The Duke, ITV1

by | May 14, 2008 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

Even now the briny taste lingers in our mouths after we almost drowned after being swamped by this inexorable, gushing tsunami of crude royalist dogma.

What was good about it?

• The Duke of Edinburgh doesn’t seem like a bad person. But we knew that already. Any derogatory opinion of him has been founded on his inherent, inherited ignorance of the world around him (excluding conservation, obviously). But such was the cack-eyed bias of this documentary as a desperate paean to his virtues that the tone was more akin to a mitigating plea of clemency for a convict sentenced to death.

• Sir David Attenborough made a few sage points, most notably about how the royal family must balance between an air of mystery to encourage “loyalty to the crown” and not being presented as “like everybody else”, otherwise “they would lose their place in our affections.” And he’s correct that the royal family must remain at the forefront of public consciousness as they are the figurehead of inequality in Britain. Were they to be abolished, then indecent wealth would be driven underground, and out of mind, in much the same way as bare knuckle boxing and public telephones, leaving the obscenely rich to persist with their opulent decadence beyond the vigilant glare of public disgust.

• Oddly, this is an era that the royal family should be more popular than ever before, deified by a society that relishes elevating and worshipping worthless parasites in the vein of Katie Price AKA Jordan and Simon Cowell and communicates in a language baser than baboon grunts with txt mssgng.

• During the visit of President Sarkozy, the Duke was presented with a gift of a bronze dog. He weighed it up in his hands grimacing, as if unsure to place it on the mantelpiece or to use it to bludgeon over the head an insolent footman.

What was bad about it?

• The recurring theme throughout the first hour of this two part documentary/boot-licking tribute was that we, the British public, should be privileged that the Duke of Edinburgh breathes oxygen and inhabits our world.

• This brainwashing programme began very early when Marcus O’Lone, land asset manager of Sandringham, said: “The perimeter of the estate is 62 miles. It’s [camera access] is a special opportunity to see part of the estate.” Essentially, the translation reads something like, “Look you unwashed scum out there in your squalid little hovels, this is the chance of a lifetime for you to gaze upon, with respectful awe, the lands of your betters.”

• And much of the documentary gushed along with this theme. After we were told that the Duke “has 800 different patronages” we were then taken by the hand, and watched warily by a man with an iron beating rod, round just about all of them.

• Yes, we appreciate that the Duke carried out “380 engagements” last year, but if he didn’t do that, what else was he going to do with his time? And it’s this twisting of the truth, both by the palace PR juggernaut and a cowed ITV that really grates, as we’re incessantly and ruthlessly informed that we should be grateful that a family who don’t work that hard – the Duke’s “engagements” seem to consist of listening to people and making dreary bastard speeches all yanked from the single womb of a single mother speech composed about 60 years ago – actually do something with their days other than fritter away money.

• We don’t doubt the Duke’s compassion for brave soldiers wounded in Afghanistan, his passion for conservation (even if he maintains that he only “shoots the surplus” pheasants in one of those jolly nice, spiffing hunting parties) or his enthusiasm for the advancement of young people, what we do object to are these aspects of his life being beamed into our homes through the sterilising prism of Buck House’s PR department. To leave on a slightly analogous tangent, do they really think the public are so dumb that they can’t link condemnation for Prince William’s “helicopter practice” and his and Harry’s visit to a military hospital about a week later? Everything the royal family does, or is advised to do has been so clinically planned that it sucks dry the perception of goodwill towards the Duke, William, Harry et al even if it truly was their idea to visit the wounded soldiers.

• This leads on to the revelation that it was the “Duke’s idea” to move state visits, such as the recent one by President Sarkozy, away from London to Windsor Castle. Again, because of the cloying reverence towards the royal family, we regard such statements with scepticism (without even being told why this was such a good idea).

• If the anyone bar the Duke, or perhaps the Queen, had made such a suggestion would it have ever come into practice? Or if someone, an anonymous equerry for example, had come up with the notion would he really have been credited with it? Or would the PR department have pinned it like an unwarranted medal to the Duke’s chest in much the same way as manufactured pop bands are given a disproportionate amount of recognition in writing their songs to award them a duplicitous credibility?

• Much is made of the Duke’s allegedly admirable quality of always looking to the future, but this is easily explained by the fact that throughout his life he’s never had to worry very much about the present. Emblematic of this is the Duke’s installation of solar panels at Sandringham or his electric car; both of which are lovely if you can afford them.

• This portrait of the Duke consisted of a few minutes driving round Sandringham with Trevor McDonald while he did little else other than complain about the spacing of some trees. Hardly an enthralling expose.

• We watched the first few minutes of part two, which consisted of a bunch of hacks putting on their best MBE Buckingham Palace accents acting as apologists for the Duke’s cultural bigotry, such as suggesting that he gaffs were a consequence of his “plain speaking” (which, like stupidity, has become a fallacious boon in recent times) rather than ignorance. Perhaps they assumed with their journalistic arrogance (and we are all very, very arrogant) that the viewers would swallow that asking Aborigines if they “still chucked spears at one another” is simply harmless horseplay rather than a baleful reminder of colonialism.

• Trevor McDonald’s contribution was a quivering abomination. He was shot down from his lofty perch of respected journalist to become a gibbering lackey squirming on the dirty floor – “Sir, I was just thinking, sir”. Of course, he had been instructed beforehand to address the Duke as “Sir”, but in doing so it merely reinforced the unbridgeable chasm between the royal family and the rest of us, something we imagined this programme had been specifically commissioned to span.

• Much worse was McDonald’s obsequious accession to the Duke’s blithering dogma. On the subject of rising food prices (and, frankly, we’re surprised he noticed), the Duke ranted that it was caused solely because there are too many people in the world (again, this is contemptible coming from a man who participated in a gluttonous, gratuitous banquet to myopically adhere to the vagaries of political protocol during M. Sarkozy’s visit). McDonald must surely listen to the news he spews forth each night and could have corrected the Duke that it is far more complex than just over-population. But he didn’t, he just gazed at the Duke with the same sycophantic, simpering grin that we the audience were expected to adopt for an hour while we were bombarded with this barrage of bombastic bollocks.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

14/05/2008

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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