Pip, Pip! More Royal Documentaries
by Kristin Battestella
It's time for more bling, more princes, more princesses, and of course, more scandals with these royal documentaries from across the pond.
Inside Asprey: Luxury by Royal Appointment – Jim Carter (Downton Abbey) narrates this 2017 inside look at Asprey – royal jewelers from Victoria to today's exclusive clientele thanks to custom, handcrafted, and expensive merchandise. $10,000 is a cheap sale to a store that sells one of a kind yellow diamonds worth 2.4 million! Patrons include The Queen, Prince Charles, Elton John, The Beckhams, and Samuel L. Jackson, one of many stars who receive regular loans – or purchase one the firm's bemusing items, such as a solid silver gorilla safe for $55,000. Interviews with staff, tours of the workshop, going through the store routine, and features on the jewels detail the order, presentation, and history of the over two hundred year old business as jewelers go about their silversmith craft upstairs while the merchandising and PR work downstairs at this premium Bond Street location. The $33,000 crocodile and diamond encrusted handbags are sometimes tacky, but these are scarce items for those who can afford to buy twelve of them – such as a Middle Eastern princess who comes in after hours while the camera crew waits outside the private sales room. Remember, if you have to ask the price, then you know you can't afford it, yet the employees asked to put on $15,000 earrings so a client can see how they look are able to laugh at themselves being so casual over these outrageous prices. Of course, silversmithing isn't as in demand as it used to be, and workshop reductions have come over the decades alongside commissions lost, difficult building maintenance, and increased luxury competition. Museum pieces, royal warrants, show stopping sales campaigns, and charity events cater to the international rich but despite the extreme pressures of making such delicate gems, there's a certain pride once the craftsmen bring their finished platinum necklaces to the shop floor. Although this is surely some nice documentary advertising with a certain discretion for clientele who wish to buy fully functioning $7,000 salt and pepper shakers, it's also an interesting reveal of the luxury retail inner workings with marketing missteps and honesty on Asprey's salesmanship for those living the bling life.
Two for New Anglophiles
Princes of the Palace – Royal experts and biographers chronicle the British princes by generation in this 2016 ninety minute special, beginning with no nonsense Philip's titled but humble origins and Royal Navy stature before sweeping the young Princess Elizabeth off her feet with World war II valiantry. The royal wedding boosted austere post war England, and despite taking a backseat always two steps behind his wife the queen, it's been a solid sixty-five year marriage. This cantankerous old sod who says exactly what's on his mind provides some brevity in a highlight reel of questionable Philip anecdotes, but there was difficulty between the rigid Philip and his sensitive boy Charles. Raised by nannies with distant parents, the introspective Charles was closer to the Queen Mother, hating boarding school and the toughen up style but wanting to please his father – as seen in bittersweet video of little sad and looking miserable Charles before later interviews show him developing into a cheeky bachelor. Whoa that seventies dance footage, Chuck! The interviewees speculate on the royal lack of emotion hampering his inability to relate to Diana's problems, but Charles' carefully orchestrated marriage to Diana brought positive PR with a wife supporting the regal heir and a problematic behind closed doors from her outshining him. Scandals, adultery, and blame go around before later Camilla forgiveness, however, it's more interesting to hear of Charles' progressive pushing the envelope in his bridesmaid role as the waiting Prince of Wales. The future kingly hopes on Prince William are revisited with his baby clips and Diana's hands on rearing allowing him to experience the normal side of life rather than The Firm's old fashioned coldness. Between the saucy secrets making headlines and putting on a brave face amid the grief, much time is spent on Diana here – rolling Charles and William together with her rather than mentioning Andrew or Edward at all. You wouldn't know there are more princes in the House of Windsor thanks to the glowing Wills heartthrob moments before talk of that impish wild child Harry turning some of his infamous faux pas into military service and charity work. It's disappointing that this is mostly all information viewers already know wrapped in a supersized time together, but fortunately, there are enough rare clips and highlights serving as a quick introduction for younger audiences.
