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CRAIG BROWN: The Queen's favourite quiz. Andrew as Dirty Den. This royal soap will run and run…

rating showbiz 3

Palace papers

Tina Brown Century £20

Evaluation: rating showbiz 3

In 1955, when the author of The Palace Papers was a toddler, venerable writer and TV personality Malcolm Muggeridge warned that the royal family was in danger of being derailed.

“The whole show is completely out of control,” he wrote in The New Statesman, adding that much of the publicity around them was, in all likelihood, generated by their own appetites.

“I suspect they’re developing a taste for the publicity that they find, in theory, so repugnant. This is simply human. It applies in one form or another to everyone.

In 2019, the Queen (above) captained one of Sandringham's Women's Institute teams playing a version of Pointless, which we're told is one of her favorite TV shows

In 2019, the Queen (above) captained one of Sandringham’s Women’s Institute teams playing a version of Pointless, which we’re told is one of her favorite TV shows

“Even a tiny bit of television fame is likely to please, or at least excite, when the whole conscious being finds it vulgar and odious.

“At the same time, the Royal Family should be properly advised on how to avoid themselves and their lives becoming some sort of royal soap opera.”

Sixty-seven years later, there’s no ‘sort of’ about it: The House of Windsor is the world’s leading soap opera, with a number of long-running franchises and offshoots, including The Crown on Netflix, for those who like melodrama and The Windsors on Channel 4, for those who prefer comedy.

Fittingly, the cover of The Palace Papers resembles the opening sequences of Dallas or Dynasty, with the decidedly unsmiling faces of the female leads – Camilla, the Queen, Kate and Meghan – in four thin rectangles, side by side.

“Inside the House of Windsor – Truth and Turmoil,” reads the caption breathlessly.

Tina Brown tells the story of the last 25 years of the House of Windsor in suitably exciting and schlocky prose, full of words and metaphors more commonly found in airport blockbusters from Andy McNab or Lee Child. : bombs, explosions and hand grenades.

In the very first paragraph, Brown talks about Meghan’s “nuclear revelations” to Oprah Winfrey, on the next page she tells us “it was kryptonite”.

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On page five, we learn that Princess Diana’s world fame “hit Buckingham Palace like a meteor.” Its heat burned the queen’s tiara.

Later, we learn that “Diana’s bomb-throwing instinct for Charles… splattered the monarchy” and that her death sparked a “tsunami of grief”. In turn, Earl Spencer’s eulogy was “a hand grenade” that “kicked the royal family to their faces frozen in their teeth”.

Even the postponement of Charles and Camilla’s wedding by just one day, due to the funeral of Pope John Paul II, was, according to Brown, a “cosmic eruption” that caused Camilla to “fall apart”.

It’s a shame, because Brown is a busy bee, with lots of great contacts, and The Palace Papers has plenty of fresh material. But his prose adds a layer of pretense to even the most faithful revelation, as well as a stuffy nuance and subtlety.

All the key episodes of the ever-expanding royal soap opera are covered – The Fake Sheik, Philip’s Gaffes, The Trial of Paul Burrell, Major Ron, James Hewitt, Ardent TV, Toe Sucking, Harry Dressed as a Nazi, Waity Katie and Andrew’s appearance on Newsnight (which prompted the New York Post’s witty headline “His Royal Dryness”).

It’s almost as if, over the years, royal scandals have expanded to fill every available paper.

Besides humming the old familiar tunes, I learned hundreds of things that were new to me. Did you know that after the divorce from Parker Bowles, their house was bought by Nick Mason, the drummer of Pink Floyd?

Or that Diana’s butler, Paul Burrell, had had so many affairs with guards that Diana’s boss knew him as “Barrack-Room Bertha”?

On a softer level, I had no idea that in 70 years the Queen has only missed her annual visit to the Sandringham chapter of the Women’s Institute four times; in 2019, she led one of their teams playing a version of Pointless, which we’re told is one of her favorite TV shows.

And so on, most tales being, as you might expect, rather less cozy.

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Apparently William and Harry were both troublesome youngsters: in kindergarten William was so rowdy he was known as Basher Wills, and at Eton Harry “regularly got into fights which turned physical, getting into on crutches after kicking a window during an argument with another student over a girl”.

One of many unnamed sources for Brown is an American media official who visited the Duchess of York at the Royal Lodge in 2015 to discuss a project.

‘”We were having lunch,” the media officer told me, “and Andrew came in and sat down and said, ‘What are you doing with that big cow? I was so stunned by his level of sadism. I thought, ‘What an asshole.’ She has to sing for her supper. She is afraid of him.

His portrayal of Andrew is the most damning of all; he is, if you will, the alternately authoritative, titled and thick JR or Dirty Den of the Windsors, known as HRB or His Royal Buffoon by the diplomatic community.

Brown’s contacts in New York gave him plenty of credible dirt on the Duke’s friendship with Jeffrey Epstein. She claims he stayed with Epstein so often in New York that he had his own private suite.

“In private, Epstein told people that Andrew was an idiot, but – to him – an idiot… Epstein told a friend he used to fly the Duke of York to obscure the markets foreign countries where governments were obligated to receive him, and Epstein made the trip as an investment adviser to HRH.

“With Andrew as the leader, Epstein would negotiate deals with these (often) shady players and give Andrew some cream on the cake.”

And, for all of Brown’s red bombshell, she can also be witty.

At one point, she suggests that Andrew exhibits symptoms of the “Dunning-Kruger effect”, which she describes as “the cognitive bias in which people come to believe that they are smarter and more capable than ‘they really are’.

The combination of minimal self-awareness and low intellectual power leads people with this condition to overestimate their own abilities.

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How many stories from this book can you believe? For the most part, they strike me as having the sound of the truth, especially when it comes to Harry and Meghan.

But once in a while, there are gossips that are so patently ridiculous that they make a question about everything else. For example, on page 34, she says that during his first courtship with Camilla, Charles “clearly enjoyed her sexual zest for life”.

“Pretend to be a rocking horse,” she allegedly told him, to overcome his early mistrust in bed. »

Where does this story come from? This doesn’t strike me as the kind of juicy snippet Camilla or Charles would have passed on to any of their friends, and they certainly wouldn’t have told Tina Brown.

So where did she get it? On the back of the Palace Papers are 42 pages of “Notes”, with references for key quotes.

I looked at page 34 and discovered that the source of the rocking horse quote was none other than the ridiculous Kitty Kelley, whose 1997 book The Royals was rightly condemned as “a jaw-dropping farce.” breathy and bold” by historian, Professor Ben Pimlott.

One of the people Kelley cites as a valuable source of information in his book is “Talbot Church, an author who credited many hours of informal talks with the Duke and Duchess of York for his book The Royal Love Birds”.

In fact, Talbot Church, “the man the Royals trust”, was a silly name coined by my late friend, the satirist Willie Donaldson, aka Henry Root, whose book was a parody of royal writers like Kelley.

With so much fantasy surrounding the royal family, it was inevitable that some of their own members would become willing makers of their own plots.

Of Harry and Meghan, Brown concludes: “They were both now intoxicated with a shared fantasy of being instruments of global transformation.”

What will happen next? To find out, see you in the next episode…

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