interviewjames whitaker
Whitaker has reported on the Royal Family since the 1960s. He is The Daily Mirror's royal reporter.

q:  When you first started covering the Royal Family back in the 1960's can you paint a picture of what it was like covering them, what kind of story was considered a good story for the Daily Mail and the Express?

whitaker:  I think that one was very reverential in those days. It didn't mean that one wouldn't go for a slightly scandalous story but then there was always a worry as to whether the Editor would actually want to put it in. You've got to remember that when I first started doing Royal reportage Prince Charles was eighteen he might have just been seventeen actually - and he was obviously an interesting subject because he'd reached the age - I think people sexually matured later then - but he was at an age where he was going to start having girlfriends and anybody linked alongside the Prince of Wales was going to be fascinating but it was much more gentle then.

I remember the first job I was ever sent off to cover was the Prince playing in a polo match at Kidlington near Oxford and he was playing for the Cambridge University team and they were playing Oxford there and it was sponsored, the match, by Tetley's the tea people and I went along just to see him play, it was a Sunday, and to see how he got on and just do a gentle report on him playing polo and how good it was.

And it was while there that the Public Relations girl for Tetley came out and found me just sitting at the side, not pushing at all hard, just recording the event. And she came up and said "You're from the Daily Mail aren't you?" And I said, Yes. And she said, "Would you like to meet the Prince of Wales at the end of the match? And I said, "Yes, terrific."I loved the idea and she said "Well come on into the tent" and I was given smoked salmon and it was all extremely civilized.

And at the end of the match the Prince came in and said he had much more hair then and he was stroking it back and he was hot and he'd done reasonably well at the match and I was introduced to him and he talked inanities about the match and I think he talked about everybody goes to Scotland. Everybody knew then. And I mean for the Prince of Wales to...was just extraordinary but he started to go down that path and we talked about .....

I reported it on the Daily Mail Diary then and I did a fairly big piece for them on it and it got in the paper and it was just a very civilized way of reporting. But, if one had got a break, it was to have a light ale and maybe a cheese sandwich and to do a job. Whereby one was given smoked sandwiches and champagne --seemed to be a step up and I thought this is good fun and I wanted to stay doing Royal reporting because I thought this is going to be a more comfortable existence than any other form.

q:  But what was it particularly about the family at that stage which made them more journalistically interesting?

a:  I think what had become interesting about the Royals was that the Queen by now had settled perfectly into being an exceptionally good Sovereign. She had children who were growing up. We had Prince Charles at an age where he needed to find a wife and had a succession of girlfriends. You had Prince Andrew coming along who, as Prince Charles said of his brother "The one with the Robert Redford good looks." You had a much younger Prince Edward but you had a succession of three young chaps coming out on the town, clearly with pretty fancy girlfriends who were going to be attractive and interesting.

You also had a very fiery daughter, Princess Anne, with whom I've always had a very robust relationship with. She was knocking around too and she had become engaged to Mark Philips and then subsequently married and the whole of the family was journalistic ally extremely interesting to report on because of their relationships with members of the other sex. And there was a heck of a lot to write about and they were just emerging into the world, so there was clearly an absolute stack of a fund of stories to be done which proved to be the case.

q:  In the book you wrote at the time of Diana's wedding, you said that she was very forthcoming with the Press to the extent that you at one point had to tell her not to talk to you, even to you, as much for her own sake. Can you talk about that?

a:  I think Diana was different to the others because she became clearly a serious contender to become the Princess of Wales. I took a decision, and I think some of my colleagues did most of whom are no longer writing on the Royals, that she was a pretty suitable person to become the Princess of Wales. Retrospectively, of course, it's not true. It was a disaster but I wanted to encourage the relationship.

I will always believe that the newspaper coverage that she received in the romance that went on with Charles I am convinced helped the Prince decide to ask Diana to marry him. I think we were a big influence on it. So I would counsel Diana, who I thought and still do think, I think she's immensely tricky but I think she is delightful. Yes, I think anybody who meets her falls a little bit in love with her.

I just didn't want this romance to go wrong. I wanted her to marry him because I thought it would be good for everybody and she was delightful. She was immensely flirtatious. You know she would do the bit down and then look up like that and she was charming and she did definitely seduce the media that were with her. I think she thought it was important. I think when her romance was going on with Charles, she didn't just have to convince him that she was the correct one, she had to seduce others. A very important one was the Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales. She needed him on his side. I don't think she particularly liked him but she got him on side.

