Below is a letter I wrote to the editor of The Times to complain about the large number of errors that had appeared in the newspaper during its coverage of the birth of HRH Prince George of Cambridge:
As the country's pre-eminent newspaper of record, The Times has the burdensome duty of maintaining the highest standard of accuracy. Arguably nowhere is this more important than in its reporting of great national and royal events.
Hitherto, had I been asked to rate the quality of the output of The Times in the style of a credit-rating agency, I would have automatically rated it: AAA. I was therefore saddened to stumble upon a series of basic and quite inexcusable errors in your paper this week in relation to the birth of HRH Prince George of Cambridge.
One article published on Wednesday 24 July ("Guessing games let the bookies name their price", p.5) stated that the son of The Duke of Cambridge was "already the Prince of Cambridge" -- this is incorrect. The young prince is no more "the Prince of Cambridge" than HRH Prince Harry of Wales is "the Prince of Wales". Both princes take their territorial designation from their fathers. I accept that the lack of a Christian name complicated matters, but there were numerous other options for referring to the baby prince.
A day later, the name of Prince George was announced and, to illustrate an article about previous royal Georges, The Times mistakenly published an image of King William IV rather than the intended King George IV (the error subsequently noted and corrected in the following day's edition). In that same article, The Times stated that our young Prince George Alexander Louis could choose to reign as King Alexander I, whereas in reality he would probably need to be King Alexander IV given that there have been three Scottish kings named Alexander and a convention has been established for the regnal number of the British sovereign to follow the higher of the existing English, Scottish or British regnal numbers (which is why the Elizabeth I-less Scots were able to accept an Elizabeth "II").
Now, reading today's paper (Friday, July 26), I am dismayed to see the publication of a wholly incorrect letter to the editor in which the author states that should The Prince of Wales predecease his mother, The Queen will be succeeded by her next son, The Duke of York, rather than by her eldest grandson, The Duke of Cambridge. What nonsense.
The succession to the throne is based upon primogeniture and it operates according to a system of inheritance similar to the "depth-first search" algorithm by which one starts at the root to explore all options before backtracking. According to this system, the descendants of deceased elder siblings (in this case, the Prince of Wales's sons) take precedence over living elder siblings (i.e. the Duke of York). A cursory glance at the Order of Succession would have substantiated this fact. This week's catalogue of errors is worrying. Is The Times Style & Usage Guide no longer in use? Does The Times no longer have a royal fact checker? I fear it may be time to consider putting The Times's AAA rating on "Negative Watch".