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Malcolm Muggeridge

Malcolm Muggeridge, former editor of Punch Magazine and one of England's leading intellectuals, talks to Wallace about his article in The Saturday Evening Post in which he created an international furor by criticizing Queen Elizabeth.

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Guest: Malcolm Muggeridge

WALLACE: Good evening. What you're about to witness is an unrehearsed, uncensored interview. My name is Mike Wallace, the cigarette is Philip Morris.


WALLACE: Tonight we had planned to interview television star Arlene Francis but earlier this week, we were informed by the National Broadcasting Company, that her contract with them prohibited her, from appearing on any more programs on another network. Tonight, therefore, our guest will be an Englishman who has sparked an international furor; by attacking his own Queen in print, on the eve of her visit to the United States. You see him behind me. He's Malcolm Muggeridge, former editor of Punch Magazine and one of England's leading intellectuals. His article in the current Saturday Evening Post, criticizing Queen Elizabeth, has been attacked both here and abroad as being in shocking bad taste. My guest's opinions are not necessarily mine, the station's, or my sponsor's Philip Morris Incorporated, but whether you agree or disagree, we feel that none will deny the right of these views to be broadcast. And we'll talk with Malcolm Muggeridge in just a moment.


WALLACE: And now to our story. From the controversial Malcolm Muggeridge. Earlier this week, President Eisenhower, in welcoming Queen Elizabeth to Washington, declared the event one of tremendous importance. At the same time, Americans all over the country were reading or hearing about a Saturday Evening Post article written by Malcolm Muggeridge who charged that the Royal Family has been engaged in activities, which he likened to a "Royal Soap Opera." He described the Queen's deportment as a kind of sleepwalking. He charged, that the upper classes in England considered her dowdy, frumpy and banal. And he said she has surrounded herself with incompetent advisers. Mr. Muggeridge, first of all let me ask you this, Queen Elizabeth, is here in America on an important goodwill visit. Just when she needs support and encouragement, you write an inflammatory article, which is published on the eve of her visit. Now isn't that fairly irresponsible of you?

MUGGERIDGE: Well, first of all, of course I don't admit that it's an inflammatory article, nor do I admit for a moment, that it's an attack on the Queen.

WALLACE: Well now, if you would look for a moment at the terms with which you refer to the Royal Family. You say a "Royal Soap Opera."

MUGGERIDGE: Now, wait a minute. You see, in quoting things, it's frightfully important to have the context, isn't it? And I said, the point that I was making was, that it was an analysis of popular monarchy and that popular monarchy had to be put over in a popular way. And, as a figure of speech, I said; that it had to be a kind of a royal soap opera.

WALLACE: You also said, that that it was... it was a substitute or ersatz religion, and you talked about the hysterical if not... if not morbid adulation of the masses and so forth. I think that you chose a... purple prose, if you will sir, to talk about the Queen and the Royal Family.

MUGGERIDGE: Whether... whether the prose was purple or not, it was as... just as a professional writer; it was my own poor effort to say what I meant. And what I meant was that one of the hazards of popular monarchy, as I see it, is that it does evoke a sort of hysteria and unquestioning adulation, which in my opinion is socially harmful. Of course that has no reflection on the Queen... It's not her fault...

WALLACE: ... when you say. It's not her fault.


WALLACE: It is the fault, then... of whom?

MUGGERIDGE: It's the... it's the circumstances of popular monarchy, the manner in which it's developed, and it is also the fault of the people who present her with this unquestioning adulation. In other words, it's their lack of a larger faith. Which makes them fasten onto, a purely earthly symbol.

WALLACE: Would you suggest that there is more that is good or more that is bad in a popular monarchy?

MUGGERIDGE: I don't think... I think it would be extremely difficult to make a balance sheet, and in this piece that I wrote that was exactly the conclusion that I reached...

WALLACE: Well I have...

MUGGERIDGE: ...it has advantages, it has great advantages, but it has great dangers. And I pointed out those dangers and I think that any person who is commenting on public affairs is entitled to point out those dangers.

WALLACE: Well, I fully agree, but it seems to me that you much more articulately of pointed out the dangers than you did the advantages, Mr. Muggeridge.

MUGGERIDGE: Well, I can't agree with you there, Mr. Wallace, because I definitely said that this image of a happy virtuous family was a good image. I merely suggested that any earthly image is an extremely unsound focus for hysterical feeling.

WALLACE: Do you suggest, Mr. Muggeridge, that such language as you used, published in a leading American magazine at this particular time, paved the way for the Queen's important visit here?

MUGGERIDGE: Well, let's think of it, let's suppose for instance, that next year, which has been suggested in the press, that President Eisenhower, the head of the United States society, visits England. Let's suppose he does that. Would it not be a perfectly reasonable, sound and useful thing to write a piece on the development of the American Presidency, its present situation, its future possibilities, its hazards? Would you regard that as ... crabbing, spoiling the President's visit?