I don't think she hugely cared about the Press in many ways, rather less so than I would like to believe but I think she thought it was important that we were on side, so she did very much to flirt with us and was charming and gracious but I thought she went too far at times and when I thought it reached a wobble, which was about November or so, about six or eight weeks before the engagement happened, I thought she was talking too much and yes, I did say to her "Look Diana, you mustn't go on talking. If I ask you a question you mustn't answer it because I don't think it's doing you any good at all and I will ask you, I'll almost beg you to give me an answer, but please don't. " And I think she tightened up a little bit after that and was less, she was always co-operative but she was less willing to volunteer stuff than she had been before. But she was a brilliant operator.

q:  Can you describe what you heard happened that night at the Albert Hall--at the Festival of Remembrance?

a:  It was an extraordinary Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall that year because this is a very important event for all senior Royals to go to. The Queen always goes and the Prince and Princess of Wales were due that year. It was a Saturday night and I don't actually work on Saturday nights as such but I'd heard that the Princess of Wales rang the Royal Albert Hall and sent a message saying she wouldn't be there and clearly they believed it because in the front row there were seats and one of them was removed, the Princess of Wales's. Diana's seat was taken away from that front row because she'd said she wasn't going to be there.

The Queen turned up along with the Prince of Wales and everybody sat down and then suddenly there was a flurry at the last moment and Diana, to the astonishment of everybody, suddenly turned up at the Albert Hall. I gathered that she'd had a flaming row with Prince Charles and he'd said--If you're not coming I've got to go. Don't ask me to stay behind--He'd gone ahead and left Diana but she suddenly appeared.

So there was then a great flurry of excitement trying to find this wretched chair they'd already removed, brought it back, sat her down. But I found this absolutely amazing because when the Queen's present you're not only there just ahead of her, you behave perfectly and you don't have any situation like this. So it was obviously well worth inquiring as to what had gone on.

So the following day one person I spoke to was indeed Diana's sister, Lady Sarah McCorquedale and asked her "What happened last night? What's it all about?" And she said to me that there were problems there for her and that there was a great fear that she was becoming anorexic. She didn't say she was. She just said we are all very fearful that she's heading in that direction and it's creating a problem. I then not only wrote on that Sunday the extraordinary events of what had gone on at the Albert Hall but also obviously I did a fairly major piece explaining the background to it and I said that there were great fears within the Royal Family and within her own family that she was becoming anorexic and we ran that as a major piece in this paper, the Mirror, on the Monday morning.

There was, of course, absolute furor about this. They thought it was a disgraceful bit of journalism, people from the Palace, medical people. On what basis did I have it? Well of course I couldn't say that it had actually come from Diana's own sister, Sarah, said to me because they were frightened, they were worried, and I think she quite rightly took the decision, Sarah, that this should be brought out into the open and then maybe it would shock Diana into doing something about it or shock people around her into doing something about Diana.

But yes, I took a level of abuse and I remember Brian Redhead on Radio Four giving me a terrible time on this saying How are you basing this? What is your knowledge? And I'm saying "I'm being told by a member of her family. And he said "Well you always say things like that. And I said "Well I'm sorry, it's true but I'm not prepared to say who but I'm telling you they are very worried about her and it was hotly denied by Buckingham Palace. Again Michael Shea jumped in and said 'Abosolute nonsense, not true, and this is disgraceful journalism and no basis for this at all' And then the very same Shea, who I find fairly duplicitous on all these matters, a few years later he admitted yes, of course they'd known that there was a problem with her, an eating disorder. I don't think it was anorexia. It was whatever the other one is called. Much the same sort of thing.

So he must have known at the time but they were trying to play it down and say it was just not true. The others just dismissed it and just deny it and they were quite wrong on it. In fact the story was immense, incredibly accurate. It might have been wrong in tiny detail but I wasn't being particularly clever. I was having my card marked by one of her closest relatives.

q:  This seems to be the story of Royal reporting in the mid-to-late eighties onwards--of journalists getting near the truth about Diana and the Royal marriage--and being told that they were ferreting or swimming around in the gutter and the sewer. That was the words that Shea used. Can you describe what that did to relations between the Palace and the people who were covering the Royal Family?

a:  I think relationships between the Palace and people like myself were always tricky. They're trying to present an image of the Royal Family that I don't accept with my own eyes and for what people tell me and we will inevitably fairly regularly be in conflict. I don't think it was particularly bad under Shea because I think Shea just outright lied about things and I never think that people in authority at the Palace should ever lie. I sort of understand if they go round the truth a little bit and are vague and all that but outright lies to me are just not acceptable. I don't think it did any particular damage.

I mean I just always viewed it a them- and-us situation. I know that people at the Palace regard people like me, and they actually refer to me, John Riddell who was the Private Secretary of the Prince of Wales said to a friend of mine once who I'd been having lunch with, actually said to her "Why are you having lunch with the enemy? I find it slightly upsetting but it sets the tone and quite honestly when they don't want somebody like me to learn something or to write something and if I achieve it and prove it I quite enjoy, as they might say in Dad's Army, sticking it up them. And so I find the boundaries actually are quite helpful. It's like when a facility is laid on for us to the Press we're given it. It's sort of half-good and then you're honor bound to actually leave them alone. I'm not sure I like that. I'd quite like to be told You get nothing. We're not going to help you.

q:  Now given what you already knew about the Wales's marriage, do you remember Alasdair Brunett's television film and what your reaction was to it?

a:  I remember it extremely well. I remember Alasdair Brunett's films, two of them, extremely well. I mean it was the Royal Family have always been pretty good at charades. This was the perfect one. We sat there and were fed a load of total pap. I mean pretty pictures. Diana actually looked incredibly thin in those days and this nonsense of pretending that all was well wasn't hugely convincing.

q:  If you had to pick one incident which sort of as a journalist told you volumes about the state of the relationship could you describe what that incident was?

a:  I remember extremely well with my own eyes realizing that this marriage was in major trouble. It was August 1985. We were in a set of islands off Majorca and the Prince and Princess had gone off on the Fortuna, which was a boat belonging to King Juan Carlos of Spain and they boated about sixty or seventy miles out from Palma into the middle of nowhere to the Islas de Cabreras I think they were called. We had hired as big a boat as the King had. It wasn't quite as powerful but it was enough to keep us in touch and we arrived I suppose about forty minutes behind the King's boat in this little bay in the Islas de Cabreras.

We sailed in as if we were the Marie Celeste. There wasn't a single person on board except a local crew. We dropped anchor about fifty or eighty yards from where the Fortuna was. We stayed below in sweltering heat because the wretched air conditioning, even though it cost about five thousand pounds a day to hire the air conditioning had broken down and we were alongside the Fortuna for the best part of six hours without any of them being aware that we were there. And during that time I saw the Prince and Princess of Wales frequently but never once together. It was a state where if Prince Charles was on deck reading a book or wind surfing, Diana would go below decks and wouldn't be with him and then as she came up to do some diving off the back of the boat which she did, Prince Charles would get up and he too would go below decks and it was absolutely patented clear that there was a very big problem between these two because when you're on holiday you do tend to say at least a few words to one another. Very clearly they had nothing to say at all to the other person and during this time we filmed them but never once together. They were always separate pictures and I wrote an article then.

We were cautious then because, even though my eyes had told me that this marriage was no good - I wasn't clever. I'd just see they didn't speak to one another - one couldn't really believe that it was wrong, that it was as bad as it appeared to be. So I remember I wrote an article and my then Editor here, Richard Stott, put a headline on it, I think it was "Are They Still in Tune?" with a question mark. And in it I chronicled what had happened during that particular day. So that to me was the first clear sign, but even then I didn't believe that this marriage was going to break down and of course, again at the Press Office said Well James, I don't know where you saw all this and, was it with your own eyes or was it ... and I said--No, it was with my own eyes. I was there for six hours and they didn't know that our boat was there.

q:  1987. Can you remember what you gleaned as the significance of their trip to Wales? It was counting the days apart period by now?

a:  Well I think it was the floods in Wales that were catastrophic. The Welsh are constantly to this day criticizing their Prince for never being there, their Prince for not having a home there and the fact that he didn't take a lot of notice of them. He'd been up in Scotland as was normal in the Autumn. He spends a lot of time with his grandmother, the Queen Mother, up there and this was a period in '87 where for most of the year he had not seen very much of Diana. I mean for some sort of decency's sake they were together but they clearly weren't willingly together. He was in Scotland up there.

The floods happened. Diana was down at Highgrove I think it was their home in Gloucestershire, and they decided that Wales should be visited and some sort of comfort be given, they are the Prince and Princess of Wales. There was a secondary motive there which was to curtail somewhat some of the stories that were being written about these two were never together. So I think the main thrust I hope was to be nice to the Welsh people and secondary to show people that, of course, they could get together and they are still speaking. So they flew separately to Wales.

They met up. It clearly wasn't a great success between Charles and Diana. The body language was fairly ghastly, but that wasn't the main aim. The main aim was to be nice to the Welsh and of course they both were and that worked very well. They then went back separately. Charles flew all the way back to Balmoral in Scotland and Diana went to Highgrove and I remember writing for the Mirror, researching how many days they'd been apart, not only that I got calls at that time from American newspapers, Spanish, Italian, all interested in the same thing. It had clearly been a slightly cynical exercise to a number of people and I think that in that period I worked out I think it was about thirty-seven days they had not seen each other at all and there had been times when they could have done and they had clearly chosen not to be with one another.

q:  After the bombshell of the Morton book, we've been told by Penny Junor how her article, she was given help by the Palace over her article--"The Case for Charles"or whatever it was called. You have some direct experience of how Aylard was undermining the Princess of Wales. Can you describe what he said to you?

a:  Yes Richard Aylard, who was the Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales, I did speak to him as often as I could about the whole situation and he would not jump in and condemn Diana. He was trying to rectify the situation. I think it was hopeless for him but he wanted to try and keep them together. He wouldn't talk about Diana much because he said, which I think was fairly damning, he said--'We are very worried about the state of her mind, the state of her health and I think if anything were to be said, and the Prince of Wales himself has saidhe doesn't want any of his colleagues helping --but of course, some of them were-- doesn't want it, because they're very worried about the state of Diana's mind.' I think he was genuinely trying to help on it but, of course, this was an astonishing thing to be told. In other words people around the Prince of Wales, whether it was true or not, were beginning to put the message out "Diana's gone bonkers."

q:  She definitely felt that people were trying to paint a picture of her as a slightly unbalanced, well not slightly, very unbalanced woman. She referred to it a lot in her Panorama interview.

a:  Yes.

q:  In your own direct experience was she right to feel that they were making out that she was a bit unhinged?

a:  From my experience and speaking to people around the Prince of Wales and his entourage and the people who worked for him, yes I think that message was being put across to me that she was slightly bonkers.

q:  When anyone hinted about a romance between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, that also was always denied. Correct?

a:  Yes.

q:  So when the famous Camilla tape came out there was a little piece in the Mirror in which a member of the staff - I presume it was Aylard- actually said okay to their having an affair--'It happens all the time in France.' That was to you, wasn't it? Do you remember that?

a:  Yes I do remember that. It wasn't actually Aylard. I know exactly who it was, but I can't say.

q:  After the Camilla tape, can you describe the conversation you had with someone in which they made an extraordinary admission about the relationship?

a:  Yes it was again a very senior member of the Prince of Wales' staff and I said-- 'Well clearly, as a result of Camillagate, these two are having an affair.' And the person said--'Yes but what's so extraordinary about that? I mean this happens all the time. On the Continent, in France people have mistresses. They have affairs.' And I said--'Do you know what you're talking about on this? Do you know what you're saying?' And he said--'Well it's not that important. I mean it happens all the time, yes.'

q:  So during the1980s, in fact, there were all these things going on, which of course had been denied--and they all turned out to be true. How does that make you feel?

a:  I feel quite smug now. Michael Shea gave an extraordinary interview to I think it was Woman's Own--or Woman-- in which he talked about a whole load of the myths and all these things were raised about anorexia and them not getting on and them not being together and all this sort of thing and just everything. And I remember reading it at the time - I suppose that was about the time of the Alasdair Burnett stuff, sort of mid-eighties - and thinking well it's just not true. So there was a certain smugness particularly on the anorexia one when that came out I suppose in the end because I'd been so heavily trashed on this. There was a satisfaction that one had got it right. What the Palace is so good at doing or used to be so good at doing was you'd do a major story and there would be a lot of facets in it and within it you might get three things wrong and the main thrust would be incredibly accurate but when it was being denied the following day through official channels like Press Association or like one of the more Establishment papers, they would pick up on one of those three fairly minor things and tabloids. They don't like gray. It has to be black or white, which is sometimes a killer, and they would pick up and say But you see Whitaker wrote this. It's just not true and they could prove it and they were very clever at pointing out one or two quite unimportant things as being wrong and by insinuation that the whole article was wrong.

