With the House of Windsor wobbling with each new tell-all bio and royal rumor, Britain’s busiest reporters these days are those who hover around Buckingham Palace. Not surprisingly, competition among them has been mounting faster than newspaper sales. In recent weeks many have been popping up on American TV, drafted to explain “Buck House” politics to bewildered colonists. (The most visible visitor of late: Andrew Morton, 38, author of the current bestseller Diana: Her True Story, who last week appeared on Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, The Joan Rivers Show, CBS This Morning and CNN).
Herewith, some of the most durable figures on the beat dish about their jobs—and make the case for Windsor watching.
NAME: RICHARD KAY
Curriculum vitae: After three years dodging bullets as the paper’s correspondent in Belfast, Kay, 35 and unmarried, became the Daily Mail’s royal correspondent in 1986.
Biggest scoop: Breaking the news last March about the Yorks’ split.
Biggest goof: Reporting in 1991 that Diana wouldn’t take her sons to her father’s annual Christmas party because she was angry with stepmother Raine. “Buckingham Palace called at 6 A.M. to say, ‘She is taking her children.’ I had to write a rather groveling apology in the paper.”
Insider’s take on Diana: “When we go out with her and see people swooning at her feet, we all laugh cynically. But whenever we get to talk to her, we are just like Jell-O.”
NAME: ANTHONY HOLDEN
Curriculum vitae: Six years after joining the Sunday Times in 1973, he wrote a biography of Charles titled Charles, Prince of Wales. After a brief stint as assistant editor of The Times, he quit in 1982 to concentrate on writing books and in 1988 produced a second Charles bio tilled King Charles III. He is 46.
Why he does what he does: He wrote the books, he says, to pay for his children’s schooling. “The royal family will provide them with the best education money can buy; it’s the best justification for the monarchy.”
Reaction to the reaction to Andrew Morton’s book: “I’m exhausted. I’ve spoken to Barbara Walters on 20/20, Entertainment Tonight and CBS News. I wish it would go away.”
NAME: HARRY ARNOLD
Curriculum vitae: A reporter since he was 17, Arnold spent 26 years with The Sun in London (a tabloid, circ. 3.58 million). Now 51, he has been chief reporter on the rival Daily Mirror (circ. 2.86 million) since last year, devoting much of his energy to palace reporting.
Biggest scoops: Identifying Lady Diana Spencer as Prince Charles’s new girlfriend in September 1980 and announcing that Fergie was pregnant with her first child in 1988. Arnold also broke the story of Princess Di’s tumble down the stairs at Sandringham in 1982, which he insists was an accident. (Morton, in Diana: Her True Story, says the Princess threw herself down the stairs in a suicide attempt.)
Biggest goof: Reporting in December 1988 that Fergie’s mother and stepmother “would be unwelcome” at granddaughter Beatrice’s christening. “They both turned up,” says Arnold.
Quote: “So much of what we do is trivia, but the guy that plays the clown in the ice show has actually got to be a much better skater than the rest of the cast.”
NAME: NIGEL DEMPSTER
Curriculum vitae: The 51-year-old dean of Britain’s gossip columnists was born in Calcutta, where his Australian father headed a consortium of copper mines. Brought to England as a child, he worked as a hospital reporter, vacuum-cleaner salesman and insurance broker before joining the Daily Mail (circ. 1.8 million) in 1973. Married to Lady Camilla Godolphin Osborne (whose aunt married the Queen Mother’s brother), he is the author of the 1981 bio HRH the Princess Margaret—A Life Unfulfilled.
Biggest scoops: Breaking the news of Princess Margaret’s affair with socialite Roddy Llewellyn in 1976; telling the world about Princess Anne’s second pregnancy in 1980; revealing that Andy and Fergie were engaged in 1986; and reporting five months before the palace announcement that Charles would marry Diana.
Reportorial MO: “You don’t get a story by following the royals around. They don’t speak. You get stories by talking to people who know people. And you get that by sitting in the office at the end of a telephone.”
NAME: ROSS BENSON
Curriculum vitae: Born in Scotland and raised in Australia, the Netherlands and South Africa, Benson, 43 (“the same age as the future King of England”), was a classmate of Prince Charles’s at spartan Gordonstoun. At 18, he began working the gossip beat on the Daily Mail. He later moved to the Daily Express (circ. 1.5 million) and in 1982 became that paper’s chief foreign correspondent, covering clashes in the Falklands, Afghanistan, Central America and Iran. For the last five years he has covered palace upheavals for the same paper. His wife, Ingrid Seward, concentrates on the royals as editor of the magazine Majesty (see following).
Why he likes his job: “It’s better to be at Ascot in June than in Beirut.”
Biggest scoop: Revealing in 1976 that Princess Margaret intended to divorce Lord Snowdon.
Intimate revelation about his own family life: “At times of crisis in the royal family, we’re just sunk under work. I’d be delighted if they solved their problems.”
NAME: INGRID SEWARD
Curriculum vitae: Seward, 43, is editor of the monthly glossy Majesty (circ. 90,000) and is at work on a book about the Windsor children. She is married to Express columnist Benson. Before taking over Majesty in 1983, she worked for a theatrical public-relations agent and served as a publicist for the Playboy Club in London.
On covering the royals: “It takes years for them to trust you. One false move and they don’t forgive you.”
On going head to head with her spouse: “If he writes something I don’t like, I berate him the next day and say, ‘That was absolute rubbish.’ I’m an ardent monarchist, and he takes the middle line.”
On Charles and Di: “The masses feel for Diana because every woman in this country has had problems with men. I personally think she’s a nut case, but I wouldn’t dream of saying that in public.”
TERRY SMITH and MARGARET WRIGHT in London