tue 18/02/2020

Reinventing the Royals, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

Reinventing the Royals, BBC Two

Reinventing the Royals, BBC Two

Belated arrival of the story they tried to ban

Recognise this lot?

It's the story they tried to ban! Reinventing the Royals was supposed to have been broadcast in January, but was yanked from the schedules when Prince Charles's staff at Clarence House withheld archive footage, apparently because of a behind-the-scenes battle between royal advisers.

Anyway here it is now, and you can understand why Charles might have taken exception to how he's portrayed. For a start it's presented by Steve Hewlett, who was the editor of Panorama when it broadcast Princess Diana's confession of adultery in 1995. The smarmy-looking Hewlett (pictured below) now plies his trade as a "media commentator" (shades of the shape-shifting Professor Greenslade), and his story is that Charles rebuilt his battered public image in the wake of Diana's death by (partly at least) riding roughshod over members of his own family.

To wit: the first, supposedly ultra-private, meeting between his son William and Camilla Parker-Bowles became a hot news splash in The Sun, with the aim of smoothing the path to the Chuck-Camilla nuptials, but it left William feeling pissed off and betrayed. To wit (2): When Penny Junor's book Charles: Victim or Villain? came out, apparently with much inside assistance from Charles's camp, it sought to burnish his image by painting Diana as a vengeful, unfaithful nutcase. But when it looked like it might cause outrage amongst Diana's legions of devotees, Charles and Camilla hastily disowned it.

It seems the éminence grise behind all this was Charles's Deputy Private Secretary (it means spin doctor) Mark Bolland. This was the man who rather brilliantly repositioned Charles as well-meaning single dad and diligent parent to two boys, rather than the starchy toff with the emotional intelligence of one of Sandringham's moth-eaten carpets. But part of the theory was that in single-mindedly boosting Charles, Bolland was indifferent to any collateral damage he caused to the rest of the royals. Perhaps it was significant that after he left the princely employ, Bolland wrote a splenetic column in the News of the World in which he doled out extravagant abuse to several prominent Windsors.

Still, the problem with Reinventing the Royals was that it could never decide whether it was a tabloid smear-fest or a doggedly worthy slab of responsible journalism. It eventually settled for the ignoble compromise of wanting to be the former while pretending to be the latter. Hewlett strolled around delivering earnest monologues about press intrusion and how it was curbed, but the only things that ever made this tangled saga interesting were the glimpses of appalling internecine warfare and the tit-for-tat wars involving people like Piers Morgan and the Mail's Richard Kay. Responsible, decorous, media-savvy royals who never put a foot wrong or get photographed coming out of the wrong bedroom? Spare us.

Penny Junor's book 'Charles: Victim or Villain?' sought to burnish his image by painting Diana as a vengeful, unfaithful nutcase


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