So that used to irritate me enormously and I suppose at the end when all these admissions started coming, I was never happy at the marriages breaking, the marriage breaking down. I thought that was just ghastly. I possibly felt more badly about that than most people in this country even though it was a story I was heavily involved in. But there was a satisfaction that okay, I'd got a few little things wrong but the main thrust, in fact I'd been incredibly accurate, and I think even the heavy Establishment papers admitted this in the end.

q:  After she'd retired from public life what was the behavior of the Princess of Wales like? Can you describe the incident in 1994 when she walked behind you when you were doing an interview ?

a:  I mean the Princess is a she cub on these matters. She's not too bad when she's on her own but when she's got her children with her, of course, she's much more aggressive and more protective. Wonderful. On this particular occasion yes, she, she can be very coquettish, flirtatious, amusing. I was doing an interview in fact with GMTV and I was doing my usual pontification. The interviewer had said And tell me how is the Princess of Wales today? And I was saying Well I can tell you this and all this and she's happy because she's here with her children.

I was pontificating away on television and suddenly unbeknown to me ten yards behind me the Princess of Wales walked out of a hotel with two pals, Kate Menzies and Catherine Soames, and she listened to me telling the world how Diana was and she sort of pulled a face and she made some funny comment as she walked by. And, of course, the camera who were filming me sort of nearly broke their necks going round to film her. But I gather that the Princess of Wales quite often makes comments about telling the world how she's feeling. She hears me on the radio and television and she commented to my Editor, Piers Morgan, the other day--she said, 'I quite like to hear James telling everybody how I'm feeling on that particular morning.'

q:  But was this the action of a woman who didn't want to be in the limelight?

a:  No I think that the Princess of Wales, I think the cruelest thing that one could do to her is to write nothing about her and not take her picture for six months. I'm not going to say she loves being chased and harassed and, as I say, with the children she's a different person but I think she feeds personally off the level of publicity that she gets. It may be because she's doing other people good like the recent trip to Angola when she went there. It helps raise world awareness of mines and that sort of thing, but I think personally she does need a fairly regular dose of publicity and her photo taken. I mean she looks wonderful. What woman in the world wouldn't be happy to see a photo of herself if you looked as good as she does. I think there are times when she would love to switch off completely. I think she runs a problem on this saying one minute I do want you and I want to use the media to get my message across. I think when you go down that line you're going to run into a problem if you suddenly say Right I'm now switching off. Go away. Come back when I want you.

I understand what she's doing but I think it's an impossibility to expect us to go along with that and particularly, one shouldn't forget this, they're very big commercial properties the Royal Family, particularly the Princess of Wales, and if you ran a picture of her and you ran a big story on her, we do sell a lot more papers. It's why we keep running a big diet because they're commercially good and also it's the one area that we can completely screw television because television never get to grips with this Royal story. They have to pick up off us all the time. For covering wars, election, anything like that TV beat us. We regularly do television on Royal coverage.

q:  During this the difficult period after her separation from Prince Charles she, the Princess of Wales, formed a particular relationship with Richard Kay of the Daily Mail. What were your observations of what was happening journalistic ally between them? What was the Mail getting?

a:  Certainly she does have a good relationship with Richard Kay. I completely understand it. He's exactly the sort of attractive, trustworthy man that she needs in her life. But I don't think it was specifically Richard. I think it was Richard bracketed with the Daily Mail, her sort of paper, the paper that her friends read.

I also think Sir David English, who is the former Editor of the Mail and now the Editor in Chief of the whole group, they were a trio--two humans and one organization--in which she could channel stuff and know that she would be sensibly and fairly treated and I think the whole environment I understand completely. It's a bit professionally frustrating to have that sort of competition but if one had to say to Diana, and I think she's fought her own battle quite brilliantly if you said to me Which organization would you choose to put your message through? you'd have to go for the Mail. And I think that Richard Kay has behaved exceptionally with her.

