Prince Charles was low in the water during the early 1990s. The collapse of any marriage is painful. In the case of the Prince the agony was magnified beyond endurance by a merciless public scrutiny with which the royal publicity machine, whose armoury of lethal weapons included the raised eyebrow and the old boy network, was ill equipped to deal. Looking back, the Prince must have drawn on enormous reserves of moral courage in order to cope at all. Relief came only with the arrival in 1996 of Mark Bolland, smart, gay, and educated at a comprehensive school.
Five years later Bolland was rightly named PR professional of the year. The job he did for the Prince was awesome. Bolland’s official rank in the Prince’s office — deputy private secretary — concealed his real role. He did not merely mend Prince Charles’s damaged public image. Camilla Parker Bowles, who had at times drifted dangerously close to pariah status, was a ‘non-negotiable part of the package’. Showing great skill, sensitivity and flair, he nursed Mrs Parker Bowles and the Prince towards the more secure though still by no means unassailable position in British public life which they occupy today.
Bolland’s methods were a study. He delightedly cast aside the remoteness and fastidiousness favoured by Buckingham Palace. He struck deals, exchanged access for good copy, made expert use of the art of apparently casual indiscretion. Mark Bolland is a less ruthless and more honest man than his friend Peter Mandelson. But at precisely the moment that Bolland was getting to work on the Prince, Peter Mandelson was brilliantly solving the surprisingly similar problems faced by New Labour. During the 1980s the Labour party, like the royal family, had become estranged from the British media, and as a consequence the object of humiliation, ridicule and misrepresentation.