Friday, August 8, 2014

In Came The Queen

By 1983, Princess Diana was learning fast, and -- "graduated," as Tina Brown wrote, "to being a seasoned media sophisticate...a big-time star."

At the end of 1981, however, the media attention and pursuit was still a relatively new phenomenon to Diana,

and as things changed so fast, in her life -- married in July, pregnant a couple of months later -- and the intensity of media scrutiny increased and seemed to be everywhere, it made her very nervous and frustrated.

---------------- [excerpt, The Diana Chronicles -- 2007-Doubleday] ----------------- In December [1981], Diana went to pieces after an excursion from Highgrove to a village store in Tetbury, where she emerged to buy a packet of wine gums, a popular chewy candy, and was caught in a ravening press onslaught. 

Her meltdown was such that the Queen broke the rules of a lifetime and asked Michael Shea to summon to Buckingham Palace the editors of all twenty-one national daily and Sunday newspapers and the key figures at the BBC and ITN. 

It was sleek staff work....The briefing was staged in the Palace's white and gold 1844 Room, so named because of its occupation that year by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. 

(The only editor missing was Kelvin MacKenzie, Rupert Murdoch's freebooting ruffian at The Sun.  MacKenzie had sent word, obviously under duress, to say that he was unable to attend because of a previously scheduled meeting with his employers.  "We had no reverence for the Royal Family," Sun staffer Harry Arnold later said proudly.  "We didn't believe in following rules laid down by the old guard.")...

Shea's message to Fleet Street was that the Queen was worried about invasions of the privacy of the Princess of Wales....He outlined how camouflaged photographers were bivouacked in the bushes, waiting in ambush in Tetbury High Street if she went out to buy a paper or some candy,

and he pleasantly begged for some restraint.

Shea then invited the editors to join him next door for drinks.  The representatives of the press were ushered into the even more splendid Caernarvon Room, hung with paintings of the Spanish guerrilla war against the armies of Napoleon. 

Then, in an unprecedented move for a Sovereign who believes in never complaining or explaining, and to the astonishment of the assembled editorial eminences, in came the Queen, escorted by her younger son Prince Andrew, popular at the time as a dashing naval pilot. 

Monarch and prince moved deftly from group to group,

distributing cordiality to everyone present. 

So snowed were these fearless news hawks that none of them brought up the Diana privacy question until the News of the World's Barry Askew...

bucked etiquette by speaking to the Monarch head-on.  "If Lady Di wants to buy some wine gums without being photographed," he growled, "why doesn't she send a servant?" 

"What an extremely pompous man you are," replied the Monarch with a smile, a much-guffawed-over riposte generally considered a palpable hit for Her Majesty.


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