Space Coast Daily’s Insight Into British Royal Family
By Keith Malone // May 12, 2012
ROYAL BERKSHIRE • WINDSOR, ENGLAND – During the coming months, many personal films will be taken of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as she goes out to meet the British people in towns and cities around the UK during this, her Diamond Jubilee year.
The film we’ve brought you above is one such example: shot by someone in the crowd, it shows the Queen on a royal “walkabout” outside the walls of her Windsor Castle home in the English County of Royal Berkshire close to London.
There’ll be many, many more films like this taken by members of the public during this very special year of her reign.
Space Coast Daily.com’s guest reporter Keith Malone can recall the many news films he’s made of the British Royal Family during his career as a TV reporter in the UK – and the occasions when he’s had the privilege to meet members of the most famous family in the world.
In the first of a three-part series for Space Coast Daily.com, here are some of Keith’s Royal Recollections.
This summer, the British monarch is celebrating 60 years of continuous reign over the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth of Nations – and the British people, along with those in all of the nations she benevolently rules over, are celebrating with her.
In the UK, where special public holidays have been granted this summer, thousands of street parties to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee will be taking place in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and these celebrations will be mirrored in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa and in all the other Commonwealth countries where people love the British Queen with a passion.
Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne on February 6, 1952, following the sudden and untimely death of her father King George VI – and she was crowned Queen during a glittering Coronation in London’s Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953 after more than a year of mourning for her late father.
She was only 27, not long married and the royal duties of being the British monarch fell heavily on her young shoulders.
Life Long Service
But throughout her 60-year reign, surpassed only by the 63 years and seven months of Queen Victoria when Britain really did rule the waves in the 1800s and early 1900s, Queen Elizabeth has ruled with quiet dignity, impeccable attitude, wonderful personna and tremendous resilience – and has devoted the greater part of her life to being Britain’s monarch.
One of the duties of a news presenter or reporter working in British television – whether it be for the BBC or for one of the various commercial ITV television companies – is to cover visits by the Queen and high-ranking members of the Royal Family.
The way royal reporting assignments are allocated, whether for tv, radio or print media, is very strictly governed – for reasons of protocol and for security.
For television news, Buckingham Palace – the monarch’s official residence – issues a Royal Rota to the local BBC or ITV station to cover the royal visit.
It’s the responsibility then for that station to pool its pictures for all television networks.
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.
My career as a tv news reporter was mostly spent working for ITV in the south of England – although the day Princess Diana was tragically killed in Paris, I was working for ITN network news in London: that was the biggest news day of my life and I will talk about that later.
During one of my Royal assignments, I was able to spend around an hour within touching distance of the Queen. My news editor gave me the Royal Rota for her visit to a school in the small village of Clere, close to the market town of Newbury in Berkshire. This was in the summer of 1994.
The school children there were in a tremendous state of excitement – and they greeted the Queen with the usual passionate display of pennant waving and cheering as she arrived in one of her state Rolls Royces.
As always, there was a presentation of a small posy of flowers by one of the pupils: what a marvelous life-time memory this always makes for the child chosen to carry out this presentation and who no doubt long practises their bowing and courtseying.
My cameraman and I followed the Queen throughout her tour – and in the confines of the small classrooms typical of an English village school, it was impossible not to get really close up to her, to get a real feel for the person we’ve all seen so often on television yet very rarely in the flesh.
Bright Blue Eyes
I was genuinely struck by the Queen’s bright blue eyes, by the beautiful smoothness of her face which had a porcelain-like quality, by her calmness and patience – and by the brilliance and genuine radiance of her smile. I was also struck by how tiny she is.
And did I become an instant fan? Well, this hard-nosed and cynical news reporter has to admit that, yes, I did genuinely become a fan – and I’m not ashamed to say so.
Royal protocol demands that a member of the media never talks to the Queen – unless they are spoken to first, which would be a very rare event indeed. During a visit by the Monarch, reporter and crew must remain inobtrusive, unseen as it were – and must never get so close that they end up getting in the way.
Bucking Palace Media Chaperones
There is always a member of the Buckingham Palace Press Corps chaperoning you to make sure you do not overstep the mark.
Visits by other members of the Royal Family are not so tense affairs. Prince Charles – the Prince of Wales and next in line to the throne – has a genuine charm about him and creates a far more relaxed atmosphere for the accompanying media.
I’ve had the opportunity – audacity, some would say – of speaking to the Prince on two occasions and of politely heckling him on another.
The first time was when the Prince was paying a visit to Crofton Pumping Station, an historic restored pump house on the banks of the Kennet and Avon Canal on the Berkshire-Wiltshire county border.
Charles was due to make his approach along a tow path after he’d spent ten minutes or so chatting with canal enthusiasts on board their narrowboat moored on the far side of the canal.
His route – as explained to me by the Palace escort chaperoning me – would see the Prince cross to my side of the canal by walking over a lock gate very close to where I was stationed with my cameraman.
I worked it out that he would pass no more than a few feet from me and that – if I dared – I would have the opportunity of saying something to him as he walked by.
Should I or shouldn’t I? That was the burning question as I watched him approach, accompanied by the dignitary leading this royal visit.
To talk to him would be a very bold thing to do, as members of the media normally just don’t do this sort of thing. The Prince came ever closer, watching his step very closely as he crossed the narrow lock gate.
One trip and he could end up in the water: now that would have been a world scoop! The future King of England taking a tumble into a canal.
But he made it across safely and then I took my chance: “Are you enjoying your visit, Sir?” I confidently called out, looking the Prince of Wales firmly in the eye with a smile on my face.
“Why absolutely I am!” he replied with genuine pleasure at a TV reporter having the temerity to address him. “It’s perfectly delightful here and canals are one of my favourite places. But if you don’t mind, I think I’ll put my brolly up now and move on – as I do believe it’s just starting to rain.”
And with that, the Prince gave me a smile, a nod, opened up his umbrella and walked on past me across a stretch of grass and into the pumping station.
I turned to my cameraman: “Tell me you got that?” I asked. “You bet,” he replied with a wink – as I had tipped him off that I was thinking of doing the unexpected.
My Palace chaperone, who certainly hadn’t been expecting me to do the unexpected, seemed to be have been rendered completely speechless by my actions.
But I didn’t give him the chance to recover and give me a reprimand as I was already moving off to get into my next approved filming position – inside the pumping house.
My story doesn’t end there. The Pumping Station Historical Society, who had restored the old steam engines, had prepared a demonstration of their steam pumps’ capabilities. The boiler was fired up and being kept going by stokers throwing coal onto the flames.
The Order of Play for this royal visit was scheduled to see the Prince being presented with a brand new shiny coal shovel. After a short speech by the Society chairman, the shovel was duly handed over for a photo opportunity.
But with the boiler door remaining open and the flaming coal still clearly visible, another moment of inspiration flared up in me.
“Aren’t you going to stoke the fire, Sir?” I called out from the back of the crowd and out of the corner of my eye, I could see my Palace escort silently mouthing: “Not him again!”
The Prince, never one to shirk a challenge (not for nothing has he been affectionately known as “Action Man” by the British media over the years, mainly due to exploits in his younger days), asked the assembled crowd: “Shall I?”
And in one chorus, everybody cheerfully responded: “Yes!”
So I ended up with my second picture scoop of this visit: not only did I have the Prince talking to me on tape, I now had another personal exchange with Charles – plus footage of him shovelling coal into a furnace with a brand new, but now not-so-shiny shovel.
And the postcript? My story made the lead on my regional 6pm news programme that evening – and the pictures were majored on the national news shows later that night, too. They also went around the world on that night’s daily satellite news feeds.
And the footnote? Before setting off in a hurry to return to my TV station to edit my piece and comply with my Royal Rota duties by pooling the pictures with other TV news broadcasters, my Palace chaperone took me to one side.
“I had no idea you were going to actually talk to the Prince,” he told me. “If I had known, I would have said no.”
To which I politely replied: “Look – the Prince is a person just like you and me, a human being. All I did was ask if he was having a nice time. People like to know whether these Royals actually enjoy what they do. And I reckon the viewers found out that – yes, today, the Prince did have a good time.”