John Humphrys signs off his final episode of R4 Today
The Mastermind host, 77, put an end to more than four decades at the BBC when he announced he was stepping down from the Today programme two years ago. Humphrys’ tough interviewing technique was well known to Radio 4 listeners and was even a concern to the Royal Family. The star revealed that the Queen refused to do an interview with him three times because of his fierce reputation.
Humphrys claimed that the royals became wary of him after he asked Prince Philip a tough question.
He described his interview with Philip, on his 70th birthday, as “pretty boring” except for one moment when the royal became “very cross”.
The then-BBC star asked why the Queen had not “helped him out” when he was forced to sell his racing yacht in 1969.
He fury came after Humphrys pointed out that Her Majesty could have afforded the “expensive upkeep” of the vessel.
After the interview, the journalist claimed “the Palace complained” about that section and “the BBC cut it out”.
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Last year, Humphrys told the Daily Mail about his interactions with the Queen when she turned down his interview requests multiple times.
He first “popped the question” during a private lunch at Buckingham Palace and received “a one-word answer – ‘No!’”
During his second attempt to persuade the Queen, he put a “carefully prepared” case forward but she declined again.
Humphrys recalled: “She listened politely and then another, ‘No!’
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“Followed by, ‘What’s more, Mr Humphrys, if one were ever to do such an interview it would most certainly not be with you!’”
In a final attempt, he propositioned her again when she visited New Broadcasting House when it opened in 2006.
Humphrys said: “She brushed me aside pretty sharply.
“Fair enough. Why shouldn’t she? She is the monarch.”
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As for Prince Harry, Humphrys noted that “nobody really minded” his transgressions of the past but it was more difficult in recent years.
He said: “He was occasionally snapped doing stupid things as a young man… and anyway nobody made him do stupid things.”
Humphrys added that Harry still received support after he and Meghan Markle decided to leave their senior roles within the Royal Family.
He said: “It was his choice. He was free to marry the woman he loved and the nation applauded him for it.”
Humphrys praised Harry for using his “pulpit” to deliver important messages about causes “close to his heart”.
However, when the Prince was invited to be the guest editor of the Today programme in December 2017 – the star refused to join him.
He said: “I’m afraid to say I declined the opportunity to present the programme that morning.
“I knew what would happen.
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“I would want to ask what his minders would regard as ‘impertinent or embarrassing questions’ and that would be the end of that.”
Humphrys claimed that his then-editor Sarah Sands “tried hard” to get him to do the show and even tried to arrange an interview with Prince Charles.
He continued: “But Charles wanted only to talk about trees and I wanted to talk about other things as well – no deal.”
Humphrys claimed that “maybe the Palace remembered” that he had “form” for posing difficult questions – in reference to the clash with Philip.
Despite his difficulties with the royals, Humphrys believed that the “monarchy was safe” but that it had “changed”.
He admitted that he didn’t make the statement lightly as a “lifelong republican”.
Humphrys then took a swipe at Harry when he suggested that the nation was “perfectly entitled” to ask “what the point of” the monarchy because of his departure.
He continued: “[Especially] if one of its most senior members wants to live abroad, make great piles of cash and no longer wants to do the hand-shaking duties.”
While Humphrys posed questions about the future of the Royal Family, he had nothing but praise for Princess Anne.
Humphrys explained: “She’s still the most hardworking of the lot.
“And the way that she’s dealt with her own children, by not making them HRHs, proves that she doesn’t believe in it, either.”
John Humphrys will be joined on Celebrity Mastermind by Martin Roberts, Fern Britton, Victoria Ekanoye and Arthur Williams, which airs at 7pm tonight on BBC One.
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