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Not terribly excited about Will-Kate's baby: Queen's cousin

July 16, 2013 20:42 IST

CNN International’s Amanpour speaks with Margaret Rhodes, first cousin and longtime friend to Queen Elizabeth II. They speak about the impending birth of the Royal baby, the harsh public reaction to the Queen following the death of Princess Diana, and her thoughts on the film, The King’s Speech. The transcript of this interview is below:

Christiane Amanpour, CNN anchor: Welcome back to the program, where we are live outside BuckinghamPalace tonight. And of course, it is all about the royal baby here in London, a barely contained media frenzy is in full swing. Journalists from here and around the globe camped outside St Mary's Hospital with ladders and cameras in place to capture any glimpse they can.

The baby will be third in line to the throne. But it’ll be the first heir born in the era of 24-hour news, Facebook and Twitter as the whole world watches.

This morning I sat down with Margaret Rhodes, Queen Elizabeth's first cousin and her long-time friend. She has perhaps an unparalleled insight into the royal family. Born just a few months apart, she and the Queen were constant companions and playmates as little girls.

Rhodes was a bridesmaid at her marriage to Prince Philip and they see each other frequently. Just on Monday, Rhodes hosted the Queen as she often does on Sundays for a drink after church.

Here at her home in the Parklands of Windsor Castle which, in fact, the Queen gave her as a gift three decades ago, and that's where I met Rhodes on Tuesday morning for a frank and funny conversation about the latest royal hoopla.

Amanpour: What went through your mind when suddenly your mother's sister became the Queen of England, the Duke -- the Duchess of York became the Queen of England when George VI became king?

Rhodes: I can remember to this day that I shamingly hopped around the dance floor, saying, "My uncle's now king," which was a very shaming thing to do, but I did it.

Amanpour: As we sit here, the whole world is waiting for the birth of --

Rhodes: Sister Kate --

Amanpour: -- And William's child, anticipating. Are you excited about the baby?

Rhodes: Not terribly.

Amanpour: Why not?

Rhodes: Well, you know, everybody has babies. And it's lovely. But I don't get wildly excited about it.

Amanpour: Heir to the throne?

Rhodes: I know, but --

Amanpour: History?

Rhodes: Yes. All right. I'm prepared to be excited.

Amanpour: What life is that baby going to have?

RhodesOh, well, I imagine and hope that its early life, it's -- at least in its teens, will be just a jolly, happy, ordinary child's life.

Amanpour: Do you think that's possible in the royal family?

Rhodes: Well, they managed it with Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret.

Amanpour: That's the current queen.

RhodesThe current queen and her sister, sadly dead. I mean, the king and queen in those days made an enormous effort to give -- to keep their childhood sort of sacrosanct. I mean, it was just a time for learning and enjoying. And I think that they have succeeded awfully well.

Amanpour: You have said, talking about childhood, you have said that you feel the Queen got a bit of a bad rap after Princess Diana died and she did not come to London immediately and meet the outpouring of grief.

And you said that was because she was being a good granny, a good grandmother. Tell me what you meant by that.

Rhodes: Well, I think it was an eminently sensible decision personally because what was the point -- we've got two grieving children with you --

Amanpour: William and Harry.

Rhodes: -- William and Harry, whose mother's just died unexpectedly. And to go to London and sit in Buckingham Palace with nothing to do, nothing to do except sit and think about your mother or look out of the window at the crowds, I mean, what help was that for the boys?

Amanpour: Did the Queen ever talk to you about the aftermath?

Rhodes: No. No. And I've never talked to her about it. I mean there are some things that one sort of keeps off, really.

Amanpour: Do you see her regularly?

Rhodes: Well, I'm lucky enough, now that I'm here in this house, which I've been in now for 32 years, because she comes to the little chapel in the park that I go to most Sundays. And so like Monday, she was here, having a drink.

Amanpour: That's nice.

Rhodes: So she quite often does. She comes in after prayers for half an hour (inaudible) and just has a nice little drink and a chat.

Amanpour: Princess Diana was a huge figure. How do you think Kate measures up?

Rhodes: Well, it's obviously impossible to tell, really. But what -- I've only seen a very little bit of her. But what I have seen, I think that she -- I think that she's doing very, very well. I mean, I think that's she's done the jobs that have been given to her to do beautifully.

And I mean, I just -- I think she's got a way with her that's going to be very appealing. And I think that she won't sort of vie for coverage with -- which Diana perhaps did a little bit.

Amanpour: Tell me a little bit about Prince Philip, because you were around when a very young Princess Elizabeth -- I think she was 13 years old -- first met him. And he was 17. Were there sparks? What went on?

Rhodes: I think that in the way 13-year olds do, she fell in love with a very, very handsome young man.

Amanpour: And he was a Greek prince.

Rhodes: Yes. Sort of a rather cosmopolitan kind of Greek prince.

Amanpour: And you described him as Viking god-like good looking.

Rhodes: Yes. He was incredibly good-looking. He's condemned nowadays largely for making what they call gaffes and actually what it is, is saying what he thinks most of the time. And it's rather -- it's rather -- I feel like it's a Naval officer –

Amanpour: He's good old-fashioned politically incorrect --

Rhodes: Yes, yes.

Amanpour: What do you think it was like for him? Because he could have had a naval career. He was going to go into the navy. What did he have to give up to be the consort?

Rhodes: Well, I think that he had to give up a lot, which was -- made it very difficult for a man to be second fiddle. You know, he's carved out a career for himself, which there was no real muddle for whatsoever.

I mean it was totally different, the prince consort today. And he -- I mean, he has a very, very busy life, the things that he does.

Amanpour: What does he feel about having to walk a few steps behind his wife?

Rhodes: Well, I've never asked him. I imagine not something one would relish, say, do you like -- no, but I supposed -- it's the same, in a way, for both of them. I mean, the Queen has had to accept that she gives up the whole of her private life in being Queen. She no longer can do what you and I can do and say, oh, look, it's a lovely day; let's go and have a picnic in the summer.

Her day, her months, her weeks are all laid out, organised six months ahead. So you give up an immense amount of freedom.

Amanpour: Do you think Kate has to give up that kind of freedom?

Rhodes: Yes. I think if you -- well, especially, I mean, especially Kate. I mean, that ultimately she's going to be Queen and you know, the role takes over.

Amanpour: People who grew up in England, I suppose, knew the story of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, your aunt. A lot of people were unaware of the personal travails of King George VI, his stammering, his health. And when the film, The King's Speech, came out, it was a blockbuster all over the world. You knew him and you saw the film. Was it a real -- ?


Rhodes: I mean, I cried in the film. I mean, it was so well done. And I think it did show the difficulties he surmounted. And there was one moment where he was making the king say a whole lot of frightfully rude words.

Amanpour: Swear words.

Rhodes: Yes, in his sort of barrage. And I did say something to the Queen about that, and she said she'd never heard her father use bad language at all. So whether that was true or not, I don't know.

Amanpour: Margaret Rhodes, thank you so much for joining me.

Rhodes: Not at all. Thank you.

CNN International's Amanpour