Prince Andrew, Duke of York, fourth in line to the British throne and special U.K. representative for international trade, apparently does not have a very high opinion of some foreigners - not to mention certain journalists. So it is with an overwhelming sense of irony that the same reporters he has allegedly accused of "poking their noses everywhere" have revealed his embarrassing - some would say offensive - Royal remarks as part of the latest WikiLeaks cables.
On Tuesday, the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper published a 2008 cable from U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Tatiana Gfoeller, in which she revealed how the Prince expressed his views on corruption investigators, the French, Americans and - hence the irony - Guardian journalists during a brunch with U.K. and Canadian businessmen. "Rude language a la British... [Andrew] turned to the general issue of promoting British economic interests abroad," Gfoeller wrote. "He railed at British anticorruption investigators, who had the 'idiocy' of almost scuttling the al-Yamama deal with Saudi Arabia." (See the top 10 leaks.)
Those investigators, who were with the Serious Fraud Office, had been looking into alleged kickbacks paid to a senior Saudi royal in return for a major contract with arms company BAE Systems to provide equipment and training to Saudi security forces. The probe was halted by then Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2007 on the grounds it could compromise security co-operation with the Saudis. (A wider investigation did proceed, however, and ended in February with the company pleading guilty to minor accounting offences and paying $440 million in fines.)
According to the leaked cable, the businessmen at the brunch, "roared their approval. [Andrew] then went on to 'these [expletive] journalists, especially from the National [sic] Guardian, who poke their noses everywhere' and [presumably] make it harder for British businessmen to do business. The crowd practically clapped." (See more on WikiLeaks.)
Then, wrote Gfoeller, when one of the guests, discussing potential investment in Kyrgyzstan, said: "Doing business here is 'like doing business in the Yukon' in the 19th Century, i.e. only those willing to participate in local corrupt practices are able to make any money ... [Andrew] laughed uproariously, saying that: 'All of this sounds exactly like France.'"
For good measure, Andrew also took a pop at the U.S. "Americans don't understand geography. Never have," the cable quotes him as saying. "In the U.K. we have the best geography teachers in the world." Summing up her impressions, Gfoeller said the Duke of York spoke "cockily," "verging on the rude" and often with "almost neuralgic patriotism". (See pictures of Royal weddings.)
None of this will have come as any great surprise to the Brits, who have routinely read stories about Andrew's allegedly brusque manner. His father, Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip, also has a reputation for putting his foot in his mouth during foreign trips. On a state visit to China in 1986, he famously told a group of British students: "If you stay here much longer, you'll all be slitty-eyed". In 1998, while chatting with a student who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea, he asked: "You managed not to get eaten, then?"
Apart from providing a catalogue of cringe-worthy diplomatic gaffes, Philip's comments are more likely to spark mirth over his blundering than to cause offence. But his son's remarks have raised questions over how well Andrew can do his job boosting British trade overseas if he holds such attitudes. Buckingham Palace has declined to comment on the latest cable revelations and David Cameron's official spokesman said Downing Street would "not be providing a commentary" on the leaks, which the Prime Minister has already condemned, claiming they could potentially damage national security.
After telling the BBC that Andrew has "always been known to be a blunt speaker," former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind says that the Duke of York just needs to be more careful in the future. "Prince Andrew is a superb representative for the U.K.," he tells TIME. "But just like presidents and prime ministers, he will have to assume that what he says in private may in due course become public. We are all on a learning curve." (See how Britain's King of Sting nabbed the Duchess of York.)
Prince Andrew is unlikely to have revised his opinion of journalists as a result of these latest revelations. The danger for Britain's image abroad is that others might revise their opinion of the U.K. - and not in a good way.