WALLACE: Well, of course, I would have to read the article before I could suggest any criticism, one way or the other, but I... I'm not sure, if I may say so, I'm not sure that your analogy is a well-taken one, because you can hardly draw an analogy between the Queen of the British Empire and the President of the United States. Perhaps a more, substantial analogy would be that between MacMillan and Eisenhower rather than between Queen Elizabeth and Eisenhower. But in any case, I still don't think that you have been responsive to my question and that is this: you knew the Queen was coming here, at this time. And yet you saw fit, to have published in the Saturday Evening Post, at this time, an article hardly calculated to make us look upon her with affection.

MUGGERIDGE: But then, you see, I have a very great respect for Americans, and having been a correspondent in this country, and I believe that Americans are people who respond much better to facts and truthful, genuine speculation, than they do to purely, kind of phoney, adulation.

WALLACE: I don't know what you mean by truthful genuine speculation. Does not one cancel out the other?

MUGGERIDGE: Not at all, because speculation can be truthful in the sense that it is... it represents one's... one's view of what's going to happen. And it can be genuine in the sense that there is nothing phoney or spurious about it.

WALLACE: Let's face it, Mr. Muggeridge, you have been in journalism and, as you've said, in publishing, in editing, for a good many years and now from what you know of the business, doesn't the publication of your article at this time, bear every earmark of a carefully designed attempt to create a sensation?

MUGGERIDGE: Well, of course that has been suggested, and it happens to be utterly untrue. First of all, untrue because this article was commissioned long before this visit was envisaged, point number one. Point number two, because I would not have lent myself, to such a maneuver. I was asked by what I believe is -- I'm true in saying -- is a very old-fashioned, conservative family magazine, the Saturday Evening Post, to write a considered piece about the British Monarchy, how popular monarchy as we know it today, has developed, and what it means. And I undertook that assignment, and I believe myself that nothing could be more useful,in connection with the Queen's visit, than that such an analysis should be produced.

WALLACE: Well now, just two days ago, our President welcomed your Queen to Washington with these words, he said, "Even more than the pleasure that your visit brings us, we are conscious of its importance because of its effect on strengthening the ties of friendship that bind our two countries together. So you can understand that this visit," President Eisenhower said, "you can understand that this visit is to us something of the most tremendous importance." What does the Queen's visit here mean to you, Mr. Muggeridge?

MUGGERIDGE: Oh, it means very great deal. It means that the symbolic head of the British Community, the British State has visited the United States, which is an absolutely admirable thing, which I would never have wished in any way to interfere with or spoil. But you see, I think that in free societies, and we're constantly talking about living in free societies, aren't we, in contradiction with unhappy people who live in non-free societies, that the benefit, the dividend of living in a free society is that you say what you think. And I believe that the visit of the Queen to the United States is an admirable occasion to produce an historical, truthful, sincere, genuine analysis of how the British Monarchy evolved into its present situation.

WALLACE: Oh.. You believe, of course, that in England you live in a free society?

MUGGERIDGE: Well, I wish to believe so.

WALLACE: How... under those circumstances, how is it that just this week, you were fired as a columnist for the London Sunday Dispatch and prohibited from even discussing the Monarchy on the British Broadcasting Company's show Panorama?

MUGGERIDGE: Mr. Wallace, both those things are episodes for which I blush. Not because they affect me personally, but because I think they do reflect on the freedom of British society. I was of course interested to find, when I arrived here, that even in this country in the capital, in Washington, this program in which we are trying to discuss this thing in a sensible and rational manner is not to be shown, it's to be blacked out. Don't you think that's rather extraordinary?

WALLACE: ... Yes, I think it's interesting. Mr. Muggeridge, ... You have written this lengthy magazine article entitled "Does England Really Need A Queen?" Incidentally, is that your title or the Saturday Evening Post?

MUGGERIDGE: No, it wasn't. As it happens, it wasn't my title. My title... I... The title that I put was "No Bicycle For Queen Elizabeth The Second." The point being that I was trying to argue that you could not establish the British Monarchy on exactly the same basis as Scandinavian Monarchies. That was my title, but I didn't object to this title; I didn't object to it because it's a rhetorical question. And I contend that any educated, sensible person, who read my article, would realize that my answer to that rhetorical question is an emphatic yes.

WALLACE: Well, that's what I want to ask you. You do think that England needs a Queen?

MUGGERIDGE: I think that England... the monarchical institution in England is immensely valuable, that the present incumbent is a very delightful exponent of that institution, and that it would be a thousand pities if the institution were allowed to collapse, and such criticisms as I offered of its conduct, Er... of course, were intended not to denigrate it. But rather, to make sure that it was going to be continued.

