tv Firing Line With Margaret Hoover PBS June 3, 2022 11:30pm-12:00am PDT
>> behind the royal fascination this week on "firing line." >>iana! >> hey, diana! >> in the 25 years since the death of princess diana, the world has watched a fairy-tale wedding... >> that's what really gives william his strength. >> ...the megxit... >> you could not have a more chaotic exit plan. >> ...and a royal scandal surrounding prince andrew... >> he's really reprehensible. it's hard to have anything but contempt, actually, for andrew. >> ...all subjects of tina brown's highly anticipated new book, "the palace papers," out as queen elizabeth celebrates her platinum jubilee, marking 70 years on the throne. >> what the queen has been able to do is never give her opinion about anything, which is reassuring at a time of enormous turbulence. >> brown, a legendary magazine editor who ran vanity fair and the new yorker, has tapped into more than 100 sources for an inside look at buckingham palace.
plus, what's next for journalism? what does tina brown say now? >> "firing line with margaret hoover" is made possible in part by... and by... corporate funding is provided by... >> tina brown, welcome to "firing line." >> thank you for letting me come. [ both laugh ] >> you and i have known each other for some years. you are a legendary magazine editor. >> which means "old." [ both laugh ] >> titles of magazines like tatler, vanity fair, the new yorker. now you are the author of your second book
about the british royal family, "the palace papers." it is an insider's account of the last 25 years since princess diana's passing. you spoke to more than 120 people that were involved or have knowledge of the senior royals. in 2022, assess the state of the monarchy. >> perilous, right now. it's in a perilous, fragile moment. the queen is in a glide path, obviously, to the last days of her reign. we've had the buffeting and tarnishing by prince andrew, who, of course, was essentially cancel for his scandalous conduct. we have harry and meghan who have left the fold. and it's fragile right now. i think it's going to emerge okay. but it is probably in its most fragile place for the last 10 years. >> what gives you confidence it will emerge okay? >> well, it's a
thousand-year-old institution that has braved quite a lot. and i think that prince charles actually, although there's quite a lot of pessimism, really, about him taking over, i actually think he's going to be a steady force. his interests and his passions, which, for many years, were sort of mocked, have turned out to be very prescient. you know, he cares strongly about the environment, organic farming, you know, climate change. these are his authentic ssions. and they happen to sorof dovetail with the moment that he's going to be stepping onto the throne. so i actually think it's going to be a lot better than some people think. >> some americans perceive the institution of the monarchy as something that is antiquated, out of date, anathema to american values. of course, we fought a revolution to be done with the british monarchy. and yet americans are enthralled by it. make the case for the monarchy.
>> well, the monarchy is the sort of focal point of british national pride, identity, and, you know, its sense of itself, if you like, its traditions, its history. and really, you have to consider would we rather have president boris johnson, perhaps, than queen elizabeth ii? actually, there's something steadying and reassuring about having that head of state who is aloof from the partisan madness, from the bickering. and, of course, what the queen has been able too -- for 70 years -- is never give her opinion about anything. the remarkable thing is, after seven decade we don't have a clue what elizabeth ii thinks about anything, which is really a remarkable thing. and it's reassuring at a time of enormous turbulence. so i don't think the british monarchy's going anywhere. >> you're making the conservative case. >> i'm making the conservative case, it is true. but i've seen it.
