August may wrongly be known as a quiet news month, but one big
filler for the whole media is the Birthday of the Queen Mum. This year's
big event had the added value of a Queen Mum health scare just days
This sent the BBC into a spin as she is a 'Category 1' Royal and every
time she sneezes the obit' unit and the whole top management have to be
notified - this being August most of them are on holiday.
The Queen Mum's 'heat exhaustion' was an added bonus for the tabloid
editors getting bored with endless stories about Big Brother contestants
whom every one will have forgotten about in a few weeks' time. There is
no chance of interest in the Queen Mum waning, however, as following the
death of Diana she is the last Royal for whom the public feel any
genuine affection. The death of the Queen Mum would be a devastating
loss to 'The Firm' as she is easily their biggest 'PR' asset.
The media give her more good publicity than anyone else in the
The coverage of her 101st birthday was typical. Jenny Bond swooned and
Nicholas Whitchell purred as children queued up to give Britain's
favourite great granny flowers. It was left to Channel 4 news to point
out that nearly all the crowd outside Clarence House were actually
foreign tourists, a fact conveniently glossed over by the rest of the
Criticism of the Queen Mum or even implied criticism is simply not seen
as good form. There again, it is difficult to be critical of someone who
unlike most 'celebs' has, as far as I know, never been interviewed. The
public simply doesn't know what she thinks about anything and, as a
result, can't really think much bad about her. She is just a lovely old
No other 'famous' person in the country could stay 'famous' without
appearing on Parkinson or doing the occasional 'soft' interview in the
Mail on Sunday magazine.
Another BBC 'Category 1' Royal is Prince Philip though why he is rated
above William and Harry is not clear. He has, of course, opened his big
mouth regularly and as a result has been accused of being a dotty racist
bigot. What I hear from those who know these things is that the Queen
Mum apparently thinks Prince Philip is something of a 'pinko.'
The problem we have in establishing exactly what the Royals think is
that people who meet them are told that they are not allowed to repeat
what has been said to them by a Royal. When my friend Paul Routledge was
Labour editor at The Times during the miners' strike, he was told by the
Queen, who was visiting the paper, that the strike was 'all about one
man'. Paul repeated this to the BBC man covering the visit and by the
next day the papers splashed 'Queen blames Scargill for strike'. I bet
her Mum thought the same.