interviewharry arnold
continued


previous
q:  Can you describe what happened in fact when the Duke of Edinburgh was on his trip to China in 1986?

a:  The trip to China was one which had been planned probably for decades and it was ruined by one stupid remark by the Duke of Edinburgh and it's all very well to blame the Press for it but it was an official tour, he was on duty, he knows that his words are reported wherever he goes. And what happened he was speaking to a number of British youngsters working in China and he said to one young boy 'How long have you been here?' And he said 'Oh two years' or whatever and the Duke said--'You'll be going home with slitty eyes. ' And this conversation should have been obtained from a pool position but the reporter was missing from that position, so I sent back as pool captain to have these youngsters interviewed and that's how the interview came to light. It was a fluke, absolute fluke, and it caught them floundering and of course my newspaper then had great fun by all these crazy headlines saying "Philip Gets It All Wong" and the next day the Queen was so angry she couldn't look at him. You could not get the Queen smiling. They wouldn't look at each other and we carried another headline saying "Queen Velly Velly Angry." I mean it was just a terrible time for the Duke and he suffered a lot of criticism as a result.

q:  To what extent was Diana created by the Press and the media, I mean television as well, in that, during that period?

a:  Princess Diana was a phenomenon created by the Press. She was an early Madonna or the first Spice Girl if you like. She existed and was famous because she was there, because she was pretty and because we put her on Page One everyday and she didn't have to say anything or do much. Anything she did say became a headline. She once said I'm thick as a plank and immediately it was a splash story. If she held the hand of a leper or put her arm round an old lady, and let's face it she's very good at compassion. She has made a special, specialization of it. It all added to this tremendous aura that surrounded her, that she could do no wrong, but of course the fact was that even in those early days she did do wrong and we noticed it but you couldn't report it in those days.

q:  When you say do wrong I mean do you mean she didn't observe protocol or said the wrong things or..?

a:  No, there was an occasion quite early in the marriage certainly within the first couple of years, when she lost her temper in Switzerland on a skiing trip, stamped her foot and acted like a spoilt child. It was because the car wasn't where it was supposed to be and they'd lost their bodyguard. And Charles got in a bit of a flap and he was pleading with her saying calm down and stop making such a fuss and I wrote that and it did go in the paper. But it was turned down because this wasn't what the British public were happy to read about, this wasn't what they were expecting. And so if you said Princess Diana was in a terrible mood yesterday and snapped and snarled at photographers q:  You expected royal people to behave royal, regally is that right? Is that what you're saying?

a:  I don't necessarily expect members of the Royal Family to behave regally but if they don't, if they behave in a loutish or uncouth way and swear at the Press, then it isn't our fault and when Prince, when we used to quote Princess Anne as saying "Naff off" she wasn't saying naff off at all. She was saying another word much more Anglo Saxon. So they can't blame us for portraying them as badly behaved. They bring up their children badly. Their children are allowed to poke out their tongues at photographers at a very early age. Now I wouldn't let my children do that.

q:  In 1986, how was the Duchess of York regarded-- what was the initial reaction to her if you like?

a:  The appearance of the Duchess of York was quite extraordinary on the Royal scene because those of us who covered polo regularly at Windsor knew her as being the daughter of Major Ron Ferguson, Prince Charles's polo manager. So although we were not close friends with her she was someone who was on the scene as it were. Then when she became engaged to Queen's second son it was as though what's happening? This is all rather strange. But the public liked her and there can be no doubt that initially she was a tremendous breath of fresh air on the royal scene but it never really worked for her not from very early on and I think she suffered even more than Diana did from lacking a maternal influence, that guiding hand to tell her what to wear, what not to wear, what to do, what not to do and she's made so many mistakes that I think we were more sympathetic than the British public were.

q:  Where did it begin to go wrong for Fergie? What sort of things would she do which would force you if you like to do a negative story about her?

a:  She was always compared unfairly with Princess Diana and certainly in the early days she was overweight, so it became fat Fergie against wonderful Diana but I always thought that once you said that she was fatter than the Princess of Wales why keep repeating it? But by now the Press in general had latched onto the good Princess and the bad Princess if you like. They get fixed in these things and it's sometimes very hard to change. She was compared in so many ways. Her dress was often compared. Well of course she had nothing like the budget that Diana had and perhaps didn't have the same figure or the same advice.

q:  I know you left the Sun in 1990 but in 1987 I think that was the period of "counting the days they'd been apart" story. I mean what was the Palace doing when you ran that sort of story? Do you remember that period?

a:  Yes. When the marriage of Charles and Diana began to go seriously wrong it could be seen by those of us who were covering their activities because if, if you see someone on a regular basis, someone who's a friend and they're in a bad mood or they're upset, you can see it you can detect it. It isn't that clever. But then we would go on tours and we would discover that they had separate bedrooms, that there had been a row the night before over something or other. These things came back to us as they tend to do and they were pooh-poohed by the Palace, they were denied. We were called troublemakers and scandalmongers.

