interviewharry arnold
Arnold was royal reporter for The Sun, 1976-1990. He and his partner, photographer Arthur Edwards, were charged with getting the latest scoops on Charles and Diana.



q:  Harry can you describe what the impact was of the News of the World getting the photograph of Princess Margaret and Roddy Lewellyn on the sort of balcony in Mustique?

arnold:  Well it was just amazing. At that time and in that era the Royals were still very pure and they behaved themselves and they weren't unfaithful and they didn't have affairs and then along came this -- well-- he wasn't much short of a beatnik.

It appeared like a shock wave in Fleet Street because at that time the Royals, members of the Royal Family were not having affairs, they weren't running away with other people, and as far as one knew at that time Princess Margaret's marriage was okay. There were rumors that there may be problems but when that picture appeared it dispelled any doubts that there was something seriously wrong.


q:  And what was the reaction of the paper you were working on at the time to that story? What did the Sun do?

a:  Well we were obviously fascinated. We hate to be beaten on anything and I was sent out there with a photographer to try to get them together, see them together and in fact Roddy Lewellyn was on our plane so we knew which way he was heading when we landed in Barbados and we then attempted to match the story in the News of the World. The trouble was that we were identified and were firmly asked to leave the island which we had to do but we did eventually catch up.

q:  Which photographer were you with then?

a:  I was with a photographer called Arthur Edwards who was my partner in crime for many years and in fact he was with me when I think he spotted Roddy Lewellyn at Barbados airport at the end of that holiday And I grabbed hold of him in the queue for check-in and took him for a coffee and for the price of about 20p he told me the whole story of himself and Margaret and talked about their magic island and how wonderful Princess Margaret was. And that was a sensation at that time.

q:  Bernard Shrimsley has said that it was because there was gossip in Private Eye actually, the satirical magazine about Margaret and Roddy Lewellyn at that time, that it actually hadn't been followed up really as a proper story in any popular newspaper. What do you think it was that made it acceptable-- from your position as a street level reporter-- to look at a member of the Royal Family in this way?

a:  Well I think all the time it's a rumor that a particular member of the Royal Family is behaving in a certain way that it's difficult for a national newspaper or was at that time difficult for a national newspaper to pursue it and there had been rumors about Prince Philip and various members of the Royal Family and we had to hold back because of the flavor of the times if you like, the mood of the times, and then as you say, there were reports in Private Eye and then the News of the World. And that, as it were, opened the floodgate, or perhaps not a total flood but a little chink, for us to pursue it. So it was a question of letting someone else break it first. Many years later of course the popular papers like the Daily Mirror broke the stories first. But in those days it was slightly different.

q:  I'm interested in the role of Private Eye at that period. I mean it had been going since the 1960s . It was sort of partly campaigning and partly kind of gossipy scandalous stories. How much attention did someone like you pay to Private Eye?

a:  We always read very carefully what Private Eye said because it quickly became traditional that you didn't sue Private Eye, so they had that distinct advantage, and although that may have given them license to occasionally run away with themselves they also got things very right and they tended to confirm what I and some of my colleagues had believed anyway, and so when they added more detail to what we believed was happening then we went for it basically. It was a question of building upon bricks.

q:  So it was quite an important tool if you like Private Eye in the 1970s and the 60s ?

a:  And still is now. The scandals are still broken first in Private Eye.

q:  In connection with the Royal Family what do you think the influence of Rupert Murdoch was in the way the Royals were reported?

a:  Well I think his influence was quite profound at that time because you have to remember that the Royal Family were revered and the the fairy tale wedding of the Queen was still within living memory. He came along and coincidentally at the time that we're discussing Charles became available on the marriage market if you put it that way. He'd, left the Royal Navy. He was largely unreported while he was in the Navy. He was now arguably the world's most eligible bachelor and what our Editor said to myself and the photographer I was working with, Arthur Edwards--he said 'we want to be the first to tell the British public who Prince Charles is going to marry.' And of course off we set on a merry dance around the country - polo matches and hunt balls and all that sort of nonsense - and eventually we got it right first.