WALLACE: Well now, you seem to be giving right now a somewhat different impression from the one that a good many people got from your article, perhaps because the article was loaded with much more provocative language than that which you are using now. For instance, you wrote that in England the duchesses, quote, "find the Queen dowdy, frumpy, and banal." Do you find her that?

MUGGERIDGE: No, I say... Not at all, not at all. I think she's a charming woman. But Mr. Wallace, you have been a writer and you know that when you're making a point, you try to find an image to drive home that point. The point that I was making in that particular section of the article, was that criticism of the queen, in my experience, came rather from the upper echelons of society than from the lower, and therefore, I said that it is from duchesses that you will hear these criticisms of the queen rather than from shop assistants.

WALLACE: Well, then, specifically, so, what is your beef? If I may use that American word. What do you think should be done, ... with the queen or what do you think the queen should do for herself? What is your solution?

MUGGERIDGE: You see, I don't... I'm much too modest a person to offer a solution. A complete solution. I simply make this point, that the monarchy in so far, as it is identified with what is, in my opinion, an obsolete class structure, is making a mistake, and the task of those who are responsible for the conduct of the monarchical institution is to detach it from that class structure.

WALLACE: Yes, at the end of your article you suggest the queen should surround herself with new advisors, you say men who understand what the mid-twentieth century is all about. Well now, as a loyal Englishman with his country's best interests at heart, would you care to volunteer for the job, Mr. Muggeridge?

MUGGERIDGE: I've gotten too old. Nor, indeed, Mr. Wallace, do I think that it's very likely to be offered to me. But it would be a fascinating job... and an extremely difficult job; but that is exactly what is needed.

WALLACE: In order to understand the controversy a little bit better, perhaps we should look a little bit more closely at Malcom Muggeridge himself. In the, New York Herald Tribune this past week, there was an article written by a British member of Parliament, Michael Astor.

MUGGERIDGE: May I just ask you one question about that? ... Did all the Astors come to England, or did some of them stay here? Have you got any Astors here?

WALLACE: I believe we still have a few, yes.

MUGGERIDGE: I thought we'd got them all.

WALLACE: Uhmmm... British M.P. Michael Astor says in his analysis of you, he writes that you have, quote, "An almost pathological contempt for your fellow creatures." He says, "Your fundamental tenets are agnostic, your genius is for disliking your fellow human beings." How do you plead, sir?

MUGGERIDGE: Well, if my fellow human beings were all Astors, there might be some element of truth in that, but fortunately for us all, the Astor family is a large one, but not so large that it occupies the whole human race and I confess that I disagree entirely with Mr. Astor's observation. I find my fellow human beings ext... by and large extremely congenial, extremely sympathetic and extremely lovable.

WALLACE: Truthfully, Mr. Muggeridge, now, don't you picture yourself really as a kind of social gad fly whose role in life is to stir up controversy, antagonize people, stick needles into them? Aren't you rather enjoying all of this furor?

MUGGERIDGE: I'm not enjoying it actually because I don't like seeing people angry, and a lot of people have been very angry with me over this, angry sometimes in a rather horrible manner, but I would say this: that I think that the essence of a free and civilized society is that everything in it should be subject to criticism, that all forms of authority, should be treated with a certain reservation, and I think that once you've produced a conformist, a totally conformist society, a society in which there were no critics, that would in fact be an exact equivalent of the totalitarian societies against which we are supposed to be fighting in a cold war.

WALLACE: Mr. Muggeridge, you're an intellectual. Will you ...

MUGGERIDGE: I accept the fact I am an unregenerate egghead.

WALLACE: A daring and independent thinker, I am told.

MUGGERIDGE: It's a very civil remark.

WALLACE: Do you... Do you recognize any higher authority than yourself, sir? Any, quite seriously, any religion, any divine power?

MUGGERIDGE: I regard myself as a religious... the temper of my mind as religious, and because I regard the temper of my mind as religious, I am profoundly skeptical about any form of human authority, any form of human self-importance. You see, the hallmark of religion is to distrust claims made for mortal men. It is in ages of great religious faith that great skepticism can find expression.

WALLACE: In just a moment, sir, I'd like to get your capsule and candid opinions of the following people: Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden; British Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan; our Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles; our President, Dwight Eisenhower; the Sputnik and Anti-Americanism in Britain.

MUGGERIDGE: That's a pretty tall order. Could we take this one at a time?

WALLACE: One at a time in just a minute. We'll get Mr. Muggeridge's opinions in just sixty seconds.


WALLACE: Now then, Malcolm Muggeridge, for your capsule opinions. First of all, Sir Winston Churchill.

