“There is a story that George vi, Queen Elizabeth’s father, kept a book called Things I’ve Read About That My Daughters Never Did. All I know is that any time we’ve tried to keep a list of the fictions and the trivia, we’ve given up the first day because there is just so much of it.”—Michael Shea, the Queen’s press secretary commenting on the intense coverage of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales.
Diana and her husband dominated the media last week as usual. From Melbourne stories and pictures flashed around the world. They revealed a radiant Diana wearing an emerald and diamond headband fashioned from a necklace which was a 1982 wedding gift from the Queen. Television news clips showed Prince Charles switching on an ornamental fountain and lightly spraying nearby reporters and photographers. But Charles was annoyed when five London tabloids reported off-the-record remarks which he made at a press reception on the royal couple’s Australian tour. And a palace spokesman said that tabloid reporters might be banned from receptions in future. But that princely censure was a minor incident in a year in which Fleet Street—and the world press —devoted thousands of column inches and pictures to royal-watching.
Fantasy: Charles and Diana are central figures in the blend of fact, fantasy and speculation for one outstanding commercial reason: coverage of the Royal Family—especially its glamorous younger members—helps sell newspapers and magazines. For one thing, the London tabloids routinely carry as many as five stories on the Royal Family every day. And such British magazines as Woman and Woman ’s Own each report that their weekly sales of one million copies rise by an additional 40,000 copies when Diana’s face appears on the cover. That concentration of press resources guarantees that the royal couple’s public activities as Britain’s bestknown ambassadors will be well-documented. But it has also caused friction between the blue-blooded celebrities, trying to maintain a private life, and the
reporters, photographers and columnists who follow them.
Most of the Fleet Street staff reporters on the royal beat earn at least $40,000 a year, enjoy lavish expense accounts and often augment their regular income with lucrative freelance assignments from foreign newspapers, television and radio outlets. As well, such writers as 45-year-old James Whitaker of The Daily Mirror and 44-year-old Nigel Dempster, The Daily Mail’s gossip columnist, have achieved celebrity in
their own right. Dempster, connected to the British aristocracy through his second wife, Lady Camilla Harris, lectures Diana in print on her responsibilities to her husband. And in an article written for the U.S. magazine McCall’s earlier this year he criticized the royal couple for becoming “boring and tedious.” Whitaker is a graduate of Cheltenham, an exclusive public school in southwest England. And he relies on a network of carefully nurtured contacts among old classmates, members of the British upper classes—and the servants who attend them—to provide him with stories about the royal couple. For one thing, Whitaker reported that Diana had sought—and obtained—the resignations of several household staff members, including that of Charles’s private secretary, Edward Adeane, since her marriage. Diana herself approached the
columnist at a public gathering in London recently and told him, “Mr. Whitaker, I do not get rid of people.” Cameras: That kind of personal contact is denied to less elevated levels of the royal-watchers, a jostling crowd of staff and freelance photographers who call themselves the Royal Pack. Its members routinely carry telephotolensed 35-mm cameras and lightweight aluminum stepladders to shoot over the crowds at events covered by as many as 200 photographers. Stamina is also a
requirement: Jason Fraser, at 19 a threeyear veteran of the pack, recalls waiting for 27 hours near St. Mary’s Hospital in London last year. His reward: pictures of Diana emerging from the hospital with her newborn second son, Prince Harry.
Outrage: The palace did not object to the taking of those pictures. But other photographs have caused royal outrage. One was the photographing of the pregnant Princess of Wales in a bikini. In that instance Whitaker and a photographer spent 5V2 hours hiding in the underbrush in 1982 to obtain shots of Diana sunning herself on a secluded Bahamian beach. Declared Fraser: “There is a lot of hypocrisy in this business. Many people say they won’t crawl around in the bushes. But they do.”
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