A romance between Charles and a beauty was obviously something which would overnight turn the Royal Family into a fascinating subject. You only have to look at the situation today where Prince William is fast approaching that age and it will happen all over again. He will leave school. He'll be seventeen or eighteen. He'll go on to university and then it will start all over again and such is the interest of the British people.

q:  But what part did Rupert Murdoch play in all this?

a:  Well I don't think it was his directive. I think Rupert Murdoch's position was that he wanted his newspaper, the Sun, to be different, to be upbeat, to be rebellious, to be a little bit naughty just as Hugh Cudlip had with the Daily Mirror in the years earlier. Just to remind you Hugh Cudlip, one of the most famous Editors of the Daily Mirror, he was the first to challenge Margaret over the business of-- was she going to marry Townsend? And he carried the headline "Come On Margaret, Make Up Your Mind." He later called it a friendly shout from the crowd. I think that was the bedrock upon which Murdoch built his ideas to launch a newspaper which was different.

Also, I think that Rupert, being colonial, didn't want to kowtow to the Royal Family and still doesn't and so I think his instructions through the Editor was -- 'look, stop worshipping these people, stop treating them as gods. They're ordinary human beings and they will help sell newspapers. Let's go out there and get the real stories. '

q:  Now can you describe how you, Harry Arnold, were the first person to identify Diana Spencer as the new girl in Prince Charles's life? How did you get the story?

A? We were the first to reveal that Lady Diana Spencer was the new lady in Charles's life because he invited her to Sandringham for a weekend and a few weeks earlier she had gone to a polo match in Sussex and myself and the photographer, Arthur Edwards, were there and she had a D, a gold D, on a chain around her neck and Arthur photographed her and sort of tucked it away for the archives as it were. And we did not realize at that stage that she was there as a guest of Charles.

So moving on a few weeks there she was turning up at Balmoral and sources within Balmoral - let's put it that way - told us that she just followed him around like a lamb and was obviously totally smitten with him and he went out of his way, took extraordinary measures not to be photographed with her. Now he tended to be shy about his lady friends anyway, but this was a sure sign that this was possibly a serious romance and right up until the announcement of the engagement--it was a year later - no photograph exists of the two of them together.

It was Charles who said-- 'This is where we go. I'm going fishing. You're coming with me. We're going for tea. We're going stalking on the moors. The Queen expects us back at four o'clock. ' He was the man who ran the timetable. He was the man who said We must not be photographed together. He always had a thing about the value of royal photographs and royal books and he often asks people How much did you make on your book? I've heard him say it. And he asked me. And he's certainly aware that photographs of him with a new lady were valuable and he kind of resented it.

q:  What was the Princess of Wales, Lady Diana Spencer as she then was, like as a person? When you first met her, when she was nineteen years old, how did she strike you?

a:  Diana was always I think, she was certainly naive when she met Charles and very unworldly. Her mother had left her when she was quite young. She had quite a severe upbringing I think and went to boarding school. She was very much an unloved child and she was christened in the newspaper 'Shy Di,' which was a total misnomer and it came from the fact that she always held her head down. But this was because she was taller than Charles and so she wore flat shoes and lowered her head a little so that she didn't appear to rise above him but deep down I've never believed she was shy.