I think it's a very difficult line that he has but he seems to have more or less permanently got it right damn him, and I think David English is the same and I think she trusts that set-up. I think they are a paper that will deal in gray areas. Unlike most tabloids that only want black and white, they will do it very well but they've still had their own problems. I know that Richard was accused by Paul Dacre, his Editor, at one stage of compromising the Daily Mail because they were taking such a pro-Diana stance and they weren't giving the Charles' side. Well I think I could live with that if I was felt to be being pro-Diana to the extent of Charles. I'd certainly go with that input and I think all of them have behaved in a very adult, clever way and they've reaped the rewards of it. So does Diana. She gets more out of it I think than the Mail do.

q:  Who took the rap for the Dimbleby project [interview with Prince Charles] -- and were you surprised at what happened at him?

a:  I have always blamed Jonathan Dimbleby for being absolutely disgraceful towards the Prince of Wales. He knew full well that, if he got that admission from Prince Charles of adultery. Although Camilla's name wasn't mentioned--it was absolutely implicit who the Prince was referring to. He knew that would be of tremendous commercial gain for his company, the interview and for himself.

I think that there should have been much more serious warning of the Prince of Wales. I think there was a certain duty of him to say --'Actually sir, I don't think this is a very good idea to publicly admit adultery with another woman.' So I blame him heavily.

But I think the one who has to take the biggest responsibility, who of course never does for anything he's ever done in his life, is the Prince of Wales. For God's sake he was forty-six when this interview was done and if you can't decide at that age that it's a pretty stupid, if not unpleasant, thing to do to go on television and say that you're making love to another man's wife, especially in some ways a brother officer's wife, I think that is extraordinary lack of judgment. Richard Aylard picked up all the blame on that and I think that is quite wrong what happened.

q:  Now in the present climate, post-divorce, Diana still has a pretty good Press. What's her daily level of contact with Fleet Street journalists?

a:  I think her level of contact is not that great anymore. I think we see her occasionally on public engagements and she is again brilliantly manipulative with people like myself. There was a sort of an impromptu Press conference took place in that minefield in Angola when she was there in '97 and she joined in on it and I mean I was doing notes. I didn't even notice her coming over actually and she was looking and giggling at my fairly appalling shorthand, but it's a charming thing to do. And then she vaguely joined in on it and she was just nice and co-operative and helpful because she was pushing the world message on these ghastly landmines.

But on the whole she doesn't have a lot to do with the Press and on the private matters I think, although I think she needs a daily dose or a monthly dose of publicity, I really think she has had belly-full over the last fifteen or sixteen years and she wants to ease back on it and she keeps herself reasonably private nowadays. There's a certain amount of contact and, when she wants to get a message across, she tends to do it via the Daily Mail set-up.

q:  We've seen footage of you standing outside--I think it's the Royal Opera House or something--on the day of the divorce. You're saying 'Is she wearing a ring? Is she wearing a ring? ' Can you describe why that was so significant?

a:  Well I think that the Princess-- this is the day of the divorce in August '96--I think she was trying to put the message across which she'd been banging on for six or eight months that she didn't want the divorce. She hadn't asked for it and she was really forced into it. And I think the fact that she wore the wedding ring that day was a great statement from her saying, 'Okay, I'm divorced but I wanted this marriage to work. I didn't want to come out of it.' And I thought that was a strong message that she put across.

q:  But I mean in the great scheme of things what does it say about this so-called stupid woman's ability to deal with the media?

a:  I don't think she's stupid at all. I think she can be very flaky, the Princess, but I think this woman knows exactly what she's at. I don't think that always her firm belief in the way that she arranges and organizes things, I don't think it's necessarily accurate but I think that she has a very clear idea of what she wants to do.

And I think on, on this occasion and on others she is sending a clear message that she's the mother of the future King and young Harry and that she never wanted to come out of this set-up and it should have gone on. I think Terence Donovan got it absolutely right. She used to complain to him - this is the photographer who sadly died in the end of '96 - she used to say to him and complain to Terence Donovan when he was doing photos of her how she didn't like the marriage and he used to say to her-- 'Stay in it baby. Stay right with it. If you need somebody get a jockey on the side but don't come out of the marriage.' I think if she'd listened to him a bit more carefully she would most likely have done that and I think coming out of the marriage, I don't think she's really happy. As miserable as it was for her at times, I think if she'd been a little bit older, she'd had a little bit more wisdom put into her by friends, I think she would still be married to him.

q:  Some columnists who write for the broadsheets argue people like you are heroes because you have exposed--through looking at the private lives of the Royal Family--the absurdity of a hereditary Monarchy in the late twentieth century democracy. And David Hare said at the Charter 88 Conference, in the Times, that the tabloid Press deserve two cheers for what they've done in showing up that this was just a kind of inappropriate institution for us to be deferring to. Now I know that you personally are actually a Royalist but how do you feel about being a hero for some people?

a:  For a start I must make it very clear I totally believe in the hereditary system of the Royal Family. I completely and utterly approve of it. No, I find that Times type people, as my Editor Lloyd Turner said to me once-- 'You don't have to justify yourselves to them.' I find them hypocritical and tiresome on the whole. I think I'd rather they attacked me than praised me to be honest. At least I'd know where I stand. I expect them to be sneering but of course at the same time they pick up on the stories and they repeat them but in a rather hypocritical manner.

q:  Returning for a moment to the trip to Korean by the Prince and Princess--can you describe what they were like on the tour? And, what was finally admitted to you by the Palace on that trip?

a:  Yes, it was a very sad tour in many ways. I remember they arrived in Seoul and I think the level of hatred that radiated between the two as they came down the steps of the plane, as they got in their stretch limo, and as they arrived at the British Embassy there, I found it desperately sad.

Diana looked close to tears. She couldn't bear to look at Charles. He has always sort of made more of an effort than her and he realized that they were representing Britain and the Queen and that sort of thing. He made more of an effort and looked at her but she was almost recoiling in horror at even a glance let alone a touch from him. I think at one stage he did try and put his hand on hers and she just pulled it away. She found him repulsive and I found that desperately sad because they're two in my opinion marvelous people with their own quirks but two people who I think are truly tremendous.

So I think it was very sad at that level and then what I thought was sad, after about a day or two they so loathed being with one another they actually, two separate tours began. They would split up when they arrived somewhere and Diana would go off with her entourage in one direction whatever they were touring and Charles would go off on another. About three people went with Charles, about a hundred and three went with Diana, which is again sad. It's a put-down of the Prince of Wales, a very important figure, and then one day Diana didn't even bother to go out with him on one particular trip and Prince Charles went to visit some shipbuilding yard and I volunteered to go. Nobody else really wanted to go on it and I said well I'd go.

And while waiting around he was looking at these ships that are being built there. I was talking to his Deputy Private Secretary, a man called Peter Westburcot, who's now in America, and we were talking about the tour. And I said more or less what I've just said. I find this sad, tragic, dreadful that this is going on. And he made some comment which put this idea down. And I said--'Well don't tell me that things are fine in this marriage. ' I sort of snapped at him. And he said--W'ell no, we know that they're not but we're doing our best with them.' And that was the first time a public official, from the Palace, had actually admitted to a member of the Press, me, that there was a problem within this marriage . And, of course, I wrote the story and I didn't name Peter Westburcot although some of my colleagues did in the television world and I think this helped blow it wide open. In a way I thought it was clever that it happened because I think that the lid on the pot was so red-hot by now I think there was likely to have been an explosion. I think in a way they wanted a bit of release let out, which is what happened on that one.

q:  Finally, this is a rather an old question but in the 1950's there was a little friction about Prince Philip and the marriage rift and at that time journalists have described how no one would ever have dreamt of publishing or writing anything about the Queen's relationship with her husband being in anyway other than hunky-dory. What would happen now if there was another sort of hint that Prince Philip had an extra-marital relationship forty years after?

a:  I think there's no question that if one could nail it down on the Duke of Edinburgh having a dalliance with somebody else, if you could prove it and do it would get run in the papers in banner headlines and maybe cover eight pages of the Mirror.

I think he is extremely lucky, Prince Philip, that there weren't people like me around in the fifties and sixties who would have got at him and would have done the story but then, of course, there were different proprietors then. But I think it's sad in a way and I think we would run every spit and comma now. I'm not saying that's good but I think it's reality.

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