Historian Pushes to Unlock Royal Archives Amid Alleged FOI Act Abuse

Historian Pushes to Unlock Royal Archives Amid Alleged FOI Act Abuse

Historical Accuracy Hindered by Closed Royal Archives

In a fervent plea for transparency, historian Andrew Lownie highlights the significant restrictions barring access to critical historical documents concerning the Royal Family.

While the Public Records Act offers access to numerous archives at the National Archives, there’s a glaring exception — records involving communications with the Sovereign remain off-limits under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act).

Secrecy Surrounding Royal Biographies

Lownie underscores the challenge faced by historians who often rely on scant resources such as newspaper clippings and ‘sources’ due to redacted references to the Royal Family in historical documents. Notably, Lownie points out the discrepancy between the restricted access to archives and the freedom of the royals themselves to disclose personal details, as highlighted by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in various instances.

Struggles in Accessing Crucial Information

The historian reveals the extensive limitations faced in extracting information, particularly concerning Prince Andrew’s tenure as the UK trade envoy. Despite efforts, Andrew Lownie encountered significant barriers in acquiring documents, with FOI requests often met with contradictory, limited, or denied responses from governmental departments.

Challenges with Governmental Transparency

Lownie condemns the excessive secrecy shrouding the Royal Family’s affairs and expresses frustration with government agencies’ reluctance to disclose pertinent information.

He elucidates instances where requests for details regarding Prince Andrew’s activities, associations, and expenditure were denied, citing various exemptions under FOI regulations.

Urgent Need for Reforms and Transparency

With mounting obstacles and a lack of governmental cooperation, Lownie emphasizes the urgency for reform within the FOI Act, calling for a thorough review of closed archives that date back to the nineteenth century. He argues that the existing culture of unnecessary secrecy perpetuates speculation and undermines trust in institutions, including the monarchy.

Advocating for Openness and Accountability

Lownie concludes by asserting the necessity for transparency in unveiling historical records, asserting that the release of these archives could significantly restore public trust in governmental institutions and promote a clearer understanding of historical events involving the Royal Family.