The general public didn't believe it either. They thought that we were creating this rift, that having invented the hero and heroine we were now destroying them and we were doing, we were doing no more than we were paid to do. We were reporting what we saw. We were telling the truth but of course the truth wasn't popular.

q:  I have interviewed someone who thinks --it was Peregrine Worsthorne actually--who thinks the Royal Family's like no other story and that journalists should not be allowed by their editors to report on the truth about the Royal Family if it's unpalatable. And that they should be basically protected and that different standards should apply to them. I mean if that had been put forward on the Sun at that time what would have been the response in the newsroom?

a:  There would have been uproar. The Royal Family are accountable. They're living in the twentieth century. The Queen now pays taxes. She's opened Buckingham Palace to the public. Times have changed and the secrecy that surrounded the abdication crisis of 1936 would have never happened if it had been covered by today's reporters. Times change. It's no good saying let's go back to the old days. It never will in any sense in which we live and the Royal Family can never go back to the timeof being able to tell people what to do and never, their actions never being questioned. It's too late. The genie's out of the bottle.

q:  Can you talk about the issue of Diana collaborating with Andrew Morton on the book? At what stage did the Mirror seize on that as being wrong -- was that how the Mirror saw it or what was the Mirror's view of that episode? Simply whether it was true or whether she'd helped with it?

a:  Well the question of whether Diana co-operated with the book never really concerned me very much because I always believed she did because of the background of covering the Princess of Wales from day to day to day and one knew that she was quite clever with the Press.

And I also knew that it was unthinkable for her brother to speak to Andrew Morton without Diana giving her say-so. It just doesn't happen. It was unthinkable for her flatmates to talk. It would be like breaking a secret, a sacred vow. So I never questioned whether or not she, collaborated. I knew she had. So when the furor broke over had she/hadn't she I couldn't really get very excited about it and when others did I said well does it matter that much? It's been going on for months if not years.

q:  What had been going on for months and years?

a:  That she knew how to use the Press. She discovered very early on during her marriage and even during her engagement that, if she was on a walkabout talking to the crowds, that if she said something that we would be walking behind the crowds listening and there would be a chap with a boom microphone picking up words and she realized that if she wanted something to be known she need only say it in a way that she knew the Press would pick it up and she could in that way speak through a newspaper.

An example was when Princess Michael of Kent was sitting next to somebody at dinner and said that Prince Harry, when he was a baby, had ginger hair. She said I've seen the baby. He's got ginger hair and Diana was aghast. So the following day during a walkabout she was walking along these rows, crowds of people saying By the way my son's got fair hair. By the way my son's got fair hair. It didn't matter what people asked her, all she wanted to tell them was that her son had fair hair. Now that may or may not have been significant the color of that boy's hair but what mattered is that she knew when to say it and how to say it and how to get it in the Press. So, of course, we all ran a story the next day saying Princess Diana angrily denied that he son has ginger hair and she was very cross. So that was an early example of a kind of manipulation, of getting in the paper what she wanted to get in the paper.

q:  Kent Gavin has described how he met her accidentally actually at Phantom of the Opera I think--and she had a conversation with him in which she sort of hinted that she was a bit upset that Prince Charles wasn't coming back from Sandringham to take their sons back to school or something. Now this was an off-the-record conversation but if you're the Princess of Wales is sitting next to a person who works for the Daily Mirror and you tell them something like that, do you expect that story to be used and did you have any examples of something like that where it was kind of off-the-record but really on-the-record?

a:  The Royals are never off-the-record when they talk to the Press with one exception -- when they have a Press Reception on an overseas tour, they are supposedly totally off-the-record and shouldn't be reported. And that certainly is true if the conversation is humdrum and inconsequential but all the members of the Royal Family are perfectly well aware that if they say something quite extraordinary it will get into the Press the next day. So if Diana said to a journalist that she was surprised Charles hadn't done a certain thing, she would know as sure as eggs is eggs that that's going in the paper the next day. So that is a classic example of manipulation if that's the correct word.

q:  But had it ever happened to you before? a:  I cannot recall her ever criticizing Charles to me but she would, she would say things about, comparing herself with Sarah Ferguson, saying when Sarah first appeared on the scene she said 'Oh I suppose you'll drop me now like a hot potato. I suppose you'll be fussing round Sarah now.' And I'm not sure if she was trying to create, rivalry deliberately but she certainly knew that it would be reported.

