Andrew Morton is a master of what is currently known as the “unauthorized biography” and what was known in 16th-century England as “hangable sedition.” Luckily for us, times have changed, royals have become more accessible to both the common people and the People reader, and we can enjoy his behind-the-scenes glimpses at the lives of Britain’s monarchy. With the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton on the near horizon, we caught up with Morton to discuss his upcoming book, William and Kate: A Royal Wedding, and his predictions for the nuptials.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you start working on this book?
ANDREW MORTON: I started doing soft research last year, for the simple reason that it was pretty obvious that there was going to be an engagement announcement, but we didn’t know exactly when.
And once the engagement was announced, you switched into high gear?
Yeah, absolutely. I think I’ve had between four and six researchers on this at any one time. Of course, I’ve written about the royal family over the years and I know people. They’re not just sources, they’re friends. It’s, “Let’s have lunch and chew this over.”
What kind of book are you aiming for?
There are 32 pages of the wedding, that’s the whole point. This isn’t a book that comes out before the wedding, it comes out after the wedding and will contain all the pictures. People, when it comes the time, will realize that this is the only wedding of a future king and queen that they will witness in their lifetime, so one hopes that they will think, “Well, I want a souvenir of that,” to pass on to their children and grandchildren. Just as books of the wedding of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra were passed down through generations. So in some ways, it’s an old-fashioned souvenir book that existed and was very popular way before the Internet and way before 24/7 news. It’s going to be an interesting exercise to see if this genre still has potency among the public.
In terms of public interest and coverage, how do you think the wedding will compare to that of Diana and Charles 30 years ago?
It’s very hard to say. It’s undoubtedly the case that they’re a popular couple, that William comes across very well. She does represent Middle England with a bit of style, so she’s gradually coming into her own. Ever since William was born, every poll has always said that the kingship should skip a generation and go straight to Prince William. In a curious kind of way he’s more popular than his father, as much as he may resent it or be a reluctant monarch. In the 30 years since Diana and Charles got married, I think the world has moved on since then, but there’s still a fascination, especially in America, with it.
Why do you think we are still so taken with the monarchy? Is it a latent desire to apologize for the Revolutionary War and get back together with you guys?
[Laughs] No, it’s because people have bought into the story. Everybody knows the story. It’s a rich tapestry of extraordinary folk; you’ve got everybody of a certain age who watched the wedding, everybody knows where they were when Diana died, everybody’s watched the progress of William and Harry, everybody’s watched the progress of Charles and Camilla, everybody has a view on Charles and Camilla, and everybody has a view on the monarchy. So, it’s not like, say, the Spanish royal family. It’s a cliché, but really, it’s a soap opera. It is a monarchy that, until Diana came along, was what I call a domestic, home-county monarchy. There wasn’t that much interest in America. Diana made the monarchy international and it became an international story. And that has continued beyond her death. Having said that, the last few years, until William and Kate came along, the royal cottage industry had been closed for business.
Do you think this marriage will help reinvigorate it?
You hope, for a while. I’ve always argued that the royal family is like the births, marriages, and deaths column in a newspaper. Everybody’s interested in the marriage, everybody’s interested in the new baby that one imagines will be produced within 18 months of them marrying. Just as there is this media fascination with Michelle Obama, how will she dress, what will she do in this scenario? It’s the same piece of cake: How will this girl who’s a commoner react when rubbing shoulders with monarchy and the high- and well-born?
You’ve written books on Hollywood celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Tom Cruise. Do you find that’s a different experience from writing about the royal family? Are they two different species of celebrities?
It is. It’s easier to do Hollywood celebrities. First of all, there’s an arc about their lives, in the sense that they have to push through to show their talent, in Angelina’s case due to her parents, her famous father, her mother’s psychological problems, it’s an arc of revelation. With Tom Cruise, it’s asking questions of how and why he would be involved with something like Scientology. So with both of them, it’s a very different trajectory to, say, Prince William. It’s entirely in keeping that he’s gone into the military, he was serving as an Air Force officer, that he’s going to live in the Palace. He’s an interesting character in his own way, but he’s keeping to the essentially traditional trajectory. Someone like Madonna is interesting because she’s a force of nature.
Do you think that Kate has the potential to be as fascinating to the public and media as Diana was?
Journalists love a storm. A storm, a row, a smash, a crash. I think Kate is going to keep her nose clean, follow in Prince William’s wake. Prince William has proved himself to be an exceptional media communicator, but also someone who, having seen the way his mother was treated by the paparazzi, is prepared to use the law to protect his own privacy. I think we’re going to see the royal family being more aggressive about their privacy, but also more open when it comes to what they see as their public role. I will guess that William and Kate will be very much in the forefront when London hosts the Olympics next year, but they will be very quiet when it comes to their private lives.
For more on the media frenzy around the royal wedding, check out this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly.