James Whitaker, journalist, author and royal correspondent, has died aged 71 after losing his battle with stomach cancer.
James became the ‘face’ of royal family news and scandal in the ‘90s, when he emerged as the go to guy for news about Princess Diana. He was the first journalist to reveal that she had begun dating Dodi Fayed, the son of Harrods boss, Mohammed Al Fayed.
Sun photographer Arthur Edwards, who travelled all over the world with James on royal assignments, said, “We’ve lost a giant. A great, great guy.”
Speaking to the Sun, Edwards added, “He was a fantastic bloke. He was so hard-working and unrelenting in his attempts to get stories. He loved scoops.”
The paper’s report about James adds that he “reveled in his job” and insisted on traveling first class wherever he went, and would eat and drink at only the finest places.
Born in wealthy Cheltenham, James began his career working in an accountancy firm. He then moved on to working for a local paper in Brentford, West London, before eventually embarking on to a career in Fleet Street. He also worked for the Daily Mail, the Express, the Mirror and The Star.
James’ son Thomas – who was also at one time a Sun reporter – said of his father’s death, “I said goodbye to him on Friday. He was so ill at the end with kidney and lung failure from the chemotherapy — a ventilator kept him alive.
“Two months ago he was invited to Buckingham Palace to meet The Queen. He was so proud when he shook her hand.”
The Daily Mirror’s editor, Richard Wallace, added, “He 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.”
And of James’ illness, Wallace added, “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.”
A Buckingham Palace spokesman commented, “Those in the Royal household who knew James were extremely sad to learn of his death.”
In the latter years of his life, James worked as a royal commentator for ITV’s This Morning, and competed in the 2004 series of Celebrity Fit Club.
What a sad loss.