Aide quits Charles in privacy row

Telegraph backs down after wrangle over school photographs of Prince William
The future of the monarchy: special report

Prince Charles's press secretary last night became the first victim of media hysteria over Prince William when she was forced to resign over an unseemly row between St James's Palace and the Daily Telegraph about the copyright of a set of pictures taken to mark the prince's 18th birthday.

Sandy Henney, 47, who has been the Prince of Wales's press secretary for seven years, tendered her resignation, which was accepted "with very deep regret", because of an agreement she signed with a Daily Telelgraph photographer that gave him sole copyright of the images.

St James's Palace said Miss Henney had resigned because of the mistakes over copyright and to ensure that the privacy of Prince William and Prince Harry was maintained in the future. But royal sources said last night she had been forced out to protect Prince William from renewed hostilities with Fleet Street on the eve of his 18th birthday.

The embarrassing row over the photographs could not have come at a worse time for St James's Palace as it attempts to protect Prince William from unwanted intrusions from the press as he enters adulthood. It has threatened to cloud the relationship between Prince Charles and national newspapers over the way they deal with his two sons. Concern has been mounting inside royal circles for some time that photographs of Prince William will become as valuable as those of his mother, Diana, with the inevitable result that the paparazzi will follow his every move.

Royal sources said that the need to be seen to treat all newspapers "in a correct, fair and equitable way" was paramount at a time when he will have to be exposed more to media attention. "Many people will have thought that the palace giving favoured treatment to a Daily Telegraph photographer was a licence to print money," said one royal source. "Sandy had no authority to do that, it was not authorised - quite the reverse - and she has now done the honourable thing by resigning."

Personal dealings with the media and the press complaints commission code have protected Prince William during his schooldays. But under the code's terms he will cease to be a child on June 21 and lose what insiders call "that edifice of protection". The palace's strategy to "give the prince space to have a half-normal growing up" would have fallen to pieces had the palace not acted firmly and fairly once the error had been realised.

Lord Wakeham, chairman of the PCC, had been due to make a speech next week setting out guidelines for editors on how to cover Prince William as he becomes an adult. But yesterday the PCC cancelled the engagement, saying it would be inappropriate.

Last night Ian Jones, the Daily Telegraph photographer, agreed to transfer the copyright of the photographs according to the directions of the prince after the palace issued a strongly worded statement demanding he should donate proceeds from the sale of the pictures, which could amount to millions of pounds in worldwide syndication, to charity.

"I was offered the opportunity to take exclusive pictures of Prince William at Eton which I was honoured to accept," he said. "The law conferred the copyright on me and no suggestion has been made until today that I should donate it to the crown. Now that the suggestion has been made, I shall gladly assign the copyright as the Prince of Wales may direct."

The row erupted on Thursday when Charles Moore, editor of the Telegraph, accused the palace of breaking an agreement with the newspaper in handling the distribution of the pictures. The paper claimed it had been promised advance copies of the photographs, taken in Prince William's final term at Eton, as a reward for distributing and handling the pictures to the rest of the local and national press.

But after a complaint from Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, St James's Palace issued copies of the pictures to the Times and the Mail, leading to accusations from the Telegraph that the Prince of Wales's office had reneged on its deal with the newspaper and its photographer.

Last night Mr Moore said he saw Miss Henney's resignation as an acceptance by the Prince of Wales's office that it had behaved unprofessionally to wards the newspaper. He said: "The Daily Telegraph was never party to any contractual arrangements in this matter and has no financial involvement whatever in anything to do with the pictures.

"Our concern throughout has been that agreements made with our royal photographer Ian Jones should be honoured and we were dismayed that this did not happen."

One insider said the episode had exposed Charles to a lot of criticism. "Her [Miss Henney's] head has rolled for it."


Jamie Wilson and Michael White

The GuardianTramp

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