Jennie Bond On Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana And That Lame Biopic
Journalist, royal reporter and author Jennie Bond has spend loads of time covering the royal family, particularly Queen Elizabeth. Her new book, Elizabeth: A Celebration in Photographs of the Queen’s Life and Reign (Carlton Publishing Group/Trafalgar Square Publishing/iP) explores the extraordinary life of a Princess who became heir apparent in 1936, after King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne.
I asked Bond, who covered the royals beginning in the late 1980s, why she wanted to put together such a tribute to Her Majesty.
“I think the Queen and I share this face, this strange face where you can be walking down the street (I don’t know if this happens to her!), and people will say ‘Oh, cheer up, love. Go on! It may never happen!’ And I would think, ‘I was perfectly happy in the first place!’
“It’s a kind of glum face when you’re thinking about things,” Bond joked. “I think the Queen has the same problem and often pictures of her show her looking a little bit glum.
“The Queen I know is sparkling with personality. She has a wonderful smile, and even though she’s 87, she’s still got a great charisma about her. I just wanted to share some pictures of the Queen I know. Almost every photo of her is smiling or dazzling in some way.
As a member of the accredited press, Bond traveled with the Queen on several of her overseas tours. In Pakistan, Her Majesty accidentally dropped her purse, and everyone scrambled to see what was actually inside. “Just a pair of glasses,” Bond told me, clearly disappointed not to find something juicier, like a corgi treat.
Bond, for her part, always attempts to lighten the mood on tours.
“I kind of try and buck the norm and don’t go along with protocol by trying to make her giggle a little, if I can (with varying degrees of failure, mostly).
“I had just been to an exhibition of Her Majesty’s wedding dress,” Bond recalled. “Later, I saw her at a reception at Windsor Castle. I said, ‘Ma’am! I’ve just been looking at your wedding dress. Amazing. My God, you had such a tiny, tiny waist.’
“On that occasion, she looked a little bit chuffed. And she sort of threw her head back a little bit and laughed.”
There was one royal lady that Bond was able to form a relationship of sorts with. If she was going to do solid reporting on the family, Bond said to herself, then she needed to get to know at least one member.
“I got to know Diana quite well because I had been covering her for a few years when I thought, ‘this is just daft.’
“I went back to my hotel after talking with her briefly. So I wrote her a letter and asked, ‘Can we not get to know each other as two women? We’ve both got kids and I’d just like to get to know you more, because I do not know what to believe about you when I read the papers. Can we just get together?’
Then I thought, ‘Should I send it off?’ and I did. I gave it to her private secretary. About three weeks later when we were back in the UK, one of her ladies-in-waiting rang me up and said, ‘The princess would like to meet you.’
“I went to Kensington Palace and we sat, just the two of us, in her drawing room. We chatted and chatted and chatted. I asked her everything (this was before Panorama), and I asked her all sorts of questions about her marriage and what she felt about Camilla and how she felt about Prince Charles. It was a real, in-depth, girly chat.
“We had two or three conversations like that over the years, so I got to know her quite well.”
Like everyone else in Great Britain, Bond mourned the loss of Diana in August 1997.
“It was a little bit tough to report on her death, but you just get on with it,” Bond said. “I never claimed that I was a bosom buddy of hers, but I did feel I knew her pretty well.”
As for the new biopic, Bond doesn’t intend to see it.
“I really don’t want to pollute or contaminate my memories and my knowledge of what went on with fiction,” she said, “because I think I know more about it than the film does.
“Yes, she did love Dr. Hasnat Khan, I’m sure she did. And I know a lot of stuff about that, so I don’t want to see the film.
“It’s a fictionalized Hollywood view on their relationship,” she added (and rightly so). “Obviously there is some truth in it, but I prefer to stick with what I know.”