Baby, they were born to reign
It’s fascinating the way television has framed the Queen’s reign. It began with her 1953 coronation, an event the media-shy monarch was reluctant to have televised. In Australia, the fact we could only read about the millions who heard the bells peal and cannons fire and watched revellers dance into the night helped hasten the tardy implementation of what was called the “magic lantern in our own homes”.
Dealing with TV has been a defining challenge of the Queen’s reign. As writer Andrew Crisell suggested: “At the 1953 coronation, TV was a humble supplicant knocking at the door of Westminster Abbey and being allowed to watch discreetly from the loft. By the 1990s it was a monstrous dictator before whom a prince and princess would come to justify their private lives.”
Many argue that the royal documentary was invented by TV when the licentious 60s took flight and presented the world with an alternative model of free love and joint custody. Now the royal documentary, once an event, is just another reality subgenre keeping the royals marketable and visible in the digital environment.
And to celebrate 90 years of the Queen, UKTV presents four specials over the next four Wednesdays, offering a glimpse into a world few of us will ever encounter. The first, Born to Royalty, charts the history of the royal babies born in recent times, focusing on William and Kate’s first child, George, the great grandchild of the Queen. Narrated by Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville, it’s a feature-length look at the life that lies ahead for the child who was born to reign — with nary a negative voice to be heard. But even if you’re no royalist, the archival footage is worth the admission. (103) Wednesday, 8.30pm, BBC UKTV
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, after their wedding in 2011