Andrew Morton already knows the first line of his obituary. “It will be, ‘Princess Diana’s biographer Andrew Morton is dead,'” he tells me quite confidently on Zoom.
He’s probably right.
Morton is the author of Diana, her true story, a 1992 tell-all about the Princess of Wales, which revealed the truth about Diana’s deeply unhappy marriage to Prince Charles and her struggles as a member of the royal family. When the explosive biography was published, Diana denied working with Morton, but after his death he revealed how pivotal the royal was in shaping the story. (The book was later reissued as Diana: her true story, in her own words.)
When writing His real storyMorton sent Diana questions and the princess secretly recorded her answers, sending the tapes back to Morton via her friend. Dr. James Colthurst. Their secret collaboration recently became fodder for an episode of The crownwith Elizabeth Debicki playing Diana and Andrew Steele portraying the bespectacled author.
“To be honest with you, the story of how we did Diana: her true story was a TV drama waiting to happen,” Morton says, noting that he served as a consultant on the episode, titled “The System.”
“I had eight writers on a conference call to discuss the absolute details of that time period. And luckily I kept notes on it all. Detailing the plot of the episode, he shares that yes, he was nicknamed “Clark Kent”, years ago on the royal rhythm, and yes, just like in The crownhis office was broken into while working on the book.
“I was warned by two people, [royal reporter] Richard Kay and [royal photographer] Arthur Edwards, that the Royal Protection Squad were looking for my contact very discreetly and they were reviewing everything,” he recalled. “And then a few weeks after that warning, I came to my office one day and it was broken into. The camera was stolen, some files were browsed. But the tapes were never kept there anyway. James always kept the tapes.
Debicki is strange as a late royal, he says. “When I saw her in The night manager, I remember saying to my wife, ‘This is the next Diana.’ There was simply no question. This is before she was cast. She just looked like Diana. It’s worrying.
More than 30 years after the book’s release and 25 after Diana’s tragic death, Morton is still “proud” that his legacy is tied to that of the princess. “I’m very proud that Diana asked me to write her story, and I think I did her justice. It helped her find meaning in her life and helped her move forward. And in a way, Camilla has a lot to thank me for,” he suggests with a smile before offering his take on why Diana and more specifically His real story continues to capture the public’s attention.
“It’s still a book that sells because the story is fascinating. It is the trajectory of a naive young woman. It’s almost a fairy tale in a way. The naive young woman who enters this rather cold, cruel and distant world. And it’s her fight to find and be herself. This is what makes history more than fair, it did this, that and the other, it transcends history. His life story transcends the individual,” he tells me.
“Who would think a princess would say to someone she barely knows, ‘I’m going to tell you everything about my life?’ It’s amazing.
Morton could have easily rested on his laurels following the publication of Diana: her true story, but he is always busy writing. His latest book, The Queen: Her Life, released today, is a comprehensive look at the late monarch and her reign, the first to debut since the Queen died in September at the age of 96. “This is the first biography from start to finish. It’s the first book that sums up his whole life,” he explains.
“She was much loved and missed not just by the British people, but by people all over the world. And you saw that in the outpourings of grief or respect, I think, for her on that long journey from Balmoral. It made me smile because when I started working on it I went to Edinburgh, and the people in Edinburgh who were part of Operation Unicorn were convinced without any argument that she would decide to go through her last days there – and I don’t. I don’t blame her because it’s a beautiful part of the world.
In addition to Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana, Morton has written biographies of royals (Meghan Markle, Kate Middleton, Wallis Simpson) and notable non-royals (Monica Lewinsky, Tom Cruise, Victoria Beckham) . He’s already working on his next project, but is keeping quiet about it: “If I tell you what it is, someone else will.”
But there are at least two subjects that it is prudent to exclude. “In the future it is obvious that people will write about King Charles and Queen Camilla, but I think my relationship with the late Princess of Wales prevents me from adding to this corpus. It is time to examine different types of pasture.
As Town & Country’s Digital Director, Caroline Hallemann covers culture, entertainment and more