Anne: the Princess Royal at 70 – ITV

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I would love to be like Princess Anne.  Nothing seems to faze her: she just gets on with it.  She also seems to be completely comfortable in her own skin.  She doesn’t moan, she doesn’t use annoying buzzwords, and she never seems to be feel that she needs to prove anything.  I thought that she came across really well in this documentary – every bit as hard-working and no-nonsense as she always does, and also very good-humoured and with an excellent sense *of* humour.

Like everything else this year, this didn’t go to plan.  The original idea was for the cameras to follow around for a year – but then, of course, lockdown put the kibosh on that.  However, it was typical of Princess Anne that that wasn’t allowed to mess the programme up; and, instead, it was turned into an opportunity to discuss her life at Gatcombe Park, and for her to talk about spending time with her grandchildren and joke about offering to help with home schooling as soon as people were allowed to meet up with those outside their own households.  There was even a brilliant clip of her trying to explain to the Queen how to use Zoom.

A lot of it had been filmed before lockdown, though, and we got to see her in a range of different situations – royal visits, charity work, investitures, acting as colonel-in-chief of military regiments, and also relaxing on a boat with Tim Laurence.  It was great to hear from Tim Laurence, because he’s normally so low-key.  We heard from Peter and Zara as well, and they all came across brilliantly – very natural and very affectionate.

We even heard from the Prime Minister, and there was a brilliant moment when a sculptor who was producing a bust of Anne showed her a bust that she’d made of Boris, and Anne joked about how difficult it must have been to get his hair right.  It’s hard to imagine any of the other Royals actually saying that!

Most of it was about her life as it is now, but there was also plenty about her life up until now.  It’s certainly been eventful – from the kidnapping to the Olympics.  It was nothing we hadn’t heard before, but it was still fascinating.  I particularly enjoyed hearing her say that going away to boarding school was her idea.  She actually asked to go, just like a princess in a school story!

I remember the period during which Princess Anne got a rough ride from the press, but I don’t think anyone has a bad word to say about her these days.   This programme didn’t have anything negative to say, but it wasn’t even remotely sycophantic: it was just honest.  And that’s Princess Anne all over.  There never seems to be anything fake about her.  She just tells how it is, and gets on with whatever comes along.  As I said, I wish I could be like her!   And I wish certain other members of her family could be like her.  She’s great, and this programme was great!

Three Royal documentaries – Our Queen At War (ITV), Prince Philip (Channel 5), Princess Anne (Channel 5)

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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.