MUGGERIDGE: Well, I think that Sir Winston Churchill, in the period that the Germans occupied the Channel Ports, when the whole war hung in issue, fulfilled a role, which is as great as any role in our history. I... I agree with... actually it was Stalin who said that he was a man who changed the history of the world and I think, if he had not been there in 1940, it might very well have been the case that we would have collapsed like France, and I shall honor him always for that. On the other hand, I think he is an appallingly bad politician, and always has been, that he hung onto power long after he should have done, and that his post-war administration was a disaster.

WALLACE: British Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan, who will confer with our President Eisenhower next week.

MUGGERIDGE: I think that he is a very intelligent man, who, as so often happens in politics, achieved supreme power too late. It's a sad thing about politics that most people get power too late, in that they differ from ladies of easy virtue who get their pleasures too early. Politicians get their power too late, and I think that he has inherited an impossible situation in which he is ill-equipped to deal... with which he is ill-equipped to deal.

WALLACE: If you suggest that he, has inherited an impossible situation, perhaps your evaluation of the former Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, will draw a fuller picture for us.

MUGGERIDGE: Mr. Wallace, I have to say that I think that Anthony Eden was probably the most disastrous Prime Minister in our history, and I am not forgetting Lord North and a few people like that.

WALLACE: John Foster Dulles.

MUGGERIDGE: Well, Mr. Dulles, of course, I don't know as much about him as you do, but I wouldn't have said that he was equipped by nature to deal with the situation in the world today. I would have said that he was portentous, sincere, honest and rather stupid.

WALLACE: President Eisenhower.

MUGGERIDGE: I think that President Eisenhower was... did the most marvelous job in the war, not really a military job: a public relations job, and it was essential that there should be a public relations job done in the post that he had. When he became president, I personally was delighted. I thought that that was a very good thing. But again, like Mr. MacMillan, I think it came too late and I think that he is not on the wavelength of this dreadful time through which we're living.

WALLACE: Sputnik.

MUGGERIDGE: Sputnik. There I am in a slight difficulty because I find myself in a minute minority there, in that this Sputnik didn't either interest me or frighten me, but that's because I don't, you see, believe that the circumstances of life are the important thing. I don't think that it would make the slightest difference to life and to the aspects of life that interest me if we could go to the moon tomorrow, because I think what really makes life interesting is the big question "Why?" In other words, if I might give a simple illustration, supposing that the founder of the Christian Religion, who, after all, has dominated art, thought, literature, law for 2,000 years of western European civilization; supposing that He had been on a conducted tour to Rome or had known that the world was round instead of flat or had flown in a Jet Aircraft. I do not believe that the Sermon on the Mount would have been either more or less profound than it is. So the Sputnik is just to me like a firework, a rocket, a new invention.

WALLACE: Anti-Americanism in Britain, ... yes, in Britain, Anti-Americanism in Britain; and I call attention to that specifically for the reason that I have returned just two weeks ago from Europe and was appalled at our bad press, particularly in view of a... the Little Rock incident, and I think that your papers, if I may say so, possibly played it up even out of proportion, sir.

MUGGERIDGE: I have absolutely no doubt that there is an intense anti-Americanism in all Western Europe, and I think the reason for that is a very, very simple one. It is simply that America is very rich and very powerful and generally speaking everybody hates the rich and the powerful. In the 19th century, the English were loathed. Every memoir that you read of that period, indicates the loathing that everybody felt for the English, the only difference between the English and Americans, in this respect, is the English rather liked being loathed and the Americans apparently dislike it intensely. But the price you pay for being powerful and being rich is to be hated.

WALLACE: Mr. Muggeridge, I thank you very much for coming this morning, arriving here this morning, and for spending this time with us for the past half hour to explain perhaps a little more fully than some of us realized your position, not only about the things that we've been talking about for the past five minutes, but your position about the British Monarchy.

MUGGERIDGE: Well, Mike, it's a compliment to you that it has passed like a flash, I thought it was about five minutes.

WALLACE: Thanks. Malcolm Muggeridge is a proud rebel, his caustic criticism is not always popular, but it is in the ancient British tradition of free speech. I'll be back in a moment with a rundown on next week's guest, Middleweight Champion Carmen Basilio.


WALLACE: Next week, we go after the story of one of the great prize fighters of our time, you see him behind me, he's Middleweight Champion Carmen Basilio, . who won his crown only last month in a savage brawl with Sugar Ray Robinson. If you're curious to know what Carmen Basilio thinks of the charge that most fighters are pawns in the hands of ruthless big shots, if you'd like to hear his answer to proposals that boxing be outlawed because of its brutality, and if you'd like to get his opinion of Sugar Ray Robinson, who up until now has refused to sign for a return bout with Basilio, we'll go after those stories next Saturday. Till then, for Philip Morris, Mike Wallace. Goodnight.

ANNCR: The Mike Wallace Interview is brought to you by Philip Morris Incorporated, the Quality House.