The Beatles and Royalty

By Bill Harry  

The Beatles and Princess MargaretThe Beatles touched every strata of British society and were even popular with the Royal Family. At one time Prince Charles wrote off requesting the Beatles autographs - and received them. Unfortunately, they weren't genuine ones, but examples of the thousands of 'forged' Beatles autographs signed on their behalf by their road manager Neil Aspinall.

The group's associations with Royalty first began when they appeared on the Royal Variety Show at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London on November 4 1963 in the presence of the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon. This was the occasion when John Lennon made his famous remark to the audience, "On this next number I want you all to join in. Would those in the cheap seats clap their hands. the rest of you can rattle your jewelry."

After the show the Beatles were presented to the Queen Mother in the Royal lounge. She told them she'd enjoyed the show and asked them where they would be performing next. They told her, "Slough." "Ah," she said, delighted, "That's near us." When she was asked to comment on the Beatles she said, "They are so fresh and vital. I simply adore them."

Prince Philip called them 'good chaps'. On March 23, 1964 he presented the Beatles with two Carl-Alan Awards at the Empire Ballroom, Leicester Square and chatted with John Lennon about books.

Controversy arose in October 1965 when the Queen and Prince Philip were touring Canada. The headlines in the newspapers quoted the Prince as saying that the Beatles "were on the wane." The press made capital of this comment regarding the current popular phenomenon and the London Standard ran a poll in which five out of seven readers said that what Prince Philip had said wasn't true. In fact, Prince Philip hadn't made such a statement. He'd been misquoted. He sent Beatles manager Brian Epstein a personal telegram in which he explained that he'd been asked about the Beatles and had replied, "I think the Beatles are away."

The member of the Royal family most associated with the Beatles is Princess Margaret, who John Lennon referred to in one of his book as Priceless Margarine. On July 6, 1964 the Princess and Lord Snowdon attended the premier of 'A Hard Day's Night' at the London Pavilion. After the premier there was a private party at the Dorchester Hotel and the Princess and Lord Snowdon dropped by with some frieds. The Princess and her entourage seemed to be enjoying themselves when George Harrison approached Walter Shenson, the film's producer and said, "When are we going to eat?" Shenson told him that they couldn't possibly eat until Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon had left. "Just be patient," he said. After another 15 minutes had elapsed, George walked up to the Princess and said, "Your Highness, we really are hungry and we can't eat until you two go."

"I see," said the Princess. "Well, in that case, we'd better run." At the Carl-Alan Awards on March 8 1965, once again held at the Empire Ballroom, Leicester Square, Princess Margaret presented a Beat Group Award to Brian Epstein on behalf of the Beatles. Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon once again attended a Beatles premier on July 29 1965 when 'Help!' was unveiled at the London Pavilion.

On Tuesday March 4, 1969, Princess Margaret made an unscheduled visit to Twickenham Film Studios to watch Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers during the filming of 'The Magic Christian." She remained on the set from 11am until 5pm. Other visitors to the set that day were Paul and Linda McCartney and Mary Hopkin. Paul and the Princess spent most of the afternoon in conversation together.

John Lennon at the 'Magic Christian' premier The Princess also attended the premier of 'The Magic Christian' at the Odeon, Kensington on December 11, 1969. Ringo and his wife Maureen were at the premier - as were John and Yoko - who amused the crowds as they paraded before them with a banner proclaiming 'Britain Murdered Hanratty.'

On March 12 1969 Rory McEwan was throwing a Pisces-themed party in Chelsea to which George and Pattie Harrison had been invited. That same day there was a police raid on their home. Drugs were found and they were taken to the police station for questioning. Their solicitor Martin Polden secured their release and they arrived at the party that evening. Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon were there.

George went up to them and told them that he and Pattie had just been busted. "Oh my, what a shame," said the Princess. "Can you help us? Can you sort of use your influence to eliminate the bad news?" George asked. Princess Margaret seemed horrified at the suggestion, "Oh, I don't think so," she said.

They were then joined by Pattie's younger sister Paula, who took a joint out of her purse and lit it. When she noticed that everyone was staring at her she thought they were annoyed because she hadn't passed it round. She held it out to Princess Margaret and said, "Here, do you want this?" The Princess and Lord Snowdon fled the party.

The Beatles all managed to view the inside of Buckingham Palace when they were awarded the MBE at an Investiture on October 26 1965. Brian Epstein was not nominated for any honour, which resulted in the November 5 1965 edition of the Jewish Chronicle quoting Princess Margaret as saying, "I think the Beatles believe that MBE stands for 'Mister Brian Epstein.'

Epstein suffered depression because he was not mentioned in the Honours list and felt that he wasn't put forward for an MBE because he was a homosexual and Jewish. It was apparent to many people that the fact that he wasn't given an honour was a snub. When he was dining at the Mirabelle with his friend Geoffrey Ellis, a noted actor sitting at the next table, said, "Look at that little boy over there - he couldn't get an MBE."

The initials stand for Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and refer to a prestigious award which is presented annually. The MBE is actually the lowest grade of knighthood and was instituted in 1917 by King George IV. The pop weekly Melody Maker had suggested in a March 1965 headline that the Government: "Honour The Beatles!" Harold Wilson, then Prime Minister of a Labour Government, decided to put forward the names of the individual Beatles for MBE awards and 75 youngsters from Pennsylvania had already written to the Queen suggesting that the Beatles be given a knighthood.

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