in a world of totalitarian despots, which seems to , you know, one of the horrible trends of the last 10 years, i think people are beginning to feel sort of more and more comfortable with thedea that, "well, perhaps having a monarch as head of state is less scary than it is having, you know, some of these monstrous figures that we're seeing all over europe right now. >> queen elizabeth is about to celebrate her platinum jubilee, which will mark 70 years since she took the throne. she's 96 years old. and you wrote... how will the world react at this inevitable event? >> you know, there's so much change right now in the world, so much turbulence, so much fearfulness, thai think that that factor, plus the fact that no one, certainly in england,
hasn't known anything but the queen for 70 years, i think that the mourning is going to be seismic because essentially it's a valediction to a whole kind of sense of an era, a sense of stability that people are going to feel very, very anxious about. i mean, i actually do predict a big national identity crisis when the queen dies because she, in a sense, has represented what it means to be british -- stoic, dutiful. you know, england's idea of itself, at any rate, it actually is a far cry from a huge amount of the way people live. but our idealized -- "our," i say, as an american who was born british. the british idea of itself is sort of wrapped up in those values still, which remain those kind of world war ii ideas of itself. and i think the loss of it's going to feel very weakening, as a matter of fact, and a sense of sort of shrinking will happen. and that's really the challenge that charles has is to reassure the nation into thinking that the country has not
by the loss of the queen. >> you know, you've written that the queen is a royal ceo who will work until her dying last breath. but you've noted that she's been in power for so long that, in some ways, she has blocked the evolution of the monarchy. >> i think that the queen's always done things a certain way, and the whole of sort of royal way has been constructed around not only her view of it but her father's and her grandfather's. i mean, the monarchy's really been in a kind of set, routine. we saw recently the commonwealth tour taken by william and kate, the duke and duchess of cambridge, and it really became glaringly obvious this just doesn't really work anymore, this whole semi-colonial feeling of the two of them standing up in a land rover, you know, kate in a huge hat and islanders pressed against the fence. i mean, you know, the optics were horrendous, actually. >> well, i actually was going to ask you about that. last year, barbados actually removed the queen as its head of state. and then when prince william
and kate went on their royal tour of the caribbean, they faced protests. the queen has said it's her sincere wish for charles to carry on the commonwealth after she dies. but there is speculation that more and more members of the commonwealth will go the way of barbados. >> i personally think that the british monarch, as head of state of the last sort of 14 or 15 nations that still have e soft british sovereign as head of state, i don't believe that that will last more than a few years. i think that that movement has -- that ship has sailed, if you like, personally. >> what are they waiting for? >> they're waiting forhe end of the queen's reign, i suspect. >> the queen is still on the canadians' 20-dollar bill. and prince charles and camilla went to canada recently. they were caught on camera giggling through a performance of inu singers, and they were accused of being quite disrespectful. >> i mean, look, they're all completely out of sync with this whole movement. i mean, the whole thing has got
to be reviewed. it's not right. i mean, when kate quite recently went over to copenhagen and met with the crown prince mary and they discussed early childhood education, that was a good look for kate. that was good optics. she looked like a crisp international diplomat. and i thinthat with the younger generation, you're going to see much more of that kind of an overseas visit. there's a mission. there's a point. i mean, you know, just showing up and, you know, batting a tennis ball or sort of cutting a ribbon, it does feel very, in a strange way, sort of condescending. and i think it's going to be massively rethought. and i'm told that william is really determined that it's going to be totally re-examined. ♪♪ >> so, "the crown," the netflix series, you've written about how the royals quite liked it in the beginning, but they've become more worried about its next season, which will cover the '90s and diana, and, frankly, risks reminding people of the less
empathetic elements of charles's time as prince. is that a problem for him as you know, the queen... >> i think it is a problem, actually, yes. poor prince charles cannot get out from under with the whole shade of princess diana. for years, he's felt aggrieved that, you know, the hagiography diana, saint diana, kind of overwhelmed him and never -- always cast him sort of as the villain in the relationship. so charles does feel very nervous about this forthcoming series of "the crown." it'll be interesting to see how the boys react to it because, you know, harry has a big deal with netflix. is he going to like the portrayal of his mother or not? it'll be very interesting to see how he reacts. >> there's a new survey out in february that suggests that increasing numbers of britons have become skeptical of the monarchy, and especially so amongst the younger generations, the 18 to 34. do you believe the monarchy will
survive to see william king? >> i believe the monarchy will survive, but i definitely think its place in english society will be less. i think that william and kate will be much more like the european monarchies in places like, you know, the netherlands, et cetera. you know, i think that they are unable to have the kind of mystique that the queen, after 70 years -- i mean, 14 prime ministers, starting with winston churchill. there will never be that kind of mystique again. and the fact that the queen has never spoken about anything in an interview, of course, has added to this extraordinary mystique. we already know a lot about william. we know much less about kate. she's actually been astounding, i think, in her ability to be so self-disciplined about the duties she has to perform and the rolehe haso play. it's quite remarkable that this woman, who was raised in a middle-class british family, has somehow managed to really absorb all the kind of necessary tenets that it
