Three Royal documentaries – Our Queen At War (ITV), Philip: the King without a Crown (Channel 5) and Anne: the Daughter who should be Queen (Channel 5). None of them said anything we haven’t heard umpteen times before, but they were all quite interesting, especially so as I think they must have been filmed after lockdown – the first “lockdown era” documentaries I’ve seen which haven’t actually been about coronavirus issues. The opinions of the “experts” were either just given by voiceover or else given over video links from their homes. I think ITV had tarted theirs up a bit, but the Channel 5 ones were clearly home videos made on Zoom or Tik Tok or something similar. And the ITV one used animated graphics, which was something different. I’m not sure how the Queen’d feel about her teenage self being shown as an animated graphic, but I’d like to think she’d be quite amused by it!
With no live sport, soaps on ration, and no way of filming new episodes of most programmes until the end of lockdown, TV channels couldn’t be blamed too much if they just showed a lot of repeats – but they’d gone to the trouble of making these new programmes, and they deserve some kudos for that.
The one about Prince Philip was on first, and this really was largely just recycling old stuff. Out came the video clips of Charles and Diana’s wedding, Diana’s funeral, etc etc, for the umpteenth time! I’d really have liked to hear more about Philip’s early years, which aren’t discussed nearly as much – but, to be fair, the title of the programme made clear that it was about his role as consort. The family stuff, whilst interesting, had been said a million times before, as had the sorry tale of his having to give up his naval career, but I enjoyed the discussions about his work, especially the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. It was an hour’s decent watching, anyway.
The one about the Queen’s wartime experiences followed a few days later. Again, a lot of this was, whilst interesting, same old same old – the speech that she made from Windsor in 1940, and the bombing of Buckingham Palace, and she and Princess Margaret mingling with the crowds on VE Day. I rather enjoyed all the romantic bits, though. One of these days, history will see the Queen and Prince Philip’s relationship as one of the greatest royal romances of all time. Walking round the grounds at Windsor hand-in-hand when he was on leave from the Navy. Bless! And, as the programme said, having a boyfriend (for lack of a better word) who was on active service gave the then Princess Elizabeth a greater understanding of what so many other women at the time were going through.
The general point of the programme was to emphasise the fact that the Queen, despite her privileged position, shared many of the wartime experiences that other people did, and how the war years shaped her; and it did a good job of that. For one thing, we were reminded that she and Princess Margaret actually saw a flying bomb going overhead, before it landed very close by, at Windsor Racecourse. There were even some bits I don’t think I’d ever seen before, such as shots of evacuees from Glasgow on the Balmoral estate. And I loved seeing the film clips of the Queen driving a truck whilst she was in the ATS! Those clips aren’t often seen. This was a very good hour’s TV, especially at the moment with the wartime generation proving such an inspiration during the coronavirus crisis.
Just as a slight aside, though, the fact that they’re now the oldest members of society means that the wartime generation have been hit very hard by this horrible virus. It’s very sad to read about war veterans or Holocaust survivors, who’d come through so much, having their lives finally ended by this awful, awful thing.
Finally, we had the programme about Princess Anne. I don’t know whether the title was just meant to attract attention or whether someone genuinely thought it was a valid statement. I can’t imagine for one second that Princess Anne even wants to be Queen, and there’s certainly no “should” about it: she’s not the eldest. And, whilst I think she’s amazing, it’s probably a job for someone a bit more tactful! She is great, though!
One of the “experts” mispronounced everything from “primogeniture” to “governess” which was rather annoying, but it was a very good programme otherwise. We went back through Anne’s early years, and how the media were quite negative about her in the early 1980s, and she was overshadowed by Diana and Fergie as well as by Charles, but how she earned huge respect because of her work with Save The Children and other charities. There was also quite a lot about her equestrian career. It didn’t mention A Question of Sport 🙂 , but it did mention her being Sports Personality of the Year in 1971, and competing at the Olympics on 1976. It also emphasised the fact that she’s often been the first British Royal to make overseas tours to places which are sensitive for one reason or another, notably the Soviet Union – a very good point.
I remember the negative press she used to get, and was very pleased that this programme was almost entirely complimentary about her hard work and no-nonsense attitude.
She does a sterling job! As do all the other senior royals – and they’ve been doing what they can in these difficult times. Thank you to them, and thank you to ITV and Channel 5 for taking the trouble to make these new programmes. I enjoyed all three of them.