And I always thought that she had a very well-developed native cunning. I think a young girl of that age left alone for all those years and then living in a flat on her own, albeit that she was supported financially, that she had to become streetwise and I think she was quite streetwise and she knew how to manipulate men quite early on in terms of looking at them in a certain way and making them feel special and using a little phrase now and again. And she did it with all of us and she certainly did it with Andrew Morton and he was smitten at one stage.

q:  Did you like her?

a:  I did, yes. Yes. I liked her then, yes. I thought she was very sweet. She was never rude to us and that's quite important. If we were taking photographs and they'd had enough and said Okay, thank you gentlemen they always said it politely and that was fine. And of course remember that she knew in the back of her mind that we'd had many conversations in the past on the telephone when I tried to be helpful and co-operative and not say things that she didn't want said.

q:  And you're talking now about after she's married aren't you really?

a:  I'm talking about during the engagement and coming up to the engagement that, when they became engaged she must have remembered the early conversations which we had. I once telephoned her from Switzerland. Charles was skiing. We were in Klosters. She was back in England. The whole world was wondering whether they were going to become engaged. No one knew for sure and I decided to ask her. By now she'd started to become incommunicado, so I went through the operator and asked the operator to tell whoever answered the phone at the flat that there was a call from Klosters. And of course she thought it was Charles so she picked up the phone, rushed to the phone instead of sending one of her girlfriends to the phone and I said 'It's me, Harry Arnold' -- and she screamed and I said 'Look, I'm ringing to ask if you're going to marry him.' And she never answered the question but we had a forty minute conversation during which I said to her 'You remind me of Edward VIIs position in the middle of the abdication crisis' -- that he later complained that he was the last to know anything. And she said 'You'll never know how right you are.' And I knew then that while we were wondering whether they were going to marry, she was wondering too.

q:  Can you talk about the incident in which Charles responded to press questions about --w'ho were you going to marry?'

a:  I remember it very vividly because it happened at a Press reception on the second day of the visit in Delhi at the British High Commission and again I was working with my colleague, Arthur Edwards, and he had injured his back that morning and we couldn't get a taxi. It was only a mile and we went by elephant to the British High Commission. I remember saying to the driver British High Commission please driver. and off we went through the dusty streets of Delhi to this reception and when we arrived there was no ladder to get down from the elephant and we had to jump and Arthur lay in the gutter groaning as the Prince of Wales arrived in his limousine. He had to be carried in to be given a gin and tonic.

And as the afternoon went on, the Prince of Wales walked over to a group of us and first of all he embarrassed me severely by saying to me I understand you've telephoned my very good friend Nicky Soames--Lord Soames of course--to ask if I'm going to marry Lady Diana Spencer. And of course it was true, but no one knew I had and I was very embarrassed and I said 'Look what you've done now. You've now given away my best contact.' I'm sort of trying to cover the embarrassment and then he said -- 'Why do you think she's the one?' And at the time I think all of us totally misunderstood what he meant. I thought he meant why do you think she's the one that I've singled out to marry? And so I replied 'Well I think we could be forgiven, Sir, for saying that you do treat her in a rather different manner from your usual cavalier approach to your girlfriends. ' I was trying to say in a polite way that he used to dump them after a few days and this relationship had gone on for many months and then he was saying things like 'Oh you mustn't rush me and I mustn't get it wrong and if I do get it wrong you'll be the first to criticize me in three years time.' It was many years before I realized, and I know, I'm quite sure of it, that what he really meant was -- 'Why do you all think she's the one I should marry?' And I think at that stage his mind was not made up at all and he was a genuine question. Why this one? Why this girl? Why, why Diana? And I think from that moment a momentum started a bandwagon began to roll and I think he couldn't stop it.

q:  So it was a sort of marriage that was made in media heaven if you like?

a:  I think that's absolutely true, he wasn't ready for it but then he was never ready for marriage. He had gone far too long. He was in danger of becoming a permanent bachelor and I think, well I know there was a great deal of pressure from his family, from the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, that he had to make up his mind.

q:  So, in summary, the Press, the coverage and the media and so on kind of made this marriage in a way?

