Which 'national treasure' said this?

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IN YEARS gone by he would have been clapped in irons and sent to the tower. Edward Stourton, one of the BBC's most respected broadcasters, has claimed that the Queen Mother was a "racist" and "ghastly old bigot".

The Radio 4 Today presenter reveals in a new book that the late royal referred to "Huns, Wops and Dagos" in an extraordinary xenophobic tirade against the European Union.

Stourton was invited to lunch with the Queen Mother in the 1990s, but has never spoken of their conversation until now. He said he was left shocked by the "nasty and ugly" remarks, which he felt tarnished her reputation as a much-loved matriarch of the nation.

But royal commentators have turned on Stourton, criticising him for apparently breaking the long-standing convention that private conversations with senior members of the monarchy are never made public.

Stourton makes the revelations in a new book in which he examines the rise of political correctness.

"You may imagine the thrill of receiving an invitation to dine with this near-mythic creature," he said. "And not just any old lunch – this was to be an intimate affair at Windsor Great Park.

Stourton said he was initially charmed by the senior royal's demeanour. "I could not help being impressed by the sprightly figure who bounced in and started living up to her stereotypes, knocking back the gin and Dubonnet and twinkling away with rude enthusiasm."

He revealed that after lunch each guest was given a private audience with the Queen Mother. "She asked me what I had been doing lately, and – grateful for a topic that might keep us going for a while – I explained that I was just back from a European Union summit.

"'It will never work, you know,' she declared, using the already long out-of-date term the EEC. 'It will never work with all those Huns, Wops and Dagos.' The words were delivered with the eyes on maximum, tiara-strength twinkle, but I am afraid I froze.

"The Nation's Favourite Grandmother was in fact a ghastly old bigot, a prey to precisely the kind of prejudice which had driven the conflicts the European project had been designed to prevent. What she had said was nasty and ugly. Politically correct is what I felt the Queen Mother most emphatically was not and I was shocked."

The reporter also recalled how previously he had come to resent "dress rehearsals" for the announcement of her death. "I spent a terrifyingly high proportion of my early broadcasting career preparing for the death of the Queen Mother. We would all troop into the office pretending it was a day like any other and then affect surprise when there would be a report that one of the ghillies at the Castle of Mey had been spotted ringing 999, or a rumour that all leave had been cancelled for the choir at the Abbey."

Hugo Vickers, a royal commentator and the author of Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, was dismayed by Stourton's revelations. "These things were said to him at a private lunch party and I think they would have been said for effect, possibly to amuse him or possibly to surprise him," he said. "It is naughty of him to repeat these comments publicly. He is clearly looking to use her to make a splash for his book, which is decidedly ungallant."

Yet Vickers had little difficulty in believing the royal would use such remarks. "The Queen Mother lived in another age and she did say these sorts of things. Trying to put her into a box of political correctness is as silly as trying to put the sea into the sky.

"I remember talking to her once and she referred to the 'beastly Germans'. She did not like Germans but that was because her brother was killed in the First World War and her other brothers returned from the conflict as broken men. The Queen Mother didn't like any foreigners, to be quite frank. She probably didn't even like the English that much."

But the author felt the royal was never racist in her conduct. "She did a lot for Commonwealth relations, and when she went to Africa she made a point of requesting that black and white guests should be invited to the same parties."

Aberdeenshire councillor Bruce Luffman, who represents Royal Deeside, felt Stourton had betrayed the trust of the Glamis-born royal. The Tory said: "The Royal Family is very important to Deeside and the respect they show to the area is reciprocated by the people here. This book will certainly not be a bestseller in Ballater or Braemar – that's for sure."

• It's A PC World, by Edward Stourton, is published by Hodder & Stoughton


FULL NAME Bernard John Manning

BROUGHT UP Ancoats, Manchester, in a house with no bath and an outside toilet

NATIONAL SERVICE Served in post-war Berlin guarding war criminals at Spandau Prison

TITLES Self-proclaimed "King of comedy", The most offensive man in Britain (the Guardian)

HOBBIES Drinking, smoking, betting on horse racing, making racist quips

LIKES TO SAY "My sister went to a hairdressers and said: 'Make me look like Barbara Streisand.' So she hit her over the nose with a hairbrush"


FULL NAME Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon

BROUGHT UP Glamis Castle, Angus

NATIONAL SERVICE Represented her country both at home and abroad for decades

TITLES Queen of United Kingdom and British Empire, Empress of India, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother

HOBBIES Drinking, smoking, betting on horse racing, making racist quips

LIKES TO SAY "The EEC will never work with all those Huns, Wops and Dagos."

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