sun 16/12/2018

Queen of the World, ITV review - born to run and run | reviews, news & interviews

Queen of the World, ITV review - born to run and run

Queen of the World, ITV review - born to run and run

A year in the life of the Queen and her Commonwealth

Buck House calling: HMQ records her Christmas message

Awesome numbers: over a million miles, the equivalent of 42 times around the globe, have been traversed by Her Majesty the Queen, enabling visits over the past seven decades or so to 117 different countries. No one has reigned longer nor travelled further.

For various reasons, obviously co-incident with the death of the British Empire, she has felt a special attachment to the Commonwealth,which (with the recent return of Gambia) includes some 53 countries, some rather surprisingly with no particular history with Britain. Queen Elizabeth pledged her life to the service of the Commonwealth, which met in London in 1953, the year of her Coronation, when the association was only nine countries, all at that point once part of the Empire. Countries have also come in and out, including Pakistan, Gambia and the Maldives, and South Africa which rejoined after the end of apartheid.

The programme makers claim unusual access to the Queen’s travels, walkabouts and royal home movies, but other than some short interviews with the new Duchess of Sussex all seems familiar. Perhaps it is impossible to make such a film with no cliché unturned. For HRH refers to the Commonwealth as a family of nations and we are told several times that she is passing the baton to the younger generation. Indeed, Prince Harry is the Ambassador for Youth to the Commonwealth: 60 per cent of its 2.4 billion population are under 30.

And here we are in Buckingham Palace’s Regency Room while the Queen is recording her Christmas message. It can be heard by 2.4 billion people, a third of the world on six continents, though this particular recording is interrupted by the sound of an impudent bird.

Cue the Commonwealth and its relationship to the home country in action. A group of energetic and cheerful Caribbean scholars, rising stars of the hospitality industry, have been chosen for a six-week work placement in the royal households in Windsor and Buckingham Palace. They are cooking, dusting, silver and gold polishing and cleaning, and we witness them being taught to curtsey and bow. They are going back to run the tourist industries on their home islands.

Their first royal encounter is with Prince Harry (pictured above), who tells them not to panic if they bump into Her Majesty; that they will have spent more time in Buckingham Palace than he; and that he too might panic if he bumped into his grandmother. Their highlight comes when they do eventually meet The Boss, who has a word to say to each.

The most famous dress in the world – in 2018 at least – has just arrived at Buckingham Palace to go on exhibition, and the new-ish Duchess of Sussex (pictured below) arrives to look at her silk wedding veil, which has just undergone careful conservation. It was embroidered, to the surprise of her husband-to-be, with flowers from every Commonwealth country, as well as the symbolic but strictly non-Commonwealth California poppy.

Sixty-six years ago the Coronation Day for the Queen was a year in the planning; her gown was designed by Norman Hartnell, and the flowers of the then eight nations in the Commonwealth were at her insistence incorporated into the very material of the dress.

Her Majesty and her consort left their young family – Charles and Anne – in the year of her coronation to travel 40,000 miles in six months, the longest single journey in distance and time ever taken by a reigning monarch. She is the first monarch to circumnavigate the world. SS Britannia sailed more than a million miles on royal duty, and like the Commonwealth itself Britannia began with King George V, who died before its completion.

The royal yacht was ingeniously designed to visit remarkable and inaccessible places, including Pitcairn, Easter Island, the Marshall Islands and Papua New Guinea. It carried the royal Rolls Royce, and became a floating embassy hosting royal banquets. You could watch the latest James Bond film on board too, although – a mini revelation – the Queen has never cared for cowboy movies.

Now 65 years after the Queen’s epic six-month tour, the next generation is embarking: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are setting off for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. The tribal rites of royalty may seem ever more ridiculous, even if, as is implied, they are adored by millions. But at a Commonwealth party a black man of enviable presence states his belief that at last things are significantly moving with the arrival of Meghan, and she does seem as though to the manor born. Next instalment, next week.

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