The scoop that cost ITV's Tom Bradby friendship with Prince William

TOM RAWSTORNE: The Meghan Markle scoop that cost ITV’s golden boy Tom Bradby his friendship with Prince William

  • ITV’s Tom Bradby, 55, had cultivated close friendship with the Prince of Wales
  • But bombshell interview during South Africa tour saw relationship ‘terminated’
  • TV presenter asked Duchess of Sussex if she was ‘OK’, revealing unhappiness
  • Prince William said to be ‘let down’ by the correspondent and caught off guard 

Turning their backs on royal life, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex vowed that their relationship with the media would dramatically change.

From then on, according to their carefully curated website, they would aim to ‘engage with grassroots media organisations and young, up-and-coming journalists’.

As for ‘royal correspondents’, Harry could hardly have expressed his disdain for them more clearly. 

They are, he said in his recent Netflix documentary, ‘just an extended PR arm of the Royal Family’.

Tom Bradby’s bombshell interview with the Duchess of Sussex during a documentary made on a tour of Southern Africa effectively ended his close friendship with Prince William

Bradby interviewed Prince and Princess of Wales when their engagement was announced in November 2020

So who has he entrusted to open his heart to tomorrow, ahead of the publication of his memoir Spare?

Step forward Tom Bradby, the 55-year-old, public school-educated anchor of News At Ten, who was ITV’s royal correspondent when he first got to know Harry. So much for a new media approach.

After being introduced to Bradby two decades ago, Harry and William came to consider the journalist a friend. 

He was chosen to conduct William and Kate’s engagement interview and attended both of their weddings.

Had things stopped there, Bradby might now count himself in the increasingly shrinking pool of people who remain friends with both brothers. 

But that went out of the window in 2019, when he hosted a documentary covering the Sussexes’ trip to southern Africa. It effectively launched the Harry and Meghan exit tour.

The interview, in which Meghan thanked Bradby for asking if she was OK and Harry admitted that he and his brother were ‘on different paths’, blindsided William.

As the Mail revealed, it also terminally damaged William’s relationship with Bradby, whom he and royal advisers felt had taken advantage of Harry’s ‘clear vulnerability’.

In the fallout, Bradby confessed to feeling ‘caught in the middle’ of the brothers, calling it ‘a deeply uncomfortable place to be’.

That he should have gained the trust of both Harry and William, albeit temporarily, is perhaps unsurprising given his background and upbringing. 

‘They speak the same language,’ is how one old acquaintance put it.

The Duke of Sussex (left) during an interview with ITV’s Tom Bradby for the programme Harry: The Interview, which will be aired on January 8

Claudia Bradby (left) and Tom Bradby (right) attend the wedding of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle in May 2018

Charming and affable, Bradby was born in Malta, the son of a British naval officer. He was an only child and at the age of eight was sent to board at Westbourne House School, West Sussex, and then Sherborne School in Dorset.

Next stop for Bradders, as friends know him, was Edinburgh and a history degree.

While there he became editor of the student newspaper. Contemporaries recall his 

‘Hugh Grant-esque, floppy fringe that he always ran his hands through’ and his ‘OK, yah’ uniform of navy V-neck jumper, shirt, cords and brogues or loafers.

‘Although he was editor he always turned up late, bumbling and with a coterie of mates,’ says one. ‘His deputy did all the graft.’

While at university, Bradby did work experience at several local newspapers but ultimately accepted a place on the ITN training scheme and has remained with the company ever since.

In 1994 he married Claudia Hill-Norton, a lacrosse-playing Durham University graduate from impeccable stock. 

Her father was Vice Admiral Sir Nicholas Hill-Norton and her grandfather Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Hill-Norton.

The pair were introduced by Claudia’s older brother Simon, who, with his wife, would go on to found the sportswear company Sweaty Betty, which they sold to a U.S. company last year for £300 million. 

Among those to have been photographed wearing the brand is Pippa Middleton, sister of Kate, whom Claudia would get to know.

Tom and Claudia reportedly helped Pippa with her book Celebrate, which was published in 2012 after her star turn as Kate’s chief bridesmaid drew wide media attention. 