q:  Now when you were on the Daily Mirror can you describe what became known as the the Camilla tape arrived in the Daily Mirror's offices? How did that tape come about?

a:  It is common knowledge and so I can say this much that the Camillagate tape was recorded by a radio ham and every story you've ever read about MI6 and the secret service is utter nonsense because I met the man. I interviewed him many times and I am utterly convinced he was telling the truth. I was given the task of researching the tape. We didn't just listen to it as the Sun did on a later tape and convince themselves it was true. I was given as long as I wanted and I think in the event it took seven weeks to compare the voices, to check every reference made in the tape and to be absolutely sure that it was authentic and indeed it was.

q:  What was your reaction when you heard the tape the first time?

a:  The first listening I was amazed at the language used and of the depth of the relationship but I had been convinced for a long time that Charles and Camilla had been having an affair that it had been going on for some years. I didn't realize that it was still going on when he married Diana. I think that much became obvious later. I was astonished by the kind of language that they used and also by the number of friends that were helping them. The references to various stately homes, the homes of titled people, I was surprised at how they had conspired to help him conduct a secret affair without Diana's knowledge.

q:  But what did you think this would do to Prince Charles if it was public knowledge?

a:  I thought it was the end of the marriage. I was quite sure when I listened to the tape that once it became known it would be the end of the marriage. Bear in mind that the whole British public knew of the so-called Squidgygate tape of Diana talking to James Gilbey and she was having a bad press over this, that she was the naughty, badly-behaving wife while loyal Charles was struggling on to make the marriage work. When I heard the Camillagate tape it proved beyond any doubt that this was a marriage that was looking for a divorce and indeed within a few weeks of the transcript being published the separation was announced.

q:  But also what did you think it would do to Prince Charles's image and standing as an heir to the throne if you like?

a:  Well I remember my then Editor saying that if the tape were heard by the British public that he would be booed in the streets and he was proved to be right. He was booed in the streets.

q:  Did you ever have any qualms about, I know it wasn't your, ultimately your decision, about whether you should publish it or not?

a:  It was not my decision as to whether or not we would publish the tape. My task was to establish its authenticity or otherwise but quite frankly it had reached a point then when I saw no good reason not to publish it. I mean after all Diana had been totally, her affair had been totally exposed. The situation was unbalanced and the public didn't know the total truth and, as we're supposed to be publishing the truth, then I was certainly in favor of it being published.

q:  Now when there were rumors about Mrs. Parker Bowles prior to that tape coming to you, into the your possession what was the paper's reaction to those stories up until 1991?

a:  When during the earlier period coming up to 1991 stories had come in saying, or tips had come in saying that Charles had been meeting Camilla I was not at all surprised because of all the background knowledge that I'd gained over many years of covering Prince Charles but they were very difficult to pin down and this was a marriage which was still together and you can't publish rumors, unfounded rumors about the heir to the throne who is supposedly a happily married man but I can only say that I was not surprised. I knew they were true but I couldn't write them.

q:  But were you surprised when Clive Goodman with the News of the World sort of went with it?

a:  I wasn't entirely surprised when the News of the World went with it because it is a fact of life that some of the most difficult facts to obtain are the most expensive facts to obtain and the News of the World pays the highest sum of money and sometimes it's possible for a source to be so highly placed that there can be no doubt and sometimes that source may have a tape recording which backs up his or her claim that you do not use, you do not publish, but you have in your safe as it were as positive proof of the story which you are publishing.

q:  So what was your suspicion about the News of the World sources for where Charles and Camilla were going to be because that's what they were getting wasn't it?

a:  I think they, in that particular instance that they were fed the story deliberately. It's the whole business of Charles and Camilla is a very convoluted plot and I think historians a hundred years from now will still be sorting out some of the details.

q:  What's your own personal sort of feeling about where those stories were coming from? -- He claims he was getting envelopes with details of where they were going to be together accurately.

a:  I think that information given to the News of the World about Charles and Camilla at that time were so accurate that it had to come from either Charles or Camilla or a friend of Charles or Camilla or a friend of a friend. In other words it was meant to be known. So that wasn't a case of bought information. That was a case of this is something we want you to know.

q:  Why would they would them to know? Prepare people?

a:  Because I think the stage came when Prince Charles could no longer-- it's a cliché but-- 'live with the lie.' He could no longer go on with this impossible marriage and I think there was a desperation for the truth to come out.

q:  Yes. I mean what happened once the sort of Camilla tape began to come out? What did someone working at the Palace say to you about it?

