Television review – Sunday Telegraph, 6 June 1999

The clank of wedding bells

Royal Wedding Bells (BBC1)

With almost as offputting a title, Royal Wedding Bells (Wednesday, BBC1) proved to be superior [to the rival channel's offering] in every way – crisp, jolly and well-organised. Hardly surprising, since it was presented by Sally Magnusson, who conducted last year's masterful interview with Earl Spencer.

The difficulty with any of these programmes is how to retain an element of romance, given all the gloomy precedents. On the assumption that every royal marriage must as least have started out reasonably well, the focus here was firmly on courtship and engagement – before the going got tough.

There were some touching extracts from letters the Queen had written to a friend about her excitement on meeting Prince Philip. He was 18, she was 13, and plainly smitten from the word go. Philip, one of Lord Mountbatten's daughters recalled, had been a "very naughty boy" – this before growing into a big strapping fellow, although unlike any other Greek I have ever seen.

A cousin of the Queen recalled how happy Elizabeth and Philip had been together. While there was no reason to doubt her word, the trouble is that we're simply not geared up for royal marital bliss any more. As she was talking, I found my eyes drifting over to an unfortunate piece of symbolism in the background – two rocking horses, each facing in opposite directions.

The encomiums were a lot more heartfelt than they had been in Channel 5's effort. Remarkably so in some cases. As in the man who claimed with great vigour that Princess Anne "was, is, a very sexy lady. You could hardly fail to half-fall in love with her."

Fergie duly appeared with what looked like a dead dog on her head, and sly reference was made by her former employer to "her enormously wide circle of young friends". It may not look like a loaded remark on paper, but believe me, there was something about the way he said it that implied quite appalling depravity.

Feature article – Daily Mail, June 1999

What Elizabeth (13) thought of Prince Philip

re "Royal Weddings" Prog. One (BBC1)

[See Daily Mail centre spread prompted by David Ash's documentary.]

To BFI Film + TV database To BBC Online David Ash, producer-director

Television documentaries by British programme maker David Ash

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