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Royalty: A 1950s obsession

Updated Wednesday 20th May 2009

Against a background of post-war rationing and austerity, the Royal Family provided a natural fascination. In his position on the Press Council (which in his diary he frequently refers to as the Press Club), Sir Linton Andrews was uniquely placed to view the clash between the public desire for information and the Royal Family’s desire for privacy.

During the period covered by Writing the Century, the most dramatic event to affect the Royal Family was the romance between Princess Margaret and Group Captain Peter Townsend. As third in line to the throne, the possibility of her marriage to a divorcee had echoes of the affair between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, which led to the Abdication crisis of 1936. News that she had “given up her plan to marry” caught Linton unexpectedly, as can be seen in his diary entry (note his diary was written several days after the events described).

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LINTON ANDREWS
The Yorkshire Post, November 1, 1955. I was about to go home when we received the official news that Princess Margaret has given up her plan to marry divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend. So after a hurried meal in town I had to start again with Edith’s loyal and eager help.

(READING) “I have been aware that subject to my renouncing my rights of succession, it might have been possible for me to contract a civil marriage. But mindful of the Church’s teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble”…… Yes. Yes. This needs to go front page, column one, under the headlines and we’ll do it in a box.

Extract from Sir Linton Andrews' diary Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team from Writing the Century Series 9 Web content.pdf

A different perspective

In his diary, Andrews refers to just finishing his “WLA”, this is his personal column within the Yorkshire Post. This gives a different perspective to the events described in his diary, and part of which has been used to dramatic effect in the series. Renata, Linton's German maid, reads from his column.

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RENATA (READING SLOWLY)
"A hard decision but the right one. The Princess deserves credit for the Royal self command with which she has borne herself throughout months of doubt and inner loneliness”. (UPSET)

Oh, Mr Andrews. You write it so beautiful. This I shall take home to Berlin when I go. Your lovely princess and her handsome prince doomed! It is no good.

Newspaper extract Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team Writing the Century Series 9 Web content.pdf

Role of the press

Through Sir Linton Andrews' diary, we are given a privileged insight into the discussions over the role of the press. As can be seen, the intrusion by the press was an ongoing problem and of great concern to the Royal Family.

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LINTON ANDREWS
The following day at the Press Club, we had another instalment of the Royal negotiations when Commander Colville, the Queen’s Press Officer, attended a meeting of the General Purposes Committee...

COLVILLE
The Duke does not like the idea of another journalist on the staff. He says the man would always be peeping round corners and saying to himself, ‘What are they doing now?

LINTON ANDREWS
But surely, Commander, an extra member of the press is no more or less likely to exceed his remit than any of the existing Press Department?

COLVILLE
In theory yes but the actuality is often very different. They seem to get everywhere. The Queen has been complaining that she cannot stay in one spot at a polo match before she has to move because of snapping photographers and inquisitive crowds. Perhaps what’s needed is for me to address the full council – if you’d be good enough, Sir Linton, to draft some statements for general consideration first.

Extract from Sir Linton Andrews' diary Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team from Writing the Century Series 9 Web content.pdf

Increasing press intrusion

As negotiations continued between the Press Council and the Palace, we gain another insight into how an increasingly intrusive press, seeking to feed public interest, was viewed. In this respect, little has changed over the last 50 years.

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COLVILLE
We need a clear concept of the proper duties of the Press Secretary at the Palace. If we don’t agree there’s bound to be trouble.

LINTON ANDREWS
Yes, but to be fair, Commander Colville, it isn’t just the British Press who are causing the problem.

COLVILLE
Whatever, The Queen has twice asked the Press to let Charles go to school and have his school life in peace and this is what happens. I myself took him to catch the ‘school special’ this time and the boy asked me if we should have to face the photographers again. It’s all in the dossier.

LINTON ANDREWS
Yeah, which I'll study very carefullly on the train, but I'm afraid I do have to return to Leeds tonight.

Extract from Sir Linton Andrews' diary Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team from Writing the Century Series 9 Web content.pdf
 

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