Digested week: King Charles has tea with Ursula and shows Harry who’s boss | Emma Brockes

Plus, pandemonium in a US airline queue and Murdoch puts Fox News in the spotlight after suggesting hosts ‘endorsed’ Trump lies


At the airport in Charleston, South Carolina there is pandemonium at the gate. Airline staff have informed a group of passengers they hold a special, cheap ticket that denies them the right to take a carry-on bag. The agents blame Expedia. A quick online search indicates the airline is totally in on it (the policy soft-launched last summer), but either way, holders of a “basic economy” ticket can now only board with “one small, personal item”. No one in the queue has heard of this. Everyone is towing, in the American style, a huge wheelie suitcase, which they are invited to pay $40 to stow. There is a lot of waving and shouting. Several people look as if they might need medical attention.

I do not, it turns out, have the cheapest and most terrible ticket. I have merely the standard, terrible ticket which, for the first time, comes with an experience I have read about but never actually gone through. I’m travelling with my two eight-year-olds and, in spite of logging on to a website on the very second that check-in opened, they have been seated apart from me and each other. For the privilege of taking a flight in which my kids aren’t freaking out the entire route, I am invited to pay a further $100.

Since the pandemic, air travel in the US has become more expensive, less pleasant, and subject to greater delays, but these new gouging initiatives are something else. I huff through arguments in my head; this is a safeguarding issue; it’s extortion; it’s scalping; surely it’s illegal. Also good luck to the stranger who has to deal with all the tears and panic from my kids if there’s turbulence. The only recourse is to beg fellow passengers to switch seats, itself the subject of a million is-this-fair TikToks and advice columns. (It’s quite simple; you can’t ask someone to move from an aisle to a middle seat, no matter the cause; the seat you offer has to be equivalent or above in value to the one being vacated – although, when I’m the one being asked, I tend to crack if there’s a weeping child involved.) I swear I’m going to bring the full weight of the most terrifying force in US commercial life – American Express customer service – on to the head of the airline, before giving up, paying up, and swearing never to use this carrier again.


The Windsor framework, announced by Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen, sounds like a diplomatic move so named to make the king feel included, a bit like telling the kid dressed as the donkey that he’s really the star of the nativity play. The details of the agreement, which puts an end to the post-Brexit dispute over the Northern Ireland protocol, are one thing. But it’s the symbolism of the tea between Von der Leyen and King Charles at Windsor Castle that causes the most fuss. Here comes the former DUP first minister Arlene Foster, first in line with a grievance, to pronounce the involvement of King Charles “crass,” something about which she is certainly qualified to speak.

The proposals themselves, meanwhile, eliminate any sense of a border in the Irish Sea, driving the final nail into the coffin of Boris Johnson’s Northern Ireland protocol bill and, with any luck, the last vestiges of his political ambition. In regards to the new proposals, the former prime minister is said by sources to be “continuing to study and reflect”, a novel approach, if true, and one can only wish him the greatest good luck in his exciting new engagement with the business of government.


William/Kate spin class: ‘Well they’re not staying at ours. They’ll have to go Airbnb!!’
William and Kate at a spin class: ‘Well they’re not staying at ours. They’ll have to go Airbnb!’ Photograph: Jacob King/AP

A busy week for the king, as we zip over from Windsor Castle to Frogmore cottage, erstwhile residence of the Sussexes. The cottage has now reportedly been removed from the couple and gifted by the monarch to another member of the royal family.

“You’ll never guess who,” says a friend on royal detail for Rupert Murdoch as the story unfolds.

“Wait: Eugenie.”



“Even worse, if that’s possible.”

“Oh my god; it’s Andrew, isn’t it?”

It is, indeed, Prince Andrew, who in keeping with his reputation as a man of limited self-knowledge, is reportedly “resisting” the downsize from Royal Lodge, his 31-room home of the last 20 years, to the insultingly small 10-bedroom cottage.

“There’s no way Charles hasn’t done this as a massive up yours,” I suggest and we give it 10 minutes, roundly admiring the 360 degree offence pulled off in this one brilliant move by the king, which simultaneously insults Meghan and Harry (one can only imagine: “he’s given our house to the [alleged] sex pest!”), and Prince Andrew, who clearly doesn’t want the family outcasts’ sloppy seconds. Reluctantly, my friend winds up the call to return to the joy of writing her story. “I’ve gone the full News Corp; I’m calling him the ‘disgraced Duke’!”


More sparingly reported across the Murdoch empire, news of the revelation by Rupert Murdoch that Fox News hosts “were endorsing” lies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. According to testimony made by Murdoch in a defamation lawsuit brought last year and revealed in documents released this week, the media mogul agreed that “maybe Lou Dobbs, maybe Maria [Bartiromo]” endorsed the lie that Trump stole the election. He conceded similar activity by the host Jeanine Pirro and said Sean Hannity might’ve done it “a bit”.

The lawsuit, brought by Dominion Voting Systems, alleges that executives at Fox News knew Trump’s election fraud accusations were false, but promoted them anyway for commercial gain, something Murdoch and the News network deny. Asked whether he doubted Trump’s election fraud claims, Murdoch said: “yes”. But while conceding “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight”, he rejected the accusation that Fox News as a whole had endorsed the stolen election narrative. “Not Fox,” he said. “No. Not Fox.”

One assumes that, in tandem with his ruthless commitment to bringing the truth to light, Murdoch made these statements to further undermine Trump, having lately binned him in favour of the Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis. And while readers of Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal were fleetingly apprised of the lawsuit and its developments – some two pieces in the Journal to the New York Times’s 11 – the story has been curiously absent from the New York Post, the Times (of London), and most of Murdoch’s Australian titles.


Just over a week until the Oscars and I have a lot of movies still to see. Of those in the bag, I loved Tár; liked the Banshees of Inisherin at the time but went cold on it afterwards (it reminded me of that joke descriptor for Michael Flatley’s Riverdance: “Eire-satz”); found The Fabelmans one of the most boring movies ever made; liked Top Gun: Maverick but am baffled as to what it’s doing at the Oscars; will head into Women Talking with enthusiasm tonight; am excited for Everything Everywhere All At Once. And, obviously, would rather dig a hole in the road than sit through either Avatar or Baz Luhrmann’s biopic of Elvis.

‘Even I wouldn’t have given her my WhatsApp messages!’
‘Even I wouldn’t have given her my WhatsApp messages!’ Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA


Emma Brockes

The GuardianTramp

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