The Royals: join the debate, watch the bulletins, buy the books

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FOR a military dictatorship, it would be good going. For a constitutional monarchy, it is little short of miraculous. This weekend, the Royals have seized virtual control of the nation's mass media.

The television bulletins were dominated by the Queen Mother, 93 and fit as a flea after a minor throat operation, who is expected to be discharged from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary today. Yesterday's new development: she had partaken of some melon.

In London, the Times and the constitutional reform group Charter 88 organised a debate that solemnly trawled through the pros and cons of republicanism - 'a day without precedence in the history of British constitutional debate', the breathless comment from Peter Stothard, editor of the Thunderer.

And everywhere, above all, printed words. Bookstands are groaning under the weight of accumulating volumes about the Royals. All winter long, ever since the Prince and Princess of Wales announced their separation, the bookwriters have been at their desks busily typing away. In the next few weeks, seven of them will disgorge on to the public well over 40 million pages of their writings on the Royal Family.

Some of these books have been prepared in the spotlight of publicity, others in complete secrecy. EAch one claims, to a greater or lesser degree, to be unique and better than the rest. As the publicity blurb for Behind Closed Doors, by Nigel Dempster and Peter Evans, asked, 'You've heard the propaganda . . . Now do you want to hear the Truth?'

But how can we be sure that what these authors are telling us is the whole truth? No story has been more subject to misinformation, disinformation, exaggeration and simple plain error than that of the Royal Family. Even the Camillagate tapes, for which exists a full written transcipt, are inaccurately quotes.

Below we assess the new crop of royal reads, and apply the Tampax Test, comparing the authors' recounting of Camillagate with the original transcript to judge their accuracy.

Diana v. Charles

by James Whitaker

(Signet, pounds 14.99)

Occasional lapses damaged Whitaker's billing as the man who really knows the Royals. A surprisingly readable and fleshy account of the Wales marriage from one who was there before the engagement. A fascinating chapter on the feuding Spencers by the Mirror's royal writer.

Inheritance: A Psychological History of the Royal Family

by Dennis Friedman

(Sidgwick & Jackson, pounds 14.99)

Good idea in theory that fails in practice. So many psychological fantasies are presented as fact that it makes one feel quite sorry for the Windsors.

The End of the House of Windsor: Birth of a British Republic

by Stephen Haseler

(IN Tauris & Co, pounds 14.95)

Saudi Arabia is the only country other than Britain not to have a constitution. Tiny gems like this brighten up a leaden introduction to the birth of Britain as a republic.

The Tarnished Crown

by Anthony Holden

(Bantam Press, pounds 16.99)

The monarchy was damaged by the young royals' behaviour, Prince Charles' vacillating personality, and John Major's call to classlessness. Intelligent and well-argued portrait of the monarchy by the Prince's first biographer who doubts that Charles will ever be king.

I'll Tell The Jokes Arthur: Me, Diana, and the Royal Family

by Arthur Edwards

(Blake Publishing, pounds 14.99)

This book is more about His Egoness Arthur Edwards, the Sun photographer, than about any of the Royals. Another one for the bandwagon.

The Rise and Fall of the House of Windsor

by A N Wilson

(Sinclair-Stevenson, pounds 14.99)

Iconoclastic cuttings job badly marred by mistakes, misquotes and mis-spelling.

Behind Palace Doors

by Nigel Dempster

(Orion, pounds 16.99)

The most trumpeted of the royal books has been published with such secrecy, no proofs were even made. A well-crafted racy read if you don't regularly read Dempster's column, otherwise a lot of it will seem familiar.

Diana: Her True Story

by Andrew Morton

(Michael O'Mara Books, pounds 6.99)

The book that started it all is beginning to look a bit thin and ragged. Never mind. Morton has done so well out of it he need never write another - this is the biggest seller by a huge margin.

Royal Throne: The Future of the Monarchy

by Elizabeth Longford

(Hodder & Stoughton, pounds 14.99)

A fluent, if somewhat beseeching, call on royalists, monarchists and optimists to do something about stopping the damage to the Royal Family. Rare keen supporter of the Prince of Wales.

The Royal Marriages: Private Lives of the Queen and her Children

by Lady Colin Campbell

(Smith Gryphon, pounds 15.99)

Start saving for this one - it's still under wraps so we only have her opinion of it. 'My book has more than all of the others put together. . . .I shouldn't think Kitty Kelley will have anything to add. She might be able to offer one or two silver balls but I've made the cake'. We'll see.

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