Max Foster is part of Prince Charles’ entourage on his maiden royal tour of West Africa, covering Ghana and Nigeria. The entourage touched down at Abuja on Tuesday November 6, visiting Jos and Lagos in the course of a three-day visit. Foster shares his experience as a royal correspondent with our reporter. Excerpts …
When did you become a royal correspondent and what sustains your interest on this beat?
I was blown away at the international reaction to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and wanted to find out more. I have travelled widely with the family since and learned that each country has their own interest in them. They are a truly global brand and by working with them I have gained access to people and places I wouldn’t easily reach. This is my first visit to Nigeria for example. New members of the family keep arriving that keep the public interest up too.
So far in your career you have interviewed a lot of people, royalty, celebrities and non-celebrities alike. Which of these interviews would you say defined your career and who was it?
I most remember my interviews with Steve Jobs, Donald Trump and Prince William because they happened at key moments in their careers. Steve Jobs had just launched the iPhone, Donald Trump had launched his Presidential campaign and Prince William has just had his first child and heir. Big interviews are about timing as much as anything else.
What do you consider the significance of Prince Charles’ visit to Africa, especially Nigeria at this time?
He is preparing to step up as Head of the Commonwealth so it’s important that he strengthens ties between the members.
Why do you think he chose this time for these visits?
I think he had been planning to come for some time and the timings worked out now. There are a huge amount of people involved in royal tours and all their diaries need to be matched. I know he wished he could have come back sooner.
You’ve had a one-on-one interview with Prince Charles. What aspect of his personality would you say impressed enough for you to like to talk about it?
He’s a workaholic and is very passionate about causes close to his heart like climate change. He is often still at his desk at midnight, seven days a week. In person, people find him much more friendly and open than they imagined.
From your experience as a royal correspondent, to what extent would you say the British monarchy has evolved over the years? What has changed and what has not?
As the generations move on, it becomes less formal, but I think that reflects the shifting times. Prince Harry is very casual compared to The Queen. They can’t assume public support like they used to, so they have to keep up the public work and the younger royals are doing it in a much more approachable way. Some traditionalists worry that that take reduces the mystical allure of the institution.
Who’s your all-time favourite member of the British Royal family and why?
I genuinely don’t have a favourite as I have to report on them objectively but Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is the friendliest with the media and always greets us. I have had some great conversations with her, as I have had with Princes William, Harry and Charles.
What’s it like working in the world of the Royals?
It’s hard keeping up with them as they move between engagements quickly. The secret is to minimise the kit we take with us and try to get in to the royal convoy which has the advantage of outriders.
What differentiates the very wealthy from the Royals of this world?
They haven’t grown up with the same freedoms as you and I. They can’t move freely, speak freely or even vote. So, whilst they enjoy a lot of trappings they have also sacrificed some basic human rights which I would struggle with personally.
Do you think Prince Charles has great plans for the third world in general?
He certainly believes that his work on climate change could help developing countries, as would his initiatives to reduce youth unemployment.
If you were not a journalist, which career path would you have taken and why?
Maybe teaching? I think the two professions have a lot in common. We’re giving people information they can use to make decisions that affect their lives. It’s vital we protect the credibility and independence of journalism as a result.