Tina Brown has edited magazines on both sides of the Atlantic, including Tatler, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. She turned two of them around and made them profitable. She was at the forefront of the digital revolution in journalism at a news aggregator, the Daily Beast. She is also the author of a previous book on the royal family, The Diana Chronicles. The Palace Papers takes up where that one left off. It’s a survey of the monarchy from the late 1990s to the pandemic, with a particular emphasis on its relations with the media. Although Brown relies on interviews and recently published memoirs, most of the footnotes refer to articles in British tabloids and broadsheets, so the book might be more accurately titled ‘The Palace and the Newspapers’. Her book is no less interesting or valuable for that.
Brown has had remarkable on-the-record access to people who’ve seldom spoken to the press before. She’s talked to James Lowther-Pinkerton and Patrick Harverson, who served in the private office of Prince William and Prince Harry. From Harverson she learns, for example, that the palace spoke to the media long before Harry married Meghan to say that Tom Markle was a private person who didn’t want to be interviewed and wished to be left alone. Tom Markle may have behaved foolishly when he answered calls from reporters, but Brown agrees with Haverson’s verdict that journalists’ attempts to contact him represent ‘press malfeasance at its most unpardonable’. She does, however, admit that she talked to Markle on the phone herself. Perhaps she thought she didn’t qualify as ‘press’.
She’s been inside the ‘dingy’ flat of the Queen Mother’s former butler in Kennington (‘If I say it quickly people think I say Kensington,’ he tells her) and she sat down to talk extensively with Mark Bolland, who once served in the private office of the Prince of Wales.