TV channels to screen royal art and gardens

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THE Royal Family has a chance to revive its tarnished image this autumn when two television documentary series deal with benign aspects of the monarchy - royal gardens on BBC 2 and the royal art collection on Channel 4.

But the relaunch could be shortlived, for next year the BBC will show a four-part drama serial about emotional crises within a royal family with many similarities to the real one.

The serial will be based on To Play the King, a recent novel by Michael Dobbs, who wrote House of Cards, the book about plots surrounding the Conservative leadership that was made into a successful television series.

Set in the future, the characters include a king who comes to the throne in late middle age and a princess caught taking a holiday with a male friend. Michael Wearing, the BBC's head of drama serials, said yesterday: 'It promises to be one of the most controversial series we have made.'

BBC 2's series this autumn about royal gardens is presented by Sir Roy Strong, former director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. He talks to the Queen in the garden of Buckingham Palace and the Prince of Wales describes his vegetable garden.

Channel 4's series on the royal art collection will likewise include contributions from the Queen and the Prince of Wales.