requires to be successful in this role. i mean, temperament is extraordinarily important. i mean, she is genuinely a calm and composed, mature woman who is able to just take this intense scrutiny and somehow carve out a private world for the family. and that's what really gives william his strength, that she has created this sort of incredible domestic bubble around them. >> you write pretty extensively about megxit, the exit of harry and meghan from the firm, from the royal family. you say, quote... >> well, that is absolutely true. i mean, you could not have a more chaotic exit plan than they had, or the lack of one. they could have got a much better deal out of the queen, i believe, if they had just gone about it in a more strategic,
careful fashion. but it was so kind of impatient and -- and petulant, the way th behaved, that essentially they kind of offended everybody the way out. and they seem to be unable to understand that the real problem that couldn't be overcome was their desire to both keep all of their roy privileges, patronages, et cetera, while also having this whole commercial arm where they were able tmake money. and it just would not have worked because, ultimately, whatever they were doing commercially, they were leveraging their hrh, you know, their royal highness titles and it just could not work. and so a choice had to be made. i mean, they -- you know, faced with the choice between the commonwealth and netflix, i mean, they took netflix. >> they took netflix. but, i mean, meghan was a working royal for 20 months. >> yes. >> why did it deteriorate so rapidly? >> it was shocking. i was shocked. i believed that it wouldnly last four or five years, but i did not expect it to last
as short a time as 20 months. meghan really hated everything about it. and in fairness to meghan, i really think, actually, that -- that harry wanted out. in fact, what was said to me, which i was very surprised about when i heard it from a very close member of the circle, they said to me, "you know, harry was so unhappy. we all knew that at some point he'd want to go," that the queen thought so, too. i think he just hated the press scrutiny. and the weird thing is, the way he's done everything, it seems to amplify that scrutiny ever since. how come -- one of the first things he does when he gets into exiledo this w with oprah winfrey to is and now to be actually doing a memoir in the fall of '22, which will be a tell-all memoir after everything he's been through in his life. >> this is from the person who supposedly wants privacy in exile. >> it's -- it's baffling. he is so kind of mixed up in what he really wants that i don't feel
any good can come of that. >> one eleme we haven't discussed in this conversation is perhaps the cultural clash between meghan and the palace, and especially how allegedly there were conversations about how dark a sussex child would be with a mother who was half-black. do you believe that it's true that a member of the royal family would have made a statement? >> well, it's very shocking if it's true. >> does it seem -- >> and very appalling if it's true. it's impossible to know, isn't it? and it's such a -- it's such a hot-button concept, frankly, for this to have happened and so tarnishing for the royals for this to have happened. so i think it's -- we'll perhaps find out when harry writes his book. >> do you think he'll be that forthcoming? >> i think that he's been pretty forthcoming so far. [ chuckles ] so he has real anger, harry, that wants to say these things, and he wants, i gather, with the book, to, quote,
you know, "tell his truth." and the truth is not going to be pretty, as far as his family is concerned. and i think if they could do anything to stop it, they would. >> you would describe prince andrew in your book as a "coroneted sleaze machine." of course, his ultimate downfall was his relationship with convicted pedophile jeffrey epstein. and this portion of the book is fascinating because you have your own history with jeffrey epstein. as editor in chief on the daily beast, you published a series of articles about jeffrey epstein. and jeffrey epstein even came to your office and threatened you personally before he then turned around and invited you to a dinner with none other than prince andrew. >> mm-hmm. >> how do you reflect on prince andrew and that royal-epstein connectionow? >> well, unfortunately, andrew, he's really reprehensible.
it's hard to have anything but contempt, actually, for andrew. i mean, i somehow do feel a bit sorry for him, simply because he's a peon of small intellect and major status. so that's a bad combination. and he was always, you know, an oaf, frankly, treated his staff poorly, you know, threw his weight around. and then, of course, he always felt he didn't have enough money to live the way that he wanted to live, which led him into the company of people who want to be around royalty. inevitably, that means that they're going to be unsavory a lot of the time, and they really were. he had trible judgment about people. and unfortunaty, that led him, you know, absolutely into the lair of jeffrey epstein. >> there are allegations th he had sex with one of epstein underage victims, and he reportedly paid £12illion in settlement. >> yeah, andrew has never admitted either knowing
or having sex with her, but he paid her £12 million. so we will have to, you know, gather what we can out of that. but it was a disgraceful episode that unfortunately has tarnished the family enormously. >> prince andrew escorted the queen to her seat at the recent memorial to prince philip. it has been reported, and you wrote about it in your book, the closeness of the relationship between the queen and prince andrew. why does she continue to favor him? >> well, this is where, of course, things get very complicated and where also, of course, i find it most interesting because the institution of monarchy is underpinned by fallible people. a family like any other family. the queen is very fond of, you know, her third child, andrew. she was much closer to the two younger ones, andrew and edward, thanhe was the two older ones. because, you know, like any working motr,