The Royals – This 2013 series opens its six themed episodes with Wedding allure from the then recent Cambridge nuptials before black and white footage, newsreels, portraits, radio clips, and on location scenery accent talk of Victoria's once radical bridal press coverage and war rationed wedding success for Elizabeth and Philip. Voiceovers, historians, and journalists wax on American versus British perspectives on the monarchy with expected British pomp and tongue in cheek on the opulent gowns, Charles needing a virgin bride, and the mismatch of his fairy tale wedding to Diana as seen by 750 million television audiences worldwide. Episode topics overlap with Edward VIII's abdication and Wallis Simpson's marriage crisis and the love/hate Charles and Camilla PR turnaround, and a chronological focus rather than jumping back and forth could have made room for all the marriages not mentioned. Episode Two's Funerary focus continues the pageantry with the mixed emotions of the king is dead long live the king, but perhaps understandably spends over half the forty-five minute time on Diana's death and the global mourning that followed. The interviewees get personal while addressing the monarchy's missteps in the public versus private grief and need for a televised response. However, the usual paparazzi and conspiracies are still fairly recent and seem redundant compared to interesting details on the royal flag, security code names, and funerary protocol changes in such unprecedented circumstances. Serious documentary supposition is also awkwardly tossed in with Elizabeth I's death ending the English Tudor dynasty for the Stuart British era before the life long mourning etiquette and morbid Victorian era, George VI's funeral, and the Queen Mother's longevity. Of course, the Third Episode “Teens” big shocker is all poor William and rah rah Harry. Brief time on royals once trained as military leaders, Philip's stoic upbringing versus Diana's hand on approach, and psychological analysis on a royal's media responsibility contrasting the often emotionally distant castle rearing are pushed aside for nothing new on The Heir and The Spare. Fan blogs are interviewed, OMG Zara Phillips has her tongue pierced, and this is an unnecessary episode with time that could have been better spent elsewhere. The Scandals of Episode Four likewise do a disservice by spending more time on Edward VIII's Nazi leanings and Margaret's marital troubles before all the Charles and Diana divorce, rival interviews, books, tampons, and tabloids we already know. It's also baffling that somehow, neither The Yorks nor Princess Anne are never mentioned the entire series! The first television footage of the Royal Family at home is pleasing, but the George focus of Episode Five “Babies” runs thin with more talk of growing up royal like we just had a few shows ago. Perhaps these should have been half hour episodes going by decade, for how long can they talk about Pets in Episode Six? Ironically, the corgis, horses, Tudor pet portraits, swans, Tower of London menagerie, Raven masters, heroic pigeons, and polo highlights actually provide unique information – treating this whimsical topic with more facts then the whole rest of the program. If you're looking for balanced details on the entire House of Windsor or major British Royal history, one won't find it here. The superficial and repetitive aspects, too recent skew, and unorderly fashion will irritate more knowledgeable royal enthusiasts. However, this can be a fun starter for younger viewers new to following Lillibet and Co.
A Dated Skip
Princesses of the World – Naturally the ranks and succession for several of these princesses turned queens and single gals now taken has changed since this 2009 recounting of the not always fairy tale lives of royal ladies. Black and white wedding clips introduce Hollywood star turned Grace of Monaco, our first celebrity princess before eventual tragedy and the rare bling, marital strife, and star power of Soraya of Iran. These quick moments lead to an odd time on Princess Margaret where it's just Charles talking about his aunt – and people can follow her melodrama on The Crown now anyway. The romance tallies of fellow bad girl Stephanie of Monaco follow with her sister Caroline of Hanover before the requisite Diana spotlight moves in a somewhat chronological order grouped by status or rebelry. However, a lot of ladies are skipped in this fast paced anecdotal style with unnecessary upbeat music and a narration trying to sound sophisticated by pronouncing words in an extra unusual way. Somehow, we're fast forwarding to the Australian advertising executive cum Crown Princess Mary of Denmark – a perhaps under the radar princess who doesn't have a sad ending who's therefore superficially treated with fashion talk as if that's the most important thing about her and Letizia now Queen of Spain. Nude scandals and eating disorders segue into the odd inclusion of the then child Aiko of Japan, again ignoring older princesses and the rest of the Japanese Imperial ladies in this fast sixty seconds. Current Queen Maxima is also only mentioned for her pre-Netherlands family controversies, and the interesting leadership preparations and military training interviews with Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden are incredibly rushed in favor of backtracking to Beatrice and Eugenie with a side of Fergie. This erroneous focus on minor British Royals doesn't even include Anne or Alexandra, and despite their photographs flashing in the awkward transition montages, Madeleine of Sweden and Queen of the Belgians Mathilde are never featured. Several other countries such as Norway are forgotten entirely with no rhyme or reason as to who living, deceased, non-reigning, heir or spare is included or not – even already ascended queens. A more factual by country grouping with family tree graphics might have set off an entire half hour biography series devoted to royal women, allowing time for more than just the pretty or bittersweet love lives defining the lady by her man. While a quick recap for those who don't know much about royals, the glaring omissions simply don't do what it says on the tin.
But I must ask, where are all the documentaries not about the British Royal Family?