a:  Yes. I think that the coverage which newspapers gave to his friendship let's say at that stage with Lady Diana Spencer became so feverish that it created a pressure all of its own. We had stories everyday. We had pictures everyday about her. News, newspapers were vying for the latest photograph and it did become a rolling bandwagon that I think Charles found impossible in the end to resist. It wasn't so much a question of did he want to marry her as did he have a good reason not to marry her, when it came to a confrontation with the Queen and with his father, they said Well what's wrong with this girl? What's wrong with this girl? She's perfect. And to a certain extent it was a marriage made by the media. She was created if you like as a bride for Charles.

q:  Describe how you found out about the origins of the historic royal kiss on the balcony? What happened in the run-up to that event, that famous image?

a:  Well at the time of the marriage I had an extremely good contact inside Buckingham Palace. He's no longer there I'm sad to say but he actually witnessed, heard the conversation between the parties on the balcony and what happened was that Andrew said to Charles Give her a kiss as the crowds were cheering and waving and the Queen was standing there. And Charles being a naturally very hesitant sort of man said words to the effect 'I'm not getting into that caper' And Andrew repeated 'Oh go on, give her a kiss.' And Charles half-turned to the Queen and said 'May I? ' And the Queen said 'Yes.' And so we carried this story in the paper the next day. Everybody poured cold water on it. And then another newspaper were enterprising enough to ask somebody who specialized in deaf and dumb language and who could read lips to watch the film and she, a lady, confirmed every word that we'd printed.

q:  In terms of sort of royal iconography, what was the fact that they were kissing? I mean what was that kind of in breakthrough terms?

a:  Yes it was, it was another milestone in the coverage of the Royal, of the Royal Family and in this particular instance it was the Royals that created it and not us but in previous engagements and marriages they stand on the balcony and they do this silly wave. It looks like throwing food at swine and here they were kissing. I don't think it had ever happened before.

q:  But was there a sense in which they [the Royal Family] were kind of contributing to the fever about romance in the Royal Family in a kind of quite self-conscious way if you like or was it just Andrew getting carried away, I don't know?

a:  Well I think that it was an important breakthrough as far as the behavior of the Royals were concerned it merely matched public, public behavior, but what I thought was significant to me was that Charles was reluctant and you say well perhaps he's a naturally shy person. But you see on the engagement day he's the person who, when asked by the television interviewer, And you are in love aren't you? said Whatever that is. And again at the time it looked like Charles being his silly, shy self. But looking back , perhaps he was saying 'no, I'm not in love with her.'

q:  Or perhaps he just thought they were being nosy?

a:  I think the body language during the engagement session, the engagement photographic session, showed that he was uncomfortable and that was not really typical of him because he'd been used to cameras since he was four years old. I think his unsureness can be seen in that interview.

q:  The Princess of Wales -- can you describe what she did for the Royal Family first of all as a story and an institution? I mean what was her effect on the House of Windsor?

a:  When Diana became Princess of Wales upon her marriage, she electrified the Royal Family. She became certainly I think in this century the first Royal superstar. She couldn't do any wrong. Everywhere she went she was photographed. She was mobbed. People stood twenty deep. They'd stand in pouring rain for hours on end. She was on Page One everyday of our newspaper. She was on Page One of I think every glossy, glossy magazine in the world and I know that one women's newspaper dropped her after about thirty weeks in a row and their circulation went down, so they had to put her back on Page One. She was simply amazing, the effect she had, and of course she was new, she was fresh, she was young, she was pretty, she wasn't boring and that effect can never, ever be diminished. You can never take that away from her.

q:  And what was the competition like in what was called Fleet Street at that time -- I mean what was it like being a Royal reporter in the early 1980s? I mean can you describe the pressure on you as a royal man?

a:  The competition between Royal Correspondents in those days was ferocious, absolutely savage. The pressure was unbearable at times because if your rival broke a new story about Charles and Diana, it had to be those two, when the paper appeared at eleven o'clock or half past eleven at night, it might even be midnight, you were telephoned - you might be asleep - and told to match it. You've got to discover is this true or is it not true? And I know this happened to some of my colleagues about my stories and we did go through a very difficult time and there was a stage I think when our edit, our editors used us as their champions. You go in and fight him. You go and get a better story than him. And they were very difficult times but they were helped by the fact that we were deep down friends as well, as well as being rivals, but there were times when it wasn't much fun.

