EXCLUSIVE – Queen of England Celebrates 89th Birthday
By Keith Malone // June 13, 2015
SOCIETY & STYLE
(BBC NEWS VIDEO)
UNITED KINGDOM • LONDON, ENGLAND – Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who’s celebrating her 89th birthday today, has a long and trusted relationship with the media.
They’ve reported on every public engagement she’s made during her 63 years as monarch of Great Britain and the Commonwealth.
As the video above shows, the world’s cameras were in London today to record the Trooping Of Colors in honor of the 89th birthday of the Queen at Buckingham Palace, but it was 22-month old Prince George who stole the show.
Hundreds of millions of viewers around the world watched this special birthday celebration for Queen Elizabeth but the adorable Prince George got everyone’s attention as he waved and fiddled with dad Prince William’s uniform during Saturday’s Trooping the Color ceremony honoring Queen Elizabeth II’s 89th birthday.
In his first appearance on the famous balcony of Buckingham Palace, George wore a cute blue outfit with cream lace, which is the same as his father, Prince William wore in his first appearance on the balcony in1984 as a toddler.
This was also the first time the Queen and her immediate heirs to the throne of England – son Prince Charles, grandson Prince William and great-grandson Prince George, have all been together in public. It was also the first time George’s mom, Kate Middleton, has been seen at a public appearance since giving birth to her second child, Charlotte last month.
In this story, Space Coast Daily.com’s guest writer Keith Malone, who spent 28 years as a TV news reporter and presenter, brings us his encounters with the most famous family in the world.
Members of the Royal Family carry out public engagements throughout the UK.
Almost every single day, there is a royal event taking place somewhere – each one covered by either the BBC, ITV or Sky News.
Besides the Queen, senior royals include Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales; his sister Princess Anne, the Princess Royal – and his two brothers, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York and Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex.
Each one has their own private secretary, who works with Buckingham Palace – the official London residence and office of the British monarch – to finalise arrangements for their public engagements.
Unusual though it may be, I have personally spoken to all of these senior royals during my career as a tv news reporter, working for ITV – mostly in the south of England.
For television news, Buckingham Palace issues a Royal Rota to the local BBC or ITV station to cover each royal visit.
It’s the responsibility then for that station to pool its pictures for all television networks to use – and to provide material for satellite news feeds.
Doing it this way, prevents the build up of a large body of tv cameras and reporters that would lead to a ‘scrum’ of media on location and spoil the visit for public and dignitaries alike.
The Prince And The Sculpture Garden
One of my royal assignments in 1997 was to cover the visit of Prince Charles to the world-famous Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden in Ockley, Surrey.
Prince Charles is an avid gardener and takes a special interest in the growing of exotic plants and in learning new gardening techniques to take back to his home at Highgrove in Gloucestershire.
So a visit to the Hannah Peschar garden – to see its wonderful, exotic tropical plants set alongside the work of leading sculptors – would have been high on his agenda.
My news angle was to see the Prince look over the work of sculptor Emma Lush from Southampton.
Emma was a friend of mine who specialised in making chairs out of clay and was a former pupil of my sister Kate Malone, who is herself a ceramicist – making pots and jugs, rather than chairs.
I’d featured Emma’s art on my evening magazine show a couple of weeks beforehand – and in particular, one of her ceramic chairs which she’d named The King’s Throne.
The King’s Throne
The aim for Emma – with my enthusiastic encouragement – was to have Prince Charles, on camera, sitting in her King’s Throne: what a commercial scoop that would be for her career and what a great picture story for my programme.
But Emma was very nervous and bashful about inviting him to sit in her amazing chair.
I advised her to be bold and polite and to offer him a seat when he stopped by to look at her work. She would never have another opportunity like this one.
When the Prince reached Emma’s exhibits during his tour of the garden, he was immediately struck by the majesty of The King’s Throne and paused to look over it closely.
Funny Hand Signals
Emma stepped forward to tell him about her work and they chatted for half a minute or so. The Prince seemed about to move on and still she hadn’t invited him to sit in her creation.
I tried to catch Emma’s attention – waving my hand about, hoping she’d see it out the corner of her eye and look my way.
If she had, she’d have seen me mouthing: “Go on,” while making funny hand signals to indicate I wanted her to get him to sit down. It was like a scene out of a TV sit-com.
But alas, Emma remained star-struck by her Prince and her crowning moment of star publicity was slipping away by the second.
Invitation To Sit
“Why not try it out, Sir?” came a voice.
The Prince turned to see where the suggestion had come from. Emma, too, looked startled.
It hadn’t come from her. Or had she said it involuntarily – with someone else controlling her thoughts and mouth?
It had come from me, standing next to my cameraman. “Why not take a seat, Sir?” I continued. “It is the King’s Throne, after all.”
The Prince, who is next in line to be monarch, dwelt on the suggestion as it sank in that he, the future King of England, was being invited to take a seat in ‘The King’s Throne.’
“How apt,” mused the Prince out loud to his official party and to the media surrounding him at a respectful distance.
“Yes, I think I will try it out. As you rightly say, it is – after all – The King’s Throne! Thank you”.
And with that, the Prince of Wales took a step forward, elegantly hitched up the knees of his immaculate suit trousers and gently sat down in Emma’s majestic ceramic chair – posing beautifully for the photograpahers and, most importantly, for my cameraman.
