A special onus on The Sun to be able to verify its Queen story

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Morning View

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The News Letter has reported on 10 monarchs since we were established in September 1737.

No other daily newspaper in the English language has such a record covering kings or queens – even The Times, founded in 1785, has only covered nine (it was not around for George II).

Of those 10 monarchs, three have dominated the royal scene – George III (1760 to 1820), Victoria (1837 to 1901) and the present Queen (1952 to the present). For 188 of the 279 years that this title has been in publication, one of those three heads of state has been on the throne.

The News Letter has centuries of experience both of royal coverage and press freedom. We even navigated neutral coverage of the 1798 hanging of the United Irishman Henry Joy McCracken, grandson of the News Letter founder Francis Joy.

Now a press entanglement with few precedents has emerged between the Queen and Buckingham Palace, after the latter complained to the press watchdog Ipso about yesterday’s report in The Sun that the monarch supports Brexit. It is, as the constitutional expert Professor Vernon Bognador, said hard to believe that the Queen has been indiscreet about the EU poll within earshot of the sort of people who might tell the media. He thought it “absurd to suggest” that she would break with her long tradition of acting constitutionally.

The Sun has a particular responsibility to be able to defend this claim. The Sunday Times for example had reason to publish the reported tensions between Margaret Thatcher and the Queen, because it was based on a briefing from no less than the Queen’s respected press officer Michael Shea, and the paper’s editor read the story to him before publication.

The Queen’s popularity in part rests on the combination of her ceaseless sense of duty (even she approaches 90) and her utter discretion on political matters (so that she has never alienated sections of her subjects). For her to comment on something as divisive as Brexit, even if only within earshot of others whose cannot be trusted, would be very surprising.