Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers


A prince for all time.

(2021) Documentary (Discovery Plus) Prince Charles, Prince William, Princess Anne, Prince Harry, Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Prince Andrew, Sophie Countess of Wessex, Camilla Parker-Bowles, Alexandra McCreery, Zara Tindall, Mark Philips, Timothy Laurence, Louise Mountbatten-Windsor. Directed by Faye Hamilton and Mark Hill

 

To mark the occasion of the 100th birthday of Philip the Duke of Edinburgh, documentary filmmakers Faye Hamilton and Mark Hill sat down with various members of the Royal family to get their impressions of the husband of Elizabeth II, reigning monarch of the United Kingdom. When Philip passed away unexpectedly on April 9th of last year, two months shy of his birthday, the conversations took on an entirely different tone.

Additional interviews took place following the passing of the prince, and along with the anecdotes about the Prince, his temperament and his love for sports, hunting and the outdoors, his family opened up about what Philip meant to the family and to them individually. It is an unusually candid and emotional documentary; very often the Royals tend to keep their emotions in check.

We also have a tendency to judge Philip based on different portrayals of him in the media, particularly here in America. Most who know him through portrayals in such films as The Queen or TV series like The Crown, in both of which he is second banana to his wife (as I suppose is proper), we are given a portrait of a tone-deaf man giving his wife terrible advice in the days following the tragic death of the former Princess of Wales Diana, or being a bit standoffish while arguing for conservative values from a bygone era.

Nearly everyone interviewed here from his children and grandchildren to his staff remark on his sense of humor, his tendency to tease those he was close to with affection, and above all his devotion to his family. Considering his early history – his family was forced to flee Greece after a coup and he lived in exile in Britain, his family nearly penniless. He made an impression in military school and served with distinction in the Second World War, before catching the eye of a princess whom he later wed. Their marriage was, by all accounts, a good one and certainly Elizabeth leaned on her husband for support and advice throughout her reign, and he provided her with both.

The movie is replete with lots of wonderful anecdotes about Prince Philip, as well as archival footage and even some home movies – I’m sure most people don’t know this but the late Prince was an aficionado of the barbecue and worked the grill whenever he had the opportunity to, and we see him doing just that.

A biography is sometimes defined as a portrait, warts and all whereas a hagiography is completely without blemish, and the latter is true here. Then again, this was meant to be a birthday gift before it became a tribute, and neither occasion is appropriate for a tell-all exposé, For those here in the States who are fascinated by the Royals, this is absolutely indispensable. For history buffs, it has merit but should be taken in the spirit it was intended. For those looking for a complete portrait of the man, well, I’m sure he’s not going to be nominated for sainthood anytime soon but this film provides a point of view we don’t often get to see, and in that sense, it’s invaluable.
REASONS TO SEE: Plenty of archival material and family photos.
REASONS TO AVOID: About as hagiographic as one would expect this would be.
FAMILY VALUES: Suitable for all audiences.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Philip at more than 70 years was the longest-serving consort in the history of the British crown.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Discovery Plus
CRITICAL MASS: As of 01/10/22: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT:
Aulcie

Queen of the World


God save the Queen.

(2018) Documentary (HBO) Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Sarah Lancashire (narrator), Prince William, Prince Harry, Robin Onslow, Sophie Wessex, Meghan Markle, Mark Flanagan, Tony Johnstone-Burt, Anthony Morrow, Claudine Jeffery, Korede Bolade, Princess Ann, Justin Trudeau, Johnathan Fraser, Jock Slater, Patricia Scotland, Euphemia Sydney-Davies, Natalia Zagorska-Thomas. Directed by Matt Hill

 

For most of us, Elizabeth II has been the Queen of England our entire lives. She has reigned more than 60 years, ascending the throne in 1952 and becoming the longest reigning British monarch in history.

This documentary was filmed during a tumultuous year in which Prince Harry wed American actress Meghan Markle who is partially of African descent, a possibility never even considered even twenty years ago. It also highlights one of the Queen’s chief causes; the Commonwealth, made up of former English colonies and territories, a strictly voluntary association. In fact the filmmakers go to great length to explain that on Markle’s wedding gown are stitched native wildflowers of every Commonwealth country. There are currently 53 member nations; when Elizabeth founded it there were only seven.

As part of the Commonweath’s mission, young people from around the Commonwealth are invited to work at Buckingham Palace; a fashion show during London fashion week is also sponsored by the Commonwealth featuring up and coming designers from Commonwealth nations. We see both programs in action, focusing on Jamaican workers in the Palace.

There are some candid interviews with members of the Royal Family including Markle as well as Prince Charles, Princess Ann (his younger sister) and Prince Harry, who advises the young interns not to panic when encountering the Queen in the hallways. We observe her interacting with the Jamaicans and she seems kind and gentle with them. It’s as close as we come to getting any insight to the Queen herself.

It is unsurprising that she never directly addresses the camera or consents to an interview; the Queen has notoriously not done interviews and kept her private life very private. It is clear however that the world is changing and while the Queen takes very seriously her role as the face of the British monarchy, she at least acknowledges tacitly that changes will need to be made if the monarchy is to remain relevant in the 21st century. She is grandmotherly (she reminds me very much of my own grandmother) and remains popular with her subjects. She is much less aloof than she once was.

While the film is a bit of a puff piece – I can’t imagine the filmmakers would have been granted the kind of access that they received had they intended to be critical in any sort of way. Still one can’t help wish that a documentary about the Queen would have had much more of the Queen in it. To the good, some of the footage “behind the scenes” is actually quite informative and entertaining.

This will definitely appeal to anglophiles and monarchists alike. Elizabeth, at 92 years of age, remains a vital public figure and while her public appearances and travels have been cut down severely in recent years (there’s a lengthy piece on the royal yacht Britannia which she used extensively in her travels from early in her reign until recently) she still remains largely the face of the British monarchy and in many ways, the face of Britain itself. I don’t know if she ever actually said “Keep calm and carry on” which launched a thousand memes, but if she didn’t she certainly should have.

The film is currently airing on HBO in the United States and ITV in the UK. It is listed in iMDB as a mini-series but to my knowledge this one hour feature is the only one scheduled to air in the United States.

REASONS TO GO: At times this is a fascinating “backstage” look at the Royal Family. The interviews tend to humanize the Royal Family quite a bit – but not so much the Queen herself.
REASONS TO STAY: The narration tends to drone on a bit.
FAMILY VALUES: This is suitable for family viewing although most children will be terribly bored.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Filming began shortly before the Queen made her 2016 annual Christmas address and concluded just after the 2017 address.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 10/3/18: Rotten Tomatoes: 38% positive reviews. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Crown
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
Molly (2018)