Prying into the royal family’s affairs is serious business for British tabloids.
But on Sunday, the poachers turned gamekeepers. Some tried to get revenge on a Canadian disc jockey for tricking Queen Elizabeth II into an on-air phone call about Quebec’s independence. All agreed she came out of it very well.
Britons seldom hear the queen’s voice, and when they do, she’s usually making a set speech.
So, to hear the 69-year-old monarch asking the disc jockey she thought was Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien to “hang on a minute” and switching between French and English made fascinating listening.
“Her Majesty comes over as a cross between a busy housewife and multi-lingual, clued-up businesswoman,” commented the tabloid Sunday Mirror.
Also interesting was the way the queen never said anything embarrassing, even when disc jockey Pierre Brassard started talking about Halloween and suggesting she put on a nice hat.
Commercial radio and television stations played repeated extracts from the 17-minute call set up by Brassard posing as Chretien and asking her to appeal to Quebeckers not to vote for separatism today.
The British Broadcasting Corp., whose charter forbids broadcasting secretly taped conversations, carried stories about the hoax.
Buckingham Palace officials say Brassard got through to the queen - who is also the monarch of Canada - because when they checked with Chretien’s office, a member of his staff said he probably wanted to speak to her.
The People, a London tabloid weekly, published what it said was Brassard’s phone number and extension at Radio CKOI and his broadcasting times.
“So get dialing,” The People told its readers.
The News of the World, which often buys and publishes headline-grabbing stories about the troubled love lives of the younger royals, said it got through to Brassard and offered him an $80,000 trip to London for an exclusive story.
Then they told him it was … just a joke.