Telegraph Obituary Expresswoman Ann Morrow

Ann Morrow, journalist who covered the US for the Telegraph and wrote books about royalty – obituary

Her book of vignettes of the Queen became a best seller and she explored the difficult relationship between George V and Tsar Nicholas II

By Telegraph Obituaries

25 July 2021 • 5:07pm

Ann Morrow worked for the Express in the Beaverbrook era                      Picture: Roger Taylor

Ann Morrow, who has died aged 86, wrote for Lord Beaverbrook’s Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph in Fleet Street’s heyday.

Her beat included royal tours, travel, beauty, interviews and briefly, for the Telegraph, Jimmy Carter’s America, where as a correspondent she enjoyed “surf and turf” with the President on board Air Force One.

In addition she wrote The Queen (1983), a collection of close-quarters vignettes that became a bestseller. It included such nuggets as the claim that the Queen used a rinse named “Chocolate Kiss” to keep grey hair at bay.

The success of The Queen led to further ventures, among them two works on the Queen Mother and Princess (1991), a portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales, as well as works on foreign nobility, among them Highness: The Maharajahs of India (1986) and Picnic in a Foreign Land (1991), a hilarious depiction of Anglo-Irish eccentrics and aristocrats.

Ann Morrow (far right) on a visit by the Queen to a copytakers’ room 

She was born Ann Kenny in Loughlinstown, Dublin, on July 20 1934, the daughter of journalists James Kenny and his wife Patricia, née Morrow, and educated at Loreto Convent, Foxrock, and University College Dublin.

On graduation, her father’s contacts and her own charm found her a berth on Beaverbrook’s Daily Express, and her first foreign assignment was covering King Hussein of Jordan’s second marriage to Princess Muna Al-Hussein, the Suffolk-born “Toni” Gardiner, who had been a secretarial assistant on the set of Lawrence of Arabia.

With no shorthand and little experience Ann Morrow – she took her mother’s maiden name – relied on the guidance of colleagues and rivals. One of these, Arthur Brittenden, editor of the Daily Mail, was so helpful the pair married in 1966 in Grenada.

Ann Morrow retired from journalism, but when the marriage foundered in 1975 she joined IPC magazines as beauty editor on Petticoat. She then freelanced for The Times, The Daily Telegraph and others, interviewing celebrities as diverse as Elizabeth David and James Galway.

In 1976, shortly after joining the Telegraph on a three-month contract, she was sent to cover a story of overbooking in Mallorca hotels. Arrested for having no work permit, she was thrown in jail, “locked with heavy clanking keys”, and suffered the indignity of being handcuffed before being taken to court.

Her arrest caused questions to be asked in the House of Commons, but fortunately the magistrate took pity on “La chica del Telegraph” and the case was dismissed.

Ann Morrow with Rosalyn Carter

Her reports, however, won her a full-time post at the newspaper. She worked briefly in New York and Washington, travelling with the Carters to their peanut farm in Plains, Georgia, and seeing Elvis Presley lying in state in his coffin at Graceland after his death in 1977.

Back in London she flew on Concorde to Bahrain, observing how delightful it was to drink Dom Perignon at such a height and speed, and claiming that, however much was imbibed, it did not result in “puffy ankles”.

In 1982, by now a leading royal correspondent, she left the Telegraph to write The Queen. She had covered several royal tours and become as close as a journalist could to the monarch. The book became the source for many cruise-ship lectures undertaken in later life.

Her follow-up, The Queen Mother, according to The Sunday Telegraph’s reviewer, steered “confidently between the twin rocks of sycophancy and impertinence”.

The royalties allowed Morrow to buy “a dacha” in Cold Aston in the Cotswolds, where she and her second husband, Gay Fenn-Smith, a soldier, diplomat and businessman, entertained in style.

Her final work, Cousins Divided, was the tale of George V’s refusal to offer sanctuary to his cousin, Tsar Nicholas II, ahead of the Russian Revolution for fear it would ignite insurrection in his own kingdom. The dual biography was a labour of love. Ann Morrow travelled to Russia, where she enjoyed caviar blinis in Prince Michael of Kent’s ancestral palace and Easter in St Petersburg. An inveterate traveller, she also visited America, France and Switzerland in the course of her research.

She and her husband, who died last year, raised money for young Indian classical musicians and the Mathieson Music School in Calcutta.

Ann Morrow is survived by three stepchildren.

Ann Morrow, born July 20 1934, died July 10 2021


Christopher Long

26 Jul 2021 12:14PM

In the photo, I think the Queen is visiting Copytakers rather than a newsroom. Copytakers usually had a room of their own to avoid the noise of a newsroom and to hear journalists dictation down often crackly phone lines!

Phil Davison

26 Jul 2021 10:55AM

Great lady. Great writer. Tough cookie. Queen of the King and Keys. Rest easy, Ann. You're in the paper in the morn. xxx

Terence Courtnadge

26 Jul 2021 5:04AM

A Fleet Street giant, now most of them are minnows.

J Murray

26 Jul 2021 12:58AM

Ah, the photograph of the The Queen passing through and looking over the shoulders of Copy-takers, the most noble and wise of all whose job it was to bring the world's news on to the breakfast table of a then grateful British pubic.

A lost art. Men who had worked years in Fleet Street, typing the stories from reporters - the sainted and revered to the anonymous - to be passed on to the News Desk, long before computers were a glint in a Managing Editor's eyes. And giving little grammatical tips in the same way a barber might ask if you needed anything for the weekend.

I remember once filing my copy to a Fleet Street copy-taker from a High Street public call box when he suddenly stopped and asked me, the unusual unflappability tested: "Good God! What on Earth was that noise? It sounded like an accident, or explosion." Somehow I had clung on to my phone and had the wherewithal to reply: "It was. A lorry has just hit the phone box. I think I'm trapped."

For half an hour people cut through the metal of the box which had been knocked over and flattened and finally pulled me out, the copy-taker on the line checking if I was OK. "Do you want to file a fresh story now, or wait until you've recovered?" I decided, while lying flat on the floor, covered in metal and dust, to finish dictating my original story before putting together a piece about how I was nearly taken out by a supermarket driver who had failed to secure his back doors, which had swung open in time to smash into my booth.

"Yes, that's probably a good idea", came the calm, middle-aged Home Counties voice at the other end if the phone. "But may I suggest that next time you find a slightly more secure line before coming back on."

Dean James

25 Jul 2021 11:08PM

Another name, -I knew in name only,- has gone and another page turns. Thank you for the books Anne, RIP

Hard Liner

25 Jul 2021 10:18PM

I knew her brother, Tom, and her cousin Tamara Knight


Former BBC TV and Sky News correspondent KEITH GRAVES paid his own tribute to Ann Morrow. He told the Drone: 

I was saddened to read of Anne Morrow’s death. My first day in The Daily Express London newsroom in 1963 I found myself sitting between Anne and Rita Marshall, a pretty nerve-racking introduction for a 22-year-old doing holiday relief from Manchester.

They were two very hard-nosed reporters but a delight to work with and learn from.

We young male reporters lived in fear of our brilliant news editor Keith Howard. Far worse though was a tongue lashing from Kenny (as was) and/or Marshall. A visit to Poppins usually put things right.

In later years it was my pleasure to cover a few HMQ overseas tours with Ann. It was always a pleasure to watch her put overbearing and pompous courtiers firmly in their places.

Alas, she was one of a dying if not extinct breed.

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre