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My friend thinks she is communicating with Prince Andrew. However communication happens only through hangouts, he keeps telling her he needs special permission to talk to anyone on a regular phone line. This has been going on for 5 months.

I'm trying to find out if this is true and is there any reason he couldn't just call her on a regular phone.

  • Please do not attempt to answer the question in comments. If you'd like to answer, do it properly. – yannis Jan 30 '19 at 20:13
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That's not Prince Andrew. If it was, and he wanted to call, he could do so. Your friend is dealing with an impersonator, who likely has a scam underway.

The restraints on the behaviour of the royal family are conventions and their own judgement, rather than official rules. This shows up in various scandals, usually forgotten by the public after a while. The "Camillagate" incident, when a mobile phone call between Prince Charles and his then lover, now wife, was recorded and published, is a good example.

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  • I don't think anyone will disagree with your conclusion, but can you provide some of your reasoning? That may be more helpful to readers in the future. – indigochild Jan 31 '19 at 5:33
  • @indigochild: Added an example. – John Dallman Jan 31 '19 at 7:42
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Probably not

As other answers have mentioned, this almost certainly a scam.

That said, the answer to the actual political question of whether the royal family needs permission to call people on the phone is probably not. For instance, here Princes William and Harry talk about a phone call they had with their mother, Princess Diana. While we can't say for sure that protocol hasn't changed, or that they didn't have to ask permission, there's no mention of it.

Further, a description of how a member of the royal family tended to receive phone calls, while undoubtedly more formal than how the average person does it, implies that she didn't have to ask anyone's permission:

He said: “That officer would ask some questions and then pass the call on to the princess’s dresser, who would know absolutely everything there was to know about the princess and her acquaintances, and if they were satisfied they would ask the princess if they wanted to take the call.

Prince Phillip apparently also made phone calls.

As additional general supporting evidence, this Q&A thread on Quora, the members of the royal family use smartphones, and there are various pictures of them using them casually. While this doesn't prove that they only use hangouts without permission, it does suggests that their communications aren't being tightly controlled.

The top answer in that thread also claims that Prince William called the Queen when he had a child. Again, perhaps she'd given him special permission, and perhaps he used Hangouts, but it doesn't seem likely.

Finally, the royal family of Britain is largely composed of adults, many of whom spend substantial time away from Britain, to say nothing of their residence. It would seem completely impracticable for a family member abroad to get permission every time they needed to make a call. Especially before the advent of smartphones: how would they get the permission necessary to make a call?

None of this confirms for certain that members of the royal family don't need to ask permission (from whom? the Queen) to make phone calls, but it does make it seem unlikely.

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It makes no sense to not be allowed to use a service provided by a former government monopolist subject to British law and under control of British regulation but at the same time be allowed to use a service provided by a private US company not subject to British law and under no control of British legislation that is potentially capable of listening in on everything Prince Andrew says and writes.

This is 100% a scam.

It might be believable that they are not allowed to use communication that is not approved by the GCHQ (the UK's equivalent to the NSA, tasked with protecting the information and data integrity of the UK) for certain kinds of things such as discussing their itineraries, but in that case, they would almost surely use a secure government issued phone, not a service by a private US company.

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Good answers already, but it might also be worth your friend considering the logistics.

If Andrew (a Vice Admiral in the Royal Navy) was willing to get around his security details' policies on an online platform, he'd probably think nothing of making a telephone call. And, if special permission was really a thing, I can't see the Duke of York having trouble obtaining it.

The idea that this might be Andrew is extremely unlikely, but it's also worth considering how your friend received the information that she might have been talking to a prince. There are sufficient public details of his life that your friend would probably be able to trip up an impostor just by reading his Wikipedia page. And, as I understand it, Google Hangouts also has capability for voice and video calls.

Short answer - it doesn't seem to be public information (which is probably deliberate) whether permission is needed, but it's unlikely to be difficult for a member of the royal family to obtain it.

Meanwhile, if your friend really believes she's been secretly communicating with Prince Andrew for five months on an online platform, does she think GCHQ won't be aware of it? And what is she planning to say when the MI5/SAS/SBS visit her house?

[Edit : A big "hello" to all our friends at GCHQ, who will be monitoring this thread.]

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