Fifteen years on, I recall the Prince remarking the seat was “a little on the hard side” and would need a “nice soft cushion” to make it more comfortable.
But he said it was a “very interesting” piece of work and praised Emma for her creative and artistic talent.
Needless to say, Emma beamed as the cameras caught the magic moment and gave me a grateful smile as she acknowledged the crucial part I’d played in her big day.
I had, of course, done it just as much for the benefit of my news package as I had for the promotion of her art career.
My story made the lead in the second half of the programme and my pictures of Prince Charles sitting in The King’s Throne” made it onto national news later that night, after I’d put the material on the network news feed as part of my station’s obligation of having the Royal Rota.
Any attempt to put this sort of suggestion to Charles’ sister, the Princess Royal, would have been an entirely different and far more challenging prospect.
Although a very popular and respected senior member of the Royal Family, the Queen’s only daughter is known for her sharp tongue and brusque manner when it comes to dealing with members of the media who interrupt the smooth flow of a royal visit.
“Naff orf,” has been one of her favourite individual expressions to a reporter or photographer who’s crossed her path and whom she’s ordered out of her way.
Champion Horse Rider
One aspect of the Princess’s life that’s been widely admired and reported is her great skill in equestrian sports.
The Princess won individual eventing gold at the European Championships in 1971, individual and team silver at the European Championships in 1975 – and was a member of Britain’s Olympic team at the Montreal Games in Canada in 1976.
Among her many offices, she is President of the world-famous Windsor Horse Trials that take place every summer within the grounds of her mother’s home, Windsor Castle.
Windsor Horse Trials
The Princess generally presides over the media conference that announces the programme of events a few weeks in advance of the Trials each year.
One news story I’d picked up on in the summer of 1998 was the high incidence of fatalities among riders falling at fences during cross-country eventing.
As I recall, there’d been about six riders killed in under two years, a number far higher than in motor racing and in other dangerous, high-profile sports.
My particular line of inquiry was to find out whether it was the out-dated design of traditional static, wooden fences that was responsible for riders being killed.
It was the considered opinion of some experts in the sport in the late 90s that the old jump fences were too rigid and solid, forcing horses that struck them into a somersault and to topple on top of the riders, inflicting fatal crush injuries.
One concept being put forward at that time was to build lighter, less rigid ‘deformable’ fences that would collapse easily on being struck, so a horse would carry on through the fence rather than being forced into a rotational fall – therefore avoiding the high risk of horse falling on rider.
For my investigation, I’d filmed at the world-renouned Transport Research Laboratory at Crowthorne in Berkshire, not far from Windsor – and spoken to experts in the field of car crumple zones.
Their theory was that car safety technology could play a significant role in the re-design of equestrian cross country fences – making them crumple easily and save lives.
Questioning The Princess
Armed with this information, I went along to the media conference of the Windsor Horse Trials, keen to put a question on this subject to the formidable Princess Royal. She was still a very respected figure in equestrian sports and her opinion would carry weight.
My problem was this question would have nothing to do with the horse trials of which she was president – and which she was always very keen to keep free of controversy.
At the conference under a marquee in one of the fields surrounding Windsor Castle, I gained myself a seat in the front row close to the table where the Princess would be sat.
I also advised my cameraman I would be putting a question to her, so could he please make sure he captured on tape both my question and the royal response.
Twenty minutes into the conference, the Princess had wound up the itinerary for the coming trials and was inviting questions from the floor.
I let the first three or four about the event go through and then, fingers crossed, I decided to speak up and pop my question.
“M’am, as a former leading equestrian rider yourself – and a champion cross-country competitor at that – would you care to comment on the high number of fatalities that have struck your sport in the last two years?
“And what is your opinion, M’am, about current ideas to bring car safety technology into the design of jump fences to make them less dangerous to riders?”
There was a profound silence at this unexpected turn in events: journalists looking around to see who was leading the media conference away from the nicities of the Windsor Horse Trials and into a genuine news story about sporting deaths.
This could go one of three ways: the Princess could ignore me completely; she could ask me to stick to the items on the agenda of the media conference, or she could answer my question.
I held my breath as the Princess fixed me with a steady look and replied in the following general terms.
“Riders know how tough the sport is and that’s it. There’s nothing wrong with the design of fences, they’ve been with us for a long time,” she replied to me.
“Riders have just got to make sure they jolly well clear them. If they can do that, they won’t fall off and they won’t get hurt.”
And with that sharp, swift, concise response, the Princess looked away from me and called for another question about the horse trials. No more chance to re-visit my topic.
But I was happy: I had my pictures and I returned to the edit suite to make the Princess’s comments an exclusive and key part of my sports news feature.
Emma Lush has gone on to have a successful career in ceramics and is still making ceramic chairs from her studio in the south of England.
A photo of the Prince of Wales sitting in her King’s Throne has pride of place, although it’s not available for our publication.
The incidence of serious injury and death among riders and horses competing in equestrian cross-country events has fallen significantly over the last ten years.
This follows a move towards the re-design of fences to make them safer when hit by horse and rider and – as I’ve been vindicated – car safety technology has played a crucial role, in particular in the design of crumple zones and the use of lighter materials.
ANOTHER PART of Malone’s series Royal Recollections for SpaceCoastDaily.com follows later this month. It will include his encounters with the Duke of York, the Earl and Duchess of Wessex and the day he found himself covering the biggest story of his career – the tragic and untimely death of Princess Diana, “The People’s Princess.”