Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers review – If the BBC is so woke, how did it make a show so adoring of the monarchy?

The crowned talking heads in this documentary range freely around familiar territory, as if driving a Land Rover across the Balmoral estate

Sean O' Grady
Wednesday 22 September 2021 22:26
<p>Prince Philip</p>

Prince Philip

According to her majesty’s new secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Nadine “Mad Nad” Dorries, the BBC “favour strident, very left-wing, often hypocritical and frequently patronising views that turn people away”. Oh yes? I wonder why, in that case, this nest of wokery came to make a show so adoring of the monarchy as Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers. Apart from Prince Harry, there isn’t a properly woke voice anywhere to be heard in the whole show, which is unsurprising given what we know about the old boy’s predilections – “slitty eyes” and all that. The Queen might be a bit woke, by all accounts, but her husband was, we can agree, a bit more on the reactionary side.

The crowned talking heads in the programme range freely around familiar territory, as if driving a Land Rover across the Balmoral estate. The eccentric Prince of Wales, who grows more like The Fast Show’s red-faced mumbling armchair fruitcake Rowley Birkin every day, tells us the admittedly funny story about Prince Philip saying on his death bed that, yes, he’d attend the reception for his 100th birthday provided he was alive. Little Harry remembers how his grandad told him to come back alive from Afghanistan, and we hear a great deal about how much he liked barbecuing, sailing, tearing around in horse-drawn carriages and saving endangered species.

A lady (or possibly Lady) from his private office takes us on a guided tour of Philip’s grand desk, showing us his cleverly designed stationery tray. Princess Anne says he was no-nonsense (just like her), and Camilla recalls that he didn’t suffer fools (just like her). Zara and Peter Phillips demonstrate the Duke of Edinburgh’s favourite practical joke, featuring a tube of mustard, and a German princeling in a very comfortable-looking lounge tells us about Philip’s rough childhood as a refugee (who thus would be turned back by Priti Patel and her Border Force these days).

It’s all backed up by the usual archive footage and some charming clips from the Windsors’ home video collection. Obviously, words such as “Diana”, “Meghan”, “Fergie”, “Epstein”, “income tax”, and “last will and testament sealed for 90 years”, don’t appear in the script, and everything is kept nicely respectful and trivial. The biggest surprise is a very brief contribution from Prince Andrew, who I could swear keeps glancing sideways, as if looking out for some unwelcome delivery of legal paperwork.

Perhaps Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers is the BBC trying to impress their new Toryish bosses, but I rather think they are just doing what they always do, which is to produce quality telly that caters for every taste and view, and rightly so. For a dedicated monarchist, the sight of Commander Tim Lawrence talking about life in the royal navy and Prince Edward’s daughter on a horse should be worth the licence fee alone. In due course there’ll be plenty of spiteful revelations about the Duke of Edinburgh’s life, no doubt, but, as we say in journalism, now is “too soon”. It’s a moment for affectionate memorialising, and, indeed, a spot of light fawning, and the “woke” BBC do it better than anyone else can.

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