Spring time for the royal family is sure to bring drama with two books to be released in the next two months
Within two weeks, two books are set to be released that will surely cause more drama within the embattled British Royal Family (the BRF). The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor – The Truth and the Turmoil by former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown is out on April 26. Nine days later, William at 40: The Making of a Modern Monarch by Robert Jobson makes its splash.
Both books are tantalizing for many different reasons: Brown makes use of her time as a media behemoth, using named sources willing to spill the beans (or have already spilled them) about what they know of the BRF. Jobson’s effort it seems, makes use of a rumored source to scintillating, it seems madly untrue: Prince William’s father, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.
THE POWER OF DIANA
Brown, it mustn’t be forgotten, was the first to report on the breakdown between the marriage of Diana and Charles in her Vanity Fair article The Mouse That Roared, way back in 1985.
The Palace Papers starts after Brown’s first book, The Diana Chronicles, was released in 2007 before the 10th anniversary of her death. In that book, she spoke with 250 people who had been intimately acquainted with Diana in her private and public life.
The Palace Papers looks at life after Diana for the family, especially its effects on her now warring sons, William, and Prince Harry. That is the biggest story in the book, but the rest of the last 25 years are also covered in great detail: the deaths of Princess Margaret, the Queen Mother, and Prince Philip, the triumph of Prince Charles in making Camilla Parker Bowles his wife, the rise of Kate Middleton, the tremendous faltering of Prince Andrew, and the ramifications of Harry’s decision to marry Meghan Markle and the stunning aftermath.
A juicy excerpt has already been published on Brown’s old stomping grounds at Vanity Fair. How Princess Diana’s Dance With the Media Impacted William and Harry is sure to be the backbone of the upcoming season of The Crown, as it deals with the falling apart of the marriage between Charles and Diana in public.
The excerpt brings up the theory that Diana was less the innocent, naïve woman preyed upon and manipulated by the media, rather a woman with her sense of agency, who was fully aware of her power and how to court the media on her side.
One astonishing anecdote is a lunch at Kensington Palace in 1996 with Piers Morgan (of all people) in which William was present. Discussed was the romantic liaison between Diana and the very married captain of England’s rugby team, Will Carling. His wife, Julia, told the press it seemed hypocritical of Diana to behave this way. Diana was angry, and William said he had a photo of Julia Carling on his dartboard at Eton.
“He is clearly in the loop on most of her bizarre world and, in particular, the various men who come into it from time to time,” noted Morgan.
There were secret meetings with media titans like Nicolas Coleridge, head of Condé Nast Britain and Anna Wintour, EIC of Vogue, and other seedier members of the media who were always told “don’t let the media know we are speaking,” only to end with a phalanx of waiting cameramen waiting outside the agreed location.
Coleridge called a friend from the newspapers to ask how they had known to send the paparazzi to that location: “Coleridge writes that his source told him, “ ‘I just spoke to our picture desk. Diana rang herself from her car, on her way to lunch. She often tips them off about where she’ll be.’ ”
Even the controversial Martin Bashir interview on the BBC’s Panorama (“There were three of us in this marriage,”), which we now know happened on less than ethical means, is less clear cut than Lord Dyson’s May 2021 verdict that Diana (and her brother, Earl Spencer) was manipulated by Bashir to agree in speaking out.
Gulu Lalvani, one of the last paramours in Diana’s life, told Brown that while Diana knew how the interview would affect her children, she had no regrets:
“She was pleased about it [the interview],” Lalvani confirmed [to Brown]. “She didn’t have a bad word to say about Martin Bashir. She realized it served her purpose.” She was right. Her “purpose” was to frame herself to the British public as a betrayed woman before the increasingly inevitable divorce from Charles. Opinion polls in the wake of the interview showed support for the princess at 92 percent. She had the public in the palm of her hand.
Prince Harry had declined to watch the interview, but William did, and was reportedly mortified. According to Robert Lacey, William’s Eton Housemaster found him after the show “slumped on the sofa, his eyes red with tears.” When Diana called later, he refused to take her call.
Brown writes that it is perfectly normal for her sons to believe that their mother was martyred by the paparazzi. She was, after all, their mother. It has however manifested contempt in both of them for the media, which is why both brothers are constantly in the process of serial missteps when cavorting with the press: they can’t seem to make it work the way she did.
Of the relationship between mother and sons, Brown says that Harry idolized Diana more but understood her less. William on the other hand understood her more but idolized her less. He was the older son, and was privy to the occasional messiness.
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
William at 40: The Making of a Modern Monarch is focused more on William, as he prepares to lead the institution of the British monarchy. It’s an interesting time to be William nowadays: the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge just returned from a Caribbean tour, where they consorted and some say, tried to placate the countries that serve as the far-flung influence of Britain’s domain.
It is highly likely that in William’s reign, we will see more and more countries looking to seek independence. William might one day be a King with no empire. The book does not attempt to hide any unsavory behavior: the description reads that while in public, William might tick all the right boxes as the future King, in private he can be volatile and less in control of his emotions than he seems.
“It is this chameleon-like characteristic that makes his father, Prince Charles, tread carefully when dealing with his son and heir. Theirs has been a complex relationship – indeed it was with Harry that Charles enjoyed a closer relationship before he bolted to America with new wife Meghan,” reads the blurb. “William demands deference from those royally ranked below him, but in truth when looking upwards, he rarely gives it.”
There are rumors that Charles was a secret source to Jobson. This is not surprising: time and time again this is a family that has shown they have no qualms in throwing each other under the bus if needed. It is, after all, the survival of the fittest.
According to a survey by IPSOS, 42 percent of people believe that Prince Charles should step aside for Prince William when it is his turn to ascend the throne. However, 48 percent of people believe Charles will do a good job as king. The proportion of people who view Charles in a good light has increased since 2018, now at 43 percent (an 11 percent increase).
William is seen favorably at 64 percent, making him the second most popular royal after the Queen (at 68 percent). More than four in ten people (44 percent) of those surveyed believe it would be worse for Britain if the monarchy were abolished. So perhaps he might still have a throne someday.
THE OTHER SIDE
Of course, the book everyone is excited about is Prince Harry’s memoir, slated for release in the last quarter of the year. In the book, Prince Harry is looking to tell his side of the story: from his childhood to the military, his life as a senior royal, and the decision to step back with Meghan Markle.
“I hope that in telling my story—the highs and lows, the mistakes, the lessons learned—I can help show that no matter where we come from, we have more in common than we think,” he said in a statement. This might be the biggest bombshell of all.