Saturday, April 02, 2005

Media circus, 1901

From The Style of the Century by Bevis Hillier:

Queen Victoria died on January 22. Queen for over sixty years, she was 81, and had been ailing for some time. Journalists gathered round the gates of Osborne, on the Isle of Wight, where she lay dying. Starved of information, they invented their own, as Eric Parker, who was present, recalled in Memory Looks Forward (1937): '"What have you said her last words were?" asked the one. "I've made her say God Bless my people," answered the other. "I thought of that," said his friend, "but I thought I'd get something better. I've made her send for her favourite Pomeranian dog."' The four o'clock bulletin the next day, signed, 'James Reid, R. Douglas Powell, Thomas Barlow', was short: 'The Queen is slowly sinking.' At 6:45 pm an official of the Royal Household came to the gates to make a simple announcement: 'Gentlemen, I regret to say that the Queen passed away at half-past six.' What happened then is indignantly described by Parker:

At the words a number of representatives of newspapers dashed for their bicycles, and rode off helter-skelter, yelling and shouting, down the road to the Cowes post office.

It was the most disgraceful thing of the kind I have ever seen. It was described afterwards by the representative of The Times as more like a fox-hunt than anything else.

Bernard Falk, also present at Osborne, recalled in Bouquets for Fleet Street (1951) that one reporter was sacked because 'the goody-goodies' reported to his editor that he had sung out, as he raced for the post office, 'All right, boys, the old woman has gone!'


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