q:  Now can you describe what was the attitude of the then Editor of the Sun, Kelvin McKenzie, towards the Royals as a story? How did he regard them?

a:  Kelvin McKenzie, who was then Editor of the Sun, regarded the Royal Family as just another product to help sell the newspaper. He had no reverence for them, no respect for them. He didn't very much care if we trampled on anybody's feelings but then he felt that way, that way about everybody. He would never hold back on a story. He wasn't even fussed if it was checked out or not. If I said it was true, it went in, that was it however sensational the story might be. And I remember when I broke the story of Princess Anne's close friendship shall we say with her Scotland Yark Personal Protection Officer. I had one source on which I relied and only one source and I really thought that we would not run it but he didn't hesitate. It went in. That was perhaps an example of some courage, you might say recklessness. There were other times I think when he could be very cruel but certainly his philosophy was if it's royal, if it's sensational, it's going in.

q:  How did he put pressure on you as a royal reporter?

a:  Kelvin was very demanding with everybody but he was particularly demanding with me because of course the Royal stories were tremendously important. I mean he would burst through the swing doors of, of the newsroom and shout across at me What's Prince Charles doing at the moment? And I'd say Just having his breakfast and he'd never quite know if I was taking the mick or not but he always wanted 110%. He always wanted a story when there wasn't always one there and in particular Sunday's always a difficult day for Monday's paper because it's quiet. You've got lots of pages to fill and he would say I want a royal story for tomorrow and it's got to be big, it's got to be sensational. I don't care if it's not true.

a:  The Royal Family was a mystery to Kelvin McKenzie. He never understood how they worked. He never understood how we got the stories and I kept it that way. I kept it that way but he also did not understand how difficult genuine good stories were to obtain and that was why he handed the royal job around like a bag of sweets and chopped and changed. It never worked doing it that way and he, he was a difficult boss.

q:  I'd like to ask you a little bit more about your colleagues who, people who all worked together who people familiarly call the rat pack.

a:  Those of us who covered the Royal Family in that period did become good friends, close colleagues. We were called the royal rat pack I think by Australian journalists first of all. The Duke of Edinburgh once called us scum and I said 'Yes but we are la creme de la scum' -- which I think angered him somewhat.

We were away from home a great deal and during the tour of Australia, the first big tour with Charles and Diana we were away from home for seven weeks, a long, long time and that story was on Page One everyday, seven days a week. So you can imagine the pressure and of course we all get tired, we can all miss something, and so it wasn't possible everyday to sneak something for yourself, for your newspaper. You have to also understand that on official tours you have a pool of reporters who are allowed to be at a certain place at a certain time and anything you obtain from that pool position has got to be shared and it is, I mean I was pool captain at one stage. It is sacrosanct that you may not keep something for yourself.

On another tour at another time I obtained the 'slitty eye' story of the Duke of Edinburgh from a pool position and on those tours with Charles and Diana because of the pressure we did help each other but of course there was always the day when you did have a genuine exclusive which you'd obtained with your own enterprise and you filed that to your, to your newspaper. What you did do however was tell your pals not to go to bed too early but to wait until eleven o'clock and then you'd give them a fill-in before their news desk telephoned them and gave them a bad time.

q:  And if you said that one of your colleagues was suffering from Red Carpet Fever what did that mean?

a:  If we said a colleague was suffering from Red Carpet Fever what would happen would be the Princess maybe walking past us one morning and just smiling gently at all of us and saying Oh how are you this morning Peter or James or Harry and causing that person to blush and feel rather special and then they're rather pompous for the rest of the day, and so we call it Red Carpet Fever. They started to believe they were members of the Royal Family.




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