talk to me for a few years.”

However, the pair seemed to have buried the hatchet recently and in 2019, Charles became patron of a charity co-founded by Witchell called the National Memorial Trust.

One BBC source told The Mail on Sunday that the feeling within the broadcaster was that the surprise audio tribute had gone down well.

“The feeling within the corporation is that everyone is pleased the King has buried the hatchet,” they said, adding: “What happened between them is a long time ago and both men are of an age now where it’s better not to bear grudges.”

The King’s message marked one of several tributes paid to Witchell’s 48 years at the BBC during his March 21 retirement party, organised by Tim Davie, the corporation’s director-general.

‘It’s time I shoved off’

Witchell announced his retirement from the corporation last October after working there for almost half a century.

He joked that it was time he “shoved off”, saying: “I am 70 years old. I’ve done 47 years of continuous service. It’s time I shoved off to focus on other things.

“It has been a huge privilege for nearly half a century to work for simply the best news broadcaster in the world alongside some of the very finest producers, camera operators, editors and others. I hope Britain realises what it has in the BBC and cherishes it.”

Speaking after his leaving party, Witchell said: “I had a very pleasant evening hosted by the director-general with a number of colleagues with whom I’ve worked over the nearly 48 years I’ve been at the BBC.”

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