Royal correspondent James Whitaker dies aged 71
Much-loved former Daily Mirror journalist passes away after cancer fight
Legendary Daily Mirror royal correspondent James Whitaker has passed away.
James, 71, lost his battle with cancer this morning.
His family were with him when he died.
Daily Mirror Editor Richard Wallace said: “James was a true Fleet Street legend who became famous around the world as a Royal reporter.
“His colleagues often joked that at times he appeared grander than the royals themselves – which, of course, he loved.
“Despite the severity of his illness, he never complained or went in for self-pity, but insisted he had a life well lived.
“Our thoughts are with his loving family who – like us all – will miss him terribly.”
Daily Mirror columnist and novelist Tony Parsons also paid tribute, tweeting: “Goodbye and RIP James Whitaker: Daily Mirror Royalist, Diana watcher, Fleet Street legend and a man of boundless generosity and enthusiasm.”
He added in another tweet: “The death of Daily Mirror colleague James Whitaker reminds me what a great press we have in the UK.”
Matt Kelly, Publisher of Mirror Group Digital added: “so sad. James Whitaker, the last of the great royal reporters, is dead. thoughts to his family today.”
Arthur Edwards, royal photographer at The Sun, said: “He was a great man and a brilliant reporter.”
For many years he worked closely with the Mirror photographer Kent Gavin.
“We were not only colleagues but friends,” he said this morning. “We travelled the world together and had a great time.
“He was, truly, a legend in his time. He had a great rapport with all the members of the royal family in spite of writing controversial stories sometimes.
“And he was respected by colleagues and rivals as well. He was just the best.”
In a career that spanned over forty years, James pinpointed “the relationship and build up between Charles and Diana, when they were heading towards marriage” as a career highlight.
He later became well known as a TV commentator on the royal family for shows such as This Morning, famously being dubbed the “red tomato” by one of the princes due to his bulky skiing outfit.
Despite his expert appreciation of protocol, James was still fond of finding humour in the habits of etiquette.
“Lots of people get flustered when they meet the Queen,” he told Russell Brand during a 2007 interview.
“I’ve seen men get so thrown when they’ve met her that they’ve curtsied!”
Having travelled the globe in pursuit of the best royal stories, James had picked up plenty of tips for those that encounter the Queen during her royal visits.
He advised Brand: “Do not bow from the waist, bow from the neck. And say, “Your Majesty”.
“[When you meet her] you call her “ma’am” – ma’am as in ‘jam’, not ma’am as in ‘charm’. when you think about it, it is short for ‘madam’ isn’t it? Not ‘maudam’,” he joked.
“If she’s talking to you and the conversation gets stuck for just one second, it’s absolute codswallop to say you mustn’t speak to her unless she speaks to you first.
“That’s nonsense! She is desperate for other people to speak to her because she has to make all of the conversation.”
He added, mischievously: “Bring horses up and you’ll be able to talk to her for ten minutes. She much prefers dogs and horses to human beings.”