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