a:  Well I actually questioned somebody at the Palace about the relationship between Charles and Camilla after the story had broken and he said So what the hell? It happens all the time. Ordinary people have affairs as well. And I was a little bit surprised but then he wasn't saying it for publication. But it told me that he had known but had kept it secret obviously.

q:  And what was your reaction to that then?

a:  I was a bit surprised. I mean it's par for the course at Buckingham Palace. q:  Now we thought quite a lot about Diana to a greater or less extent manipulating the media. Who has given her this enormous power in the first place?

a:  Princess Diana's power to manipulate the media was given to her by us by the fact that we made her this goddess who only has to say three words and it gets into the paper. But if you mean who taught her it, she certainly had coaching from film people like Sir Richard Attenborough. But I don't think that's what matters. I think what matters is the native cunning that I think she developed quite early. She found it difficult to survive in a Royal Family that was living in the last century and the only way that she could survive was to adapt very quickly and to adapt her intelligence to cope with it and to become crafty.

q:  In terms of the House of Windsor what did that mean when she was in a really tight situation negotiating for a way out?

a:  Well I think Diana's power to manipulate and negotiate as it were was a tremendous shock to the House of Windsor. They'd never had to cope with anything like this certainly in the Queen's lifetime. The Queen had sailed along on this perfectly steady ship and the worst thing that ever happened was that Prince Charles sipped a little tot of brandy, cherry brandy when he was young. They never had anyone who could upstage them and get away with it but Diana could and this was not only a shock, they did not know how to cope with it, how to deal with it and there must have been very many worried meetings between the Queen and her advisors to discuss this.

q:  What I meant was that in many ways Diana's power to command a front page all the time, the fact that she had this knack of putting her views across directly or indirectly in all the different ways that we've discussed meant it gave her an enormous ability, an enormous tactical advantage at every point if that's true.

a:  Oh yes. There's no doubt that Diana's ability to handle the Press if you like and to massage her own image causes the Royal Family tremendous problems and she always wins. Whatever she does, whatever they say and do to counteract whatever she does she's always the winner.

She goes on Panorama. She gets the public sympathy. She's not criticized for admitting adultery. She's praised. Charles goes on television, admits adultery, he gets a bad time. If Charles and Diana were to hold a Press Conference and each give their side of it, her side would always be put first and her photograph will appear. His won't because he's boring. That's the way the public perceive it.

So she will always have the upper hand with the Royal Family and that's why she was able to negotiate such a brilliant divorce settlement. Do you remember she said 'I won't shut up and go away. I won't go quietly?' That's exactly what she did. She stood her ground.

q:  One last question. During the really bad time about 1992 what was the attitude of the Daily Mirror towards the Queen?

a:  When things go badly for the Royal Family the Queen will always get a good press and the Daily Mirror by and large will always be warm-hearted whenever they can to the Queen because it has to be said that for the vast majority of her reign she's led a blameless life and she's a tireless worker cannot be questioned and has obviously tried hard to become a Queen when she was never born to be Queen, but she was only thrown onto the throne by accident as it were.

So she will never be given a very bad press but in recent years people are beginning to question her role in this whole sorry saga.

And I certainly feel that she has many questions to answer, most of them about the way her children were raised. They're all badly behaved and certainly the way Charles was allowed to get away with it for so many years, have his affair and be married all at the same time, when the Queen knew about it and the Queen was openly inviting Camilla Parker Bowles into the royal box at at polo matches. All these things cannot be brushed aside and when the history is written of the fall of the House of Windsor, if indeed that happens one day, the Queen must accept her share of the blame.

q:  But, I mean, if she was the head of a privatized water company and the water company wasn't providing water.... She's the head of the Royal Family and the Royal Family's not doing what they're supposed to be doing. She's not criticized for it?

a:  The Queen is loved by the British people because of the circumstances of her father's untimely death, because she became Queen when still very young, that she took on a role for which she was not trained and made a tremendous success of it and it has to be said that she's not failed in any of her duties. She doesn't speak badly. She doesn't misbehave. She doesn't get drunk. She doesn't fall down. She doesn't swear. She conducts our relationships with other monarchies and with heads of state in, with absolute perfection. So none of that can ever be, ever be faulted. The only mistakes have been the invisible ones if you see what I mean in terms of the way she didn't perhaps give Charles the affection that he craved when he was very young and for which we now see the results. So it's easy to condemn her on that score. But in the scheme of things her mistakes have been very far apart.




home .  join the discussion .  pictures .  bbc interview .  interviews .  readings
morton book controversy .  press & the royal family .  links .  press reaction .  tapes & transcripts

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation


pbs online
SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS