Andrew Morton on His Latest Book, The Queen, and The Crown Season 5

Andrew Morton regrets little about his bestselling 1992 biography Diana: Her True Story: not the surreptitious manner wherein its interviews were conducted; not the warfare it catalyzed between the Prince and Princess of Wales; nor the best way it was portrayed in 2022, on the fifth and penultimate season of Peter Morgan’s drama The Crown. He has only two wistful observations: That so many refused to consider his work was authentic when first published, and that he never got to satisfy with Princess Diana before her death, to specific his gratefulness for his or her work together.

Indeed, he has Diana largely to thank for his worldwide recognition now. Within the years since he became famous for his unprecedented royal scoop with the princess, Morgan has marketed himself as the last word expert on the monarchy, writing multiple books about Diana; Princess Margaret; Edward VIII’s wife, Wallis Simpson; Meghan Markle; and Prince William and Princess Kate, amongst others. He’s also proudly swept through the Hollywood circus, penning biographies of Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Monica Lewinsky, and David and Victoria Beckham. Now, he’s releasing his latest concerning the woman herself: the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Grand Central Publishing The Queen: Her Life

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<p><h6 class=Grand Central Publishing The Queen: Her Life

Credit: Grand Central Publishing

Grand Central Publishing scooted up the discharge date of The Queen: Her Life, originally slotted for 2023, to land shortly after the sovereign’s death in September, and to coincide with the discharge of The Crown’s latest season. In episode 2 of season 5, Morgan and his forged depict Morton’s breathlessly secretive interviews with Princess Diana, conducted via audio recording with middleman Dr. James Colthurst shuttling tapes to and from Kensington Palace. The resulting biography stays one in all the works of which Morton is most proud, in no small part for its unprecedented access. If the wall between the monarchy and its subjects still exists—and Morton argues it does—then no less than Diana: Her True Story gave it an intensive throttling. Today, The Queen hardly matches the explosiveness of Her True Story, but, however, the late Elizabeth Windsor was never very similar to her firebrand daughter-in-law. She had something different, something quieter and more enigmatic, to supply.


In an interview shortly before The Queen’s publication, Morton spoke with about his recent book, his depiction in The Crown, and what he makes of the mysterious “mask” that covers the monarchy to at the present time.

You’ve made yourself acquainted with the royal family over the course of diverse books, nevertheless it’s a distinct beast to attempt to encapsulate the sovereign herself. How was writing this particular book different from those that got here before it?

Well, I feel the method is different, since the queen is ingrained into your psyche from a really early age. She’s on the stamps, on the cash, on the flags. So, as a biographer, you’ve got to step outside yourself, and it takes some time to know that you simply aren’t writing concerning the official person; you’re just writing concerning the human being. And that’s what I’ve tried to do, was almost to say, “How would the human being react to this case? How would a traditional, mature, sensible person respond?” And, I suppose, charting the queen’s life: charting her personal journey, from being someone who lived on this planet of wood horses as a child … and who acceded to this job at a really young age. She was a mother at a young age. She married at a young age. She had this tsunami of sadness and grief to deal with after her father died, but in addition having to deal with the brand new job of being CEO of Great Britain, Inc.

It’s that evolution that you simply see, quite demonstrably, within the twilight of her profession; it was also the glowing affirmation of her role as queen.

Tell me about your sources for this book. There’s quite a bit already on the market, each well-documented and—

There’s lots on the market, nevertheless it’s also a matter of constructing certain things out. So, for instance, I went to Malta, because my hunch was that it was one in all the happiest times of [the queen’s] life. I went to Scotland to refer to among the movers and the shakers there, about her life in Scotland. Spoke to individuals who’ve worked together with her, and for her, either on an upstairs capability or a downstairs capability. And over time, in my notes and conversations, with everybody from Diana downwards, everybody’s got a bit of anecdote, a bit of story, to inform concerning the queen.

So were there any particular sources or documents you leaned on more heavily than others?

Well, for instance, I discovered recent documents in relation to Marion Crawford, who was [the queen and Princess Margaret’s] governess, and that gave an insight into their younger years, and it gave an insight into the royal family itself.

You write on this recent book, albeit briefly, about Diana: Her True Story. Considered one of the stuff you mention is how much criticism of the book there was after its publication, on condition that nobody knew of Diana’s involvement. Was that frustrating for you on the time?

Well, unbelievably frustrating. From day one, I could have said, “Well, don’t start blaming me. Diana was behind this book. Diana wanted the book published. That is what she needed to say.” But, in fact, we wanted to present her deniability. So I’ve all the time said, I felt like one in all these fairground boxers, who was taped up, but with one hand tied behind my back. So when the Panorama program got here out, where Diana effectively admitted that she was involved within the book, I used to be absolutely thrilled because I used to be vindicated. I gained vindication, after which I used to be treated very otherwise by the mass media after that. They were much more respectful.

Looking back now, is there anything you’d’ve done otherwise with that book? How do you’re feeling about its profound legacy?

Well, I’m very happy with Diana: Her True Story. People say to me, “Oh, aren’t you the bloke that wrote that book?” My one regret is that I all the time thought we’d meet and chew over the fat, and make a journey down memory lane, but sadly, she died too young, way too young.

Have you ever watched the brand new season of The Crown?

Yeah. I’ve watched. I feel I’m in episode 2.

Did that episode play out the best way you remember it in real life?

Yeah. They hired me as a consultant for episode 2. So the small print are authentic. I mean, they are saying that I asked her about writing the book, nevertheless it was the opposite way around. The dramatic license—I mean, quite frankly, it might have been more dramatic. There have been every kind of incidents that happened, within the sense of being the royal version of All of the President’s Men. And I’ve said this already, but I used to be quite shaken watching Elizabeth Debicki, because her intonation, mannerisms, and gestures…It was like being within the room with Diana, 30 years ago, and it stirred the silt in my very own memory. I discovered it quite moving.

In that episode, The Crown posits this concept that your motivation for writing Her True Story was that you simply felt Diana was being crushed by the palace, that her voice was lost. Is that accurate? Were those your motivations?

Well, obviously I wanted to write down a book about her, the world’s most famous woman. But at the identical time, it’s absolutely true that you simply felt intense sympathy and compassion for her predicament. You might understand her sense of isolation and despair, and that was an amazing motivating factor.

Was your relationship along with your middleman, Dr. Colthurst, one which continued after the book’s publication?

We’re still good friends. I contacted him yesterday, and said, “Watch the Netflix thing,” and, in fact, typical James, he doesn’t have Netflix. He’s never watched it.

Do you think that the royal family has turn into more open to the concept of those forms of stories and books—more open to the world seeing what they’re really like?

Well, it’s pretty clear that [Prince] William wants to manage the narrative about his life, they usually try this by issuing their very own pictures of the children. Consider them as actors on stage. After they’re on stage, they’re very accessible, but off stage, they’re not.

andrew steele as andrew morton in the crown

Left: Andrew Steele as Andrew Morton in The Crown season 5. Right: Morton after the publication of Diana: Her True Story.

Netflix / Getty Images

Do you think that that has damaged their fame, within the eyes of their subjects and of the broader world? Or do you think that that’s how they maintain their mystique?

The individuals who give the monarchy mystique and mystery are ourselves. It’s ourselves, willing the suspension of disbelief. And whenever you look, globally, at the best way monarchies, tribal leaders, chieftains, etc. come about, it’s because there’s a ground swell upwards, not downwards. And this, for me, is the basic understanding of the monarchy: It’s ourselves who buy into it, not the opposite way around.

That leads me to something I’m sure you’re already aware of, which is the recent royalist criticism of The Crown.

The shaking of the pearls.

In your opinion, having watched the show and seen your personal depiction inside it, do you discover it’s a good depiction? Do you think that that it takes too many creative liberties?

What Peter Morgan has successfully done is put one other layer of mystery over the monarchy. Because now we have now the actual royals, after which we have now the Morgan royals. And that mystery helps to make the monarchy much more enigmatic, in order that it’s even tougher to get to the center of who these persons are, because you may have one other layer of misconception and misrepresentation, done in an especially artistic and clever way.

That is what the critics are all missing: [The Crown] is giving a way of an alternate monarchy, and the actual royals can just get on with their lives, because they’re not being pinned to the wall, as Morgan is doing, on this depiction. Every thing concerning the royals is about what lies behind the mask. What Morgan has done is add one other mask.

So I’d just say to all of the critics, he’s done the royal family a favor, because he’s just obscured them even further in way that’s, as I say, artistic. Let’s just have a look at one example: Prince Charles. Whenever you have a look at Prince Charles’s depiction in The Crown, he comes across as courageous, humane, thoughtful, intelligent, humble, ambitious. He must be shining his sword, King Charles III, ready to present Morgan a peerage.

There’s been quite a lot of conversation about Dominic West on this season, and the way flattering an outline it’s.

And you then get the infomercial concerning the Prince’s Trust. I mean, Peter, what were you pondering?

We’ve been talking concerning the mystique of the monarchy, but after writing this book concerning the Queen, do you’re feeling it’s too early to find out what her legacy will probably be?

Oh, I feel it’s still too early to say. I mean, King Charles is in his honeymoon period. Let’s just see what happens when he grapples with a crisis, after which compare that to the best way that the queen handles crises, and we will see.

I feel there’s going to be quite a lot of compare and contrast, particularly, when it gets round to the coronation. Is he going to go full throttle on being the top of the Church of England, or is he going to do what he said before, which is be the top of all of religion? It’s a tough query to reply.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Lauren Puckett-Pope is an associate editor at ELLE, where she covers film, TV, books and fashion. 

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