Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Parading the royal "experts, but rarely getting it right.

No one is perfect, even when reporting on royalty.  The BBC has described royal watchers as a "unique lunacy."  (Guilty.)  As with any news story, there are "experts" to be paraded out before the cameras to offer their knowledge of royal events.  

Sadly, British and American networks are relying on people with names but with little knowledge or true expertise.

In the last week, CNN and NBC have produced hour long specials on the royal birth.  Dateline NBC's "documentary" "The Royal Prince" ran last night at 10:00 p.m.  What a disappointment.

Natalie Morales slogged through the program but the "experts" were way off base.  The two people used were Andrew Morton and a historian named Suzannah Liscomb.

Morton is the Executive Director and CEO of the Diana Camp.  When discussing the Middletons and their protection of Catherine, he mentioned that Carole probably read his book on Diana and would want to keep the same thing from happening to her daughter.  The circumstances are very different.

Morton goes on to say how great Diana was as a mother, and then decides in his own way to skewer the Prince of Wales.  He tells the millions of viewers watching this program that Charles was home schooled, and he told Diana he wanted his kids to be home schooled, too. 

Really, Mr. Morton.  Really.  In 1955, two years after you were born in Yorkshire, Buckingham Palace announced that the Prince of Wales would not be educated at the palace, but would become the first heir to the throne to be sent to school. 

He attended Hill House, Cheam, and then Gordonstoun in Scotland, where his father also attended.   He also spent sometime at school in Australia.   [ABC's 20/20, which was televised on Tuesday night in the United States, was absolutely dreadful.  The only two commentators who provided any gravitas were Victoria Arbiter and Ingrid Seward. 

The Prince of Wales hated his time at Gordonstoun.  His comments about his time at Gordonstoun are well known, documented in the media and by "serious biographers."   He supported Diana's idea that the princes attend Eton. 

The other "expert" Suzannah Liscomb is a British historian who specializes in the 16th century, which apparently gives her the gravitas to talk about the British royalty.   Memo to NBC:  she spoke well, looked good, but she was clueless.  She certainly fell off the train when she said that Diana was first to give birth to a royal in a hospital.  No, that would be the Duchess of Kent, the wife of the Queen's first cousin, the Duke of Kent, who gave birth to her third child, Lord Nicholas Windsor, in a London hospital in 1970.

The Duchess of Gloucester, the wife of another of the Queen's first cousins, and Princess Anne had babies in the Lindo Wing before Diana.

She also erred big time by stating that Charles was the first royal father to be present at a birth.  She is probably very good about events that took place in the 1500s, but apparently not the 1800 or 1900s.  Prince Albert was present for the birth of all nine of Victoria's children.   As noted in the Court Circular, which also noted that the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) was present for the birth of his first born, Prince Albert Victor, in 1864.)  The Court Circular also noted that the Duke of Kent was present when his wife, Marina, gave birth to their first child, Prince Edward, in 1935.

Don't let a few facts get in your way when opining on national television.  CNN's special was shown last Thursday.  Their taking heads were Kate Nicholls, who writes for the Sunday Mail, and has written several royal hagiographies, and American writer Christopher Anderson.  He has written several truly awful  books on Diana and her sons. 

Anderson repeated the canard that Carole was the one who encouraged Catherine to go to St. Andrews so she could meet William. Untrue.  Never happened.  I am so tired of the attacks on the Middletons, who seem to be a perfectly normal well-to-do British family.   Here in the United States, the Middletons would be celebrated for being self-made, starting a business that is now worth something like £45 million.  They have a nice home, their children are well educated, and they are a happily married couple. 

Equally important, Catherine has a very good relationship with her mother.  The same could not be said for Diana and her mother.  Frances left her husband, Lord Althorp, for another man.  The Althorp marriage did not work out.  It happens.  She took her two youngest children, Diana and Charles, to live with her, but when Lord Althorp filed for divorce, charging his wife with adultery,  Frances lost custody of her children.  Her own mother, Ruth, Lady Fermoy, testified in favor of her former son-in-law.  It was said that Lady Fermoy chose to side with the future Earl Spencer because he had a title, and Frances's second husband was a commoner.

Although Diana spent time with her mother, she lived with her father (when she was not a boarding school), who hired nannies and governesses to look after his children.  Things might have been different if Diana had a real maternal relationship with her mom, who might have advised Diana to not marry Charles, due to her age and the age difference between her and Charles.   Frances had also married young to an older man, and her marriage failed.   Although Diana and her sons had bucket and spade holidays with Frances,   Diana and her mother never shared the same closeness that Catherine has with her mother. 

In her final years of life, Diana had a fractured relationship with her mother.  They were barely talking when Diana was killed in a car accident in  August 1997.  Frances mourned her daughter, made disparaging remarks about Charles, but did accept his invitation to Highgrove, so she could spend some time with her grandsons.

The British media (especially the tabloids) have done their very worst to tear down the Middletons, but celebrate the lineage of Prince Harry's new girlfriend, Cressida Bonas, whose mother, Lady Mary Gaye Curzon, is a daughter of the Earl Howe.  Lady Mary-Gaye has been married four times, with Cressida's father, Jeffrey Bonas, chalking up two marital failures.   Cressida has half-siblings who have half and step siblings.  All the right schools, great family connections, but no evidence of a establishing a foundation for  marital stability.

The story about Carole pushing Catherine toward St. Andrews to catch a prince is totally without merit.  People who write this nonsense have no knowledge of how one applies and gets into a British university.  Applying to a British university is very different than here in the United States.  It is a long process that requires the results of your A-levels ... and what you want to study.  Universities offer a number of  places for each degree of study.  A person might want to study Geography at University A but is not offered a place because the A-levels might not be good enough.  The school might offer a place for another degree with different A-levels.  Or there might be a place a second or third choice, but it is not similar to the American method of applying to dozens of universities, getting accepted into one or more, picking and choosing, weighing financial aid offers and so on.  Americans largely do not pick a major until after the first year, and then may change that major several times. 

Kate Nicholls offered her usual remarks, including the one about Catherine having a poster of William on her wall at Marlborough School.   I guess Kate did not read the transcript from William and Catherine's engagement interview.

"TB: There's a story that goes around that you had a picture of him on your wall.

William: There wasn't just one, there was about 20.

Miss Middleton: He wishes. No, I had the Levis guy on my wall, not a picture of William, sorry. "

I am not tooting my own horn because I have done media and print interviews.  But I think it is very important for the news media to make sure the people they bring on actually know what they are talking about.  Natalie Morales should have questioned Morton by saying: are you sure Charles was educated at the palace?  I have read that he attended different schools.

Other gaffes in the CNN special: claiming William and Catherine broke tradition by not going to Balmoral for their honeymoon.  Charles and Diana's first nights were at Broadlands (where the Queen and Philip spent the first part of their honeymoon), and then they boarded the royal yacht, Britannia, and cruised. They returned homed and traveled to join the Queen and others at Balmoral.

There are a number of very good royal experts on both sides of the Pond, not all are known names or authors of "popular" books.  When Diana died, I spent nearly every day at CNN or NBC, even flown up to NYC to be on Dateline.

The Canadian media is blessed with Carolyn Harris, who recently earned a Ph.D in history.  She is becoming a media maven north of the border.   She knows the value of researching topics before going on the air.   She has the right stuff.


Other recent major faux pas that kept on giving.  The nonsense about the royal easel tradition.  No, the tradition is putting a note on the railings of gates at Buckingham Palace or Clarence House (where Anne was born).  The easel was brought out the day after William was born.  This time, the palace eschewed tradition, skipped the note on railings, and just used the Easel.  Sad.     British media from the Daily Telegraph to Hello magazine fell for the this is the first ever, ever  royal who would be a prince or princess of Cambridge.  British royal history did not begin in 1981, as many appear to assume.

Baby Cambridge is the first Prince of Cambridge since May 1819, when the Duchess of Cambridge (Princess Augusta of Hesse) gave birth to Prince George of Cambridge on March 26th.  He was the second duke of Cambridge, succeeding his father in 1850.  He died in 1904. He was a first cousin of Queen Victoria.  He had two younger sisters,  Princess Augusta and Princess Mary Adelaide.  

The new baby is a direct descendant of the Duke of Cambridge.  Mary Adelaide, the first People's Princess, married the Duke of Teck.  Their daughter, Mary, married King George V,  Their second son, Bertie, became King George VI, and his daughter is Queen Elizabeth II.  She has a son named Charles who has a son, William, who just became the father of a son.

This leads me to USlessWeekly. which reported about a week ago that William had a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at Sandringham a few weeks ago, a formal meeting.  Only problem, the Queen was at Edinburgh for official duties when this meeting took place.  After I -- and a few others -- told the USWeekly reporter the truth, the story was changed to William meeting with Philip at Sandringham.  None of us said it was Philip.  I said a meeting would have been impossible.   The story was completely fabricated.

Also impossible.  The 92-year-old Duke of Edinburgh has been recovering from surgery at Windsor Castle.  It was noted yesterday that he is now well enough to accompany the Queen at Balmoral.

ABC's 20/20 special on the royal baby was shown on Tuesday night.  I give it 0.0.  Apart from the commentary from Ingrid Seward and Victoria Arbiter, whose father, Dickie, once served as the Queen's press spokesman, the show fell flat rather quickly.  Lots of gaffes, but most disappointing was Barbara Walters who repeated the nonsense that Prince William was the first heir to attend school.  How could Barbara Walter, whose career took off in the 1960s, not know that the Prince of Wales was the first British heir to be sent to school.   The Palace certainly never hid the information..

Here is an excerpt from an interview with the Prince of Wales in 1985, where he talks to Barbara about his education and mentions Gordonstoun.



MrDannyDoodah said...

"She certainly fell off the train when she said that Diana was first to give birth to a royal in a hospital. No, that would be the Duchess of Kent, the wife of the Queen's first cousin, the Duke of Kent, who gave birth to her third child, Lord Nicholas Windsor, in a London hospital in 1970.

The Duchess of Gloucester, the wife of another of the Queen's first cousins, and Princess Anne had babies in the Lindo Wing before Diana."

But Lord Nicholas Windsor is not royal (as he's only a great-grandson of a monarch), neither are the Earl of Ulster and his sisters (great-grandchildren of a monarch) or Peter Philips or Zara Tindall (grandchildren of a monarch but not in the male-line), so the first royal baby (ie baby who themselves was a royal) born in a hospital was Prince William wasn't it?

Christine Mackenzie said...

Thank you so much for this post - could you send it to all the media outlets, please? I have been banging my head against the walls with all the inaccuracies being peddled by 'experts' in the past few days and months. An 'expert' would know that George V was not the oldest son of Edward VII; an 'expert' would know that David was not Edward VII's 'real' first Christian name....I could go on and on but I'll just spoil the delight I have at the arrival of the new baby!

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

they count, Danny, as they are members of the RF, births noticed in the Court Circular.

The Mothers are HRH

Christine, thank you.

Matthew Plooster said...

Can I get an AMEN?

Yesterday, I was listening to various US conservative talk radio stations making a mockery of fact. When I called to comment, I corrected the host saying that 1) this is NOT the first Prince of Cambridge, and 2) this is NOT the first time the succession has been secured for three generations (citing 1894). I got the same impression from the hosts that you mentioned - royal history beginning in 1981.

My main reason for calling to comment was to discuss why many here in the US celebrate the royal family, and how, I believe, it is a key tool in the mutually beneficial relationship between our two nations. So many journalists, rather, promote the "we fought a war in 1776 to not have to deal with royals."


KoriLawrence said...

And Victoria Arbiter also commented that the name may very well be George after 'the Queen's beloved father'. While they may be taking the shortcut (being that he is known as King George VI), please tell me these 'experts' know that his name was Albert and that it was, in fact, his younger brother whose Christian name was actually George. I can't imagine when the Queen thinks of her father she thinks of him as 'George'.

Great blog as usual, Marlene.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Kori, am sure Victoria knows

mstj said...

One that really gets me is that they say that the baby will be "King of England". There hasn't been a King of England since 1702 (William III). The prince will be King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, not to mention Canada, Australia, Jamaica, PNG, Jamaica, etc.
In Australia, you learn not to expect much, although I do get pleasantly surprised sometimes. Another common one I have seen is, "Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge..." which also gets me annoyed because she is no longer Middleton!

John said...

Do you have any TV appearances scheduled?

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

John .. was supposed to do Sky this morning, but it was scrubbed

evan said...

Thank you, Marlene! Although, I'm NOT an expert by any stretch, I've been appalled at the quality of the "experts" on tv stateside & have found myself screaming corrections at the television!