Buckingham Palace is in conflict with historians over the fate of the late Queen’s letters and diaries – as the King entrusts his loyal palace aide, “Tall Pall”, with his mother’s private papers.
- King Charles commissioned Paul Whybrow, known as “Tall Paul”, to sort the papers
- Historians say decision to allow palace aide to carry out such task ‘concerning’
- They fear that vital historical documents could be deleted or even destroyed.
Buckingham Palace has been embroiled in a row with academics over the fate of the late Queen’s letters and diaries.
The Mail on Sunday revealed the king had commissioned loyal palace aide Paul Whybrew, known as Tall Paul, to sort the Queen’s private papers before they were transferred to the royal archives in Windsor.
But academics have called the move “deeply concerning”, fearing that vital historical documents could be removed – or even destroyed – without public knowledge.
A year after the Queen’s death, no announcement has yet been made as to the historian who will be entrusted with the task of writing the official biography of Elizabeth II.
This means that, for now at least, it is palace courtiers, rather than highly trained impartial experts, who decide what should be preserved and what should be destroyed.
History professor Dr Alison McClean from the University of Bristol said: “The late Queen’s diaries have the potential to become an important historical resource.
The King tasked loyal palace aide Paul Whybrew, known as Tall Paul, with sorting the Queen’s private papers before they were transferred to the Royal Archives at Windsor.
Academics have expressed fears over the move, with one saying he is “undoubtedly a valued and trusted member of the Royal Household, with extensive knowledge of its inner workings – however, he is not a qualified historian or archivist.”
“Mr Whybrow is undoubtedly a valued and trusted member of the Royal Household, with extensive knowledge of its internal workings.
“However, he is not a trained historian or archivist and may not fully grasp the historical significance of the material contained in these diaries.
“There is also a risk that he will feel obliged to put his loyalty to the royal family ahead of the interests of historians and researchers.”
Biographer and historian Andrew Lownie, who is campaigning for greater openness of the royal archives, said: “The royal family has a history of destroying documents and there are fears this could happen again.
“It is important that an official biographer of her and Prince Philip, with unrestricted access to their papers, is announced soon and that any censorship is carried out lightly.”
A leading historian, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “This is a clear departure from the way it has been done in the past.
“By doing this (with an assistant going through the documents), you are hindering the biographer and the biography and deciding that your judgment is more important than that of a historian.”
Another well-known historian added: “We must remember the enormous damage Princess Margaret caused when she went through the late Queen Mother’s papers.
“She made a bonfire, put the papers in black plastic bags and burned them – including Princess Diana’s letters.”
An authorized biography of Queen Elizabeth II would be the publishing sensation of the century.
Insiders told the Mail on Sunday that favorites include award-winning historian Jane Ridley, who wrote a biography of Edward VII.
Another candidate would be British historian and television presenter Simon Sebag Montefiore.
King Charles, pictured during his state visit to France this week, tasked Paul Whybrow with sorting the Queen’s private papers a year after his mother’s death.