Bradby’s mental breakdown helped him secure his biggest scoop. In 2019 he accompanied Harry and Meghan on their tour to southern Africa

For a reported advance of £400,000, the party planning guide was widely derided for its ‘glaringly obvious’ advice.

Bradby moved to Hong Kong as ITV’s Asia correspondent in 1998 and it was there that Claudia found her calling as a jewellery designer.

After deals with Liberty and John Lewis, her work caught the eye of Kate Middleton, then a buyer for Jigsaw, who snapped up her collection for the High Street store.

Against that background, Bradby’s appointment as royal correspondent might seem a match made in heaven. But the reality, he claims, was very different.

Covering a riot in Indonesia in 1999, he was struck in the right leg by a flare that left him badly injured. 

By then a father of three, he decided the life of a foreign reporter was not for him and reluctantly accepted the position of royal correspondent, ‘the last thing on the planet I wanted to be’.

It was the early 2000s and to those on the royal beat, it was clear that after the death of Diana, the biggest story in town was her two sons, now entering adulthood. 

Bradby had an advantage over the others. He was young, posh and worked for TV rather than the printed Press, of which the brothers were already deeply wary.

But royal aides knew it was vital for them to establish links with the media and Bradby was invited by Mark Dyer, then Harry’s private secretary, for a lunch.

Over time, both brothers came to trust Bradby and, in 2004, he was invited to film Harry in southern Africa on his gap year.

The ITV presenter and royal correspondent reportedly helped Pippa Middleton with her book Celebrate, which was published in 2012

As for Bradby’s friendship with William, it involved the reporter having the Royal’s private mobile number. 

Indeed, it was a voicemail he left for the Prince, offering to lend him editing equipment in 2005, the details of which turned up in a tabloid story, which would set off the phone-hacking scandal.

Even though Bradby was promoted to be ITN’s political editor, the friendship continued. 

Announcing his and Kate’s engagement in 2010, William chose Bradby to interview them. An invitation to their wedding duly followed for Bradby and his wife.

The same courtesy was extended to Bradby in 2018 by Harry and Meghan. In an article penned soon after the wedding, he praised the couple as ‘the Royal Family’s natural rock stars’, while dropping the gentlest of hints that behind the scenes not everything had been going as smoothly as it seemed.

At much the same time it emerged that Bradby, who divides his time between his home in Hampshire and a London flat, had some problems of his own.

By then installed as News at Ten’s £500,000-a-year anchor, in the spring of 2018 he had started to suffer from insomnia. 

Signed off work for three months, his wife warned he was near a ‘very dangerous cliff-edge’ and urged him to see a psychiatrist. 

Yet in fact, his mental breakdown helped him secure his biggest scoop. In 2019 he accompanied Harry and Meghan on their tour to southern Africa.

The subsequent documentary, Harry And Meghan: An African Journey, revealed for the first time the extent of the couple’s dissatisfaction with royal life.

Meghan revealing that, actually, she was not ‘OK’ and Harry’s frank observations about his fractured relationship with his brother came as bombshells not just to the public but to the Royal Family.

Meghan revealing that, actually, she was not ‘OK’ and Harry’s frank observations about his fractured relationship with his brother came as bombshells to the rest of the royal family

‘William didn’t know what his brother would say until he watched it on the TV at the same time as everyone else,’ said a source. ‘He didn’t realise it was that bad . . . he felt genuinely worried by how vulnerable his brother was.’

But there was equal concern about the tone of the interview.

‘People in the Royal Household felt Bradby was taking advantage of him at a very vulnerable time,’ the source added. 

‘I don’t entirely buy that because Harry was desperate to talk about it and Bradby gave him the opportunity.’

In getting the story, Bradby must have known it would test his friendship with William.

In fact, it led to it being broken off. 

As a source told this newspaper at the time: ‘The friendship between William and Tom is over. The Prince feels let down by Bradby and the way he has acted over the past few months.

‘William is a sensitive soul and believes it’s in times of crisis when you find out who your true friends are. It would be fair to say Bradby hasn’t been one of them.’

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