Despite the worldwide media attention she has received during her long reign, there is one thing for which The Queen is famous in both in press circles and the wider world – that is the fact that she has never given a press interview.
Every other member of the present Royal Family, including Her Majesty’s husband the Duke of Edinburgh, have given interviews with the media – but The Queen herself, she remains resolute.
She has certainly come close over the years, with several notable examples which have been recorded and are in existence today. The most prominent of these occasions was in 1992 when, for a BBC documentary to mark her 40th year on the throne, she provided commentary on various aspects of her life and role as Monarch.
The documentary, called Elizabeth R, was shortly after withdrawn from public view by the Palace because of fears it intruded too much into The Queen and her court.
Nothing particularly controversial or contentious is said by The Queen during the documentary, but the combination of such a candid narration and the fact she had never done anything like it before seemingly proved too much for Palace PR.
Elizabeth R was a one-off, nothing like it has happened before or since, though it was certainly significant – and indeed popular! It won critical acclaim from many seasoned reviewers, with one journalist commenting that he believed Elizabeth R has ‘redefined the function of the British Monarch through this documentary’.
It was not the first time The Queen had spoken directly to an audience though. In 1987, she made media history by attempting her first on-the-spot media interview.
The brief, 30-second encounter with the assembled press pack has been forgotten 27 years on, though it remains perhaps the only (or at least most pertinent) example of a time when The Queen has done such an interview.
The video demonstrates yet another possible reason for Her Majesty’s general refusal to do interviews: the lack of preparedness for such encounters. Plus the ever-present risk with press interviews that something The Queen says could be misinterpreted by one eager journalist, or that the interview could take a turn on to topics less suitable.
Of course, The Queen has given speeches and even those are not without media scrutiny. Indeed, on that alone it’s not hard to understand why this longstanding convention of Her Majesty’s to keep a respectful distance from the press has largely been maintained.
The constitutional position of modern Monarchy mean that it is the Sovereign’s actions that are interesting, not their words. Monarchy survives because certain preconceptions people have of The Queen are maintained – one of those is that she does not give opinions.
Despite what some may regard as a missed opportunity by The Queen to engage with her people, the current arrangement seems to work extraordinarily well, people respect Her Majesty for her policy with the media and besides, in the words of Victorian constitutionalist Walter Bagehot, “we must not let in daylight upon magic.”
Give your view in the comments box below: should The Queen give press interviews?