age 25, she was given this unbelievablposition in the world when her children were very young. and she did not spend that kind of time with andr-- with charles and anne that she was able to spend as, you know, when she was a more accomplished monarch later in her reign than she was with andrew and edward. so she always has had a very soft spot for andrew. people were utterly shocked to see andrew escorting the queen at the memorial for prince philip. but the queen would feel, "this is my private situation. it's his father, my husband." she wanted the arm of her son when she walked down the aisle. >> she has two other sons to choose from, two other sons to choose from. >> and, of course, andrew muscled to make sure that he was there. she was actually supposed to be handed off to the archbishop, who was going to walk her down. but andrew, wanting to push his face into the limelight and say, "i still have the approval of my mother," made surhe was in the picture. and that has caused a great deal
of consternation amongst her -- you know, everyone at the palace. >> the queen is not the only woman in recent history to have put her stamp on britain. margaret thatcher was a guest on the original "firing line" with william f. buckley jr. in 1975 when she was leader of the conservatives four years before she became prime minister. take a look at this. >> there's a feeling among some of the electorate -- distressingly high, in fact -- that women tend to think more emotionally. >> would you be so very surprised if i said that, at home, on the whole, we just look at the person and not necessarily the sex? >> yes. >> you would be. that's because you're a man. i mean, you're limited. but, look, i honestly dislike -- i regard these questions as very trivial. i've heard this argument frequently that women are really rather more emotional than men. really, women are intensely practical. again, i don't mean
that flippantly. we are an intensely practical sex. we often get on with the job. we don't always talk about it as much as men. we get on doing it. >> it's so true. and the monarchy is on the shoulders of the wome let's face it -- the queen has been amazing. i mean, and kate is amazing. and even camilla has turned out to be a person who had, in the end, that ability to be practical and get on with it. >> so, of course, margaret thatcher was the first female prime minister that the queen worked with. and did you see any similarities between how they navigated the sexism? >> well, i don't think either of these women have ever considered sexism an issue. that's -- that's their strength, in a strange way. and they didn't much like each other, as you know. but the queen's always been a real man's woman, actually. and i think margaret thatcher was, too. the queen likes alpha men. so she's used to being with very high-powered men around her, is the truth.
>> well, you're an expert on the royals. you're expert on many things. you're a groundbreaking edit of, as we mentioned, magazines like vanity fair and the new yorker and tatler. is the era of magazines over? >> well, as a huge magazine junkie all my life, sadly, i don't buy them anymore. so i think that magazines -- print magazines -- have a very tough time right now. >> that's shocking to hear. >> yes, i know. i feel sad about it because it's a great art form, and i've loved every second of my career in it. but the truth is that i'm -- you know, i'm a creature of disaggregation, too. you know, i follow writers, i follow twitter feeds, i follow -- i pick my -- i'm a scavenger now, taking my news from a thousand sources. >> you have known prime minister boris johnson for decades, and you have said that he is a fabulous partner at a dinner party, but you're not so sure that he is a leader of any substance. and you also have covered donald trump. and i wonder
if there are elements of trumpism and donald trump's leadership style that have made their way across the pond into british politics? >> well, i think actually boris was always the way that he today. where i think he has taken out of trump's playbook is a willingness to -- an embracing of being completely dishonest while never feeling he has to apologize for it. the "never apologize for dishonesty" is absolutely a new trump phenomenon, and that is something that i think that boris absolutely absorbed. >> in 2020, you lost your husband, harry evans, also a legend -- a legendary newspaperman, somebody that generations of reporters have looked up to. i know he was not only your partner in marriage but also a real partner to you as a professional. you all were really the original power couple in journalism.
what are some of the lessons of harry's legacy? >> harry was the ultimate truth-teller. and he really knew how to speak truth to power while never being self-important about it. and i think one of the things i most loved about him, as well, was his immense optimism about life. he always believed that good would prevl as long as, you know, good men did not stand by. so he was never a person who was willing to stand by. i mean, he just never stopped being engaged with trying to -- to right the wrongs of the world in a way that was just powered by a sense that it mattered. and that's what i miss most about him, in a funny way, was this this incredible moral energy that he had that just permeated every aspect of our lives. >> as you thk about the coming years of the royals, you've said it's a perilous moment, but you have confidence that they will transcenis moment.
what gives you hope about the next generation of the royal family? >> my optimism about the crown is i do think that both charles and william are very decent people who care very deeply about their country. and compared to the dreck, the dross, the despots, the charlatans who are running countries all over the place, how lucky are we, really, to have really decent, you know, virtue-loving human beings who are sort of trying to dedicate themselves to making life better? >> on that, tina brown, congratulations on the book, "the palace papers," and thank you for joining me here. >> thank you, margaret. >> "firing line with marret hoover" is made possible in part by...
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