Every season of The Crown has depicted a number of press scandals for the British royal household, from allegations of Prince Philip’s infidelity, to Princess Margaret’s younger man, to the Profumo affair. The just-released season four isn’t any totally different, however one PR nightmare stands out due to its shut proximity to the Queen.
In 1986, The Sunday Occasions ran a narrative alleging that the Queen had made damaging feedback about Margaret Thatcher’s government and policies, a severe breech of royal protocol and a significant embarrassment for the crown. The Queen’s press secretary, Michael Shea—who had served as press spokesman for the Queen from 1978 to 1987 and seen the Windsor household by means of a few of the biggest crises in that decade— was believed to be the Occasions’s supply.
Although he denied being the supply of the leak, the occasions in the end led to Shea leaving the palace. Here is the whole lot it’s essential find out about Michael Shea.
Earlier than working for the Queen, he was a diplomat—and likewise an writer.
Michael Sinclair MacAuslan Shea was born in 1938 in Lanarkshire, Scotland. He attended Gordonstoun—the Scottish boarding faculty that Prince Philip, and later, Prince Charles, attended—in addition to Edinburgh College.
He joined the International Workplace in 1963 and launched into a diplomatic profession that took him to West Germany, Romania, and New York. Whereas in West Germany, he wrote a number of political thrillers below the pseudonym Michael Sinclair. In his lifetime he in the end printed 14 novels, in addition to 5 non-fiction books.
Shea helped organize the Queen’s bicentennial go to to New York in 1976, and so impressed royal courtiers that he quickly joined the royal service in 1978.
He helped the Windsors by means of a number of press scandals, and accompanied the Queen to 65 nations.
Shea grew to become the Queen’s press secretary in 1978. He in a short time needed to take care of main scandals, together with the 1979 publicity of Sir Anthony Blunt —the royal household’s longtime artwork curator— as a former Soviet spy. He additionally needed to handle the fallout from Michael Fagan’s early morning break-in to Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom in July 1982.
Shea accompanied Queen Elizabeth on excursions to 65 nations and so they reportedly acquired alongside fairly effectively. Shea had a reputation for being charming and chatty with journalists, establishing a extra pleasant rapport than earlier secretaries.
Shea managed the palace’s rocky relations with the media throughout Charles and Diana’s relationship.
Shea was additionally accountable for Buckingham Palace’s dealings with the media through the courtship and wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. In January 1981, shortly earlier than the couple’s engagement was introduced in February, the frenzy surrounding the couple grew to become extraordinary.
Although he was sometimes pleasant, Shea grew to become forceful with reporters once they adopted the Queen on her annual vacation journey to Sandringham, within the hopes of discovering out if Diana had come alongside as a visitor of Charles. In a statement, Shea mentioned, ”The Queen has develop into more and more indignant about this, to place it bluntly—this journey has been far worse than another. Now evidently some Fleet Avenue editors suppose the Queen is honest sport, even when she has no official engagements. No member of the royal household can transfer out of Sandringham and not using a posse of pressmen surrounding them. They’re hanging in regards to the stables, photographing something that strikes.”
The media circus solely intensified main as much as Charles and Diana’s July wedding that very same yr. In November of 1981, Shea invited editors to Buckingham Palace for an viewers with the Queen, who requested that the press calm down on their incessant protection of the household, and particularly the younger princess, who had simply introduced her being pregnant.
The Queen’s request clearly didn’t work. On a “babymoon” within the Bahamas with Charles in February 1982, paparazzi took photographs of Diana, then 5 months pregnant, in a bikini. The tabloid protection shocked the Queen, and the palace’s statement called the incident “in the worst possible taste.”
Shea left the palace in 1987 after a information story alleged the Queen was “dismayed” by Margaret Thatcher’s insurance policies.
Shea was basically pressured out of royal service after a significant press scandal in July 1986. The Sunday Occasions printed a bit alleging that the social insurance policies pursued by the Thatcher authorities have been inflicting the Queen “dismay;” that the Queen disapproved of Thatcher’s dealing with of the coal miners’ strike; and that Thatcher’s unfavourable angle to the Commonwealth of Nations triggered the Queen “displeasure.”
Shea was assumed to be the supply of the feedback, which have been extraordinarily damaging to the Queen and to the monarchy, which historically avoids any public interference in politics.
The Queen’s Non-public Secretary, William Heseltine, responded to the controversy in a brusque letter to The Times, writing that it was ”preposterous to recommend that any member of the Queen’s family—even if that she or he knew what Her Majesty’s opinions on authorities coverage could be (and the press secretary definitely doesn’t) would reveal them to the press.”
However Heseltine did affirm it was Shea who had spoken to a Occasions reporter and Shea himself admitted the dialog had occurred, though he denied the specifics and mentioned his statements have been misrepresented. Shea left royal service the next yr.
After leaving the palace, Shea returned to Scotland.
After he resigned because the Queen’s press secretary, Shea labored for six years at Hanson PLC as director of public relations and continued to write down novels. In 2003, he printed a memoir, A View from the Sidelines, about his time within the palace.
Shea was additionally an energetic member of the humanities scene in Edinburgh, chairing the Royal Lyceum Theatre, directing the Edinburgh Tattoo, and dealing as a member of the Edinburgh College Court docket.
He was given the consideration of the Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, however was notably not given knighthood, which may very well be anticipated for somebody in as shut a place to the Queen as he was.
He died of dementia in 2009 at age 71.
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