The Queen’s Castle, BBC1

by | Nov 6, 2005 | All, Reviews

The Queen’s Castle, BBC1, Sunday

What to say if you liked it

Our wonderful sovereign shows she really is one of the people by following in the footsteps of The Osbournes by allowing us into her beautiful Windsor Castle to observe the fascinating work that goes on to keep our valuable institution running with glorious smoothness.

What to say if you didn’t like it

It’s a double whammy: millions of taxpayers’ money is spent on keeping this ridiculous, outmoded tradition alive and kicking and now hundreds of thousands of pounds of our licence fee is spent on making this grandiose documentary about how the monarchy fritters away all our cash on steak dinners and a staff of hundreds.

What was good about it?

• The narration by Barbara Flynn was absolutely spot on – no embellishments, no statements of the obvious and little or no hyperbole. This was emblematic of the programme as a whole as it stayed respectful, non-judgemental and did not insult our intelligence. It was also completely absorbing. Whether you agree or disagree with the monarchy, this was a really interesting hour of television.

• The fact that Prince Phillip designed the stained glass windows in the chapel after the fire of 1992, which featured fire fighters putting out the blaze. It was also interesting to see that they had kept a charred souvenir.

• The information that staff unpack all guests’ luggage when they arrive, and re-pack it with tremendous care before they leave, even to the extent of layering the suitcase with tissue paper.

• The Queen tactfully changing the name of the Waterloo Chamber to the Music Hall for the day of the Entente Cordiale anniversary banquet.

• Housekeeper Annette Wilkins saying: “The furniture is in the centre of the rooms while we put traffic wax on the floorboards.” Traffic wax?

• The touching (or bizarre, to the republicans among us) regard in which so many members of the staff held the Queen (most usually referred to here as ‘Our Sovereign’ • something no one else would say unless they were reading the news). One cleaner originally from South Africa explained how she grew up eating every meal under a giant portrait of the Queen and she wished all her life that she could serve Her Majesty. Well, if you’re going to buff floors with traffic wax, you might as well do it somewhere nice, I suppose.

• The Queen’s impressive bling at the banquet.

• Castle Flagman Tony Martin (no, not that one, you couldn’t have him blasting away from the turrets), was a brilliant character whose job it was to hoist the correct flag when the Queen arrives at the castle. Of course, he’s done the job for years, so he’s not impressed when he gets mucked about: “Oh it’s not changed has it? I was told half two!” he moaned down the phone. Bloody unpunctual Queen.

• The staff member lighting all the candles on the huge banquet table. The only way to do it was to put on his green British Airways socks and walk along the whole table top, lighting them as he went. They didn’t mention the terrible accident of ’98, though, when his predecessor used an inferior brand of airline sock and slipped on the freshly buffed surface, destroying several royal-sealed pats of butter in the process.

• The fact that there was an Official Royal Stick used to measure the exact correct length between the table and each chair in the banquet hall.

What was bad about it?

• Major Alan Denman, the Castle Superintendent, enjoyed the camera a bit too much – we were subjected to some typical managerial platitudes: “We’re always seeking solutions,” he said.

• The castle staff appeared to be 100% white. Was this because the risk of an employment tribunal would be too great with Prince Phillip around?

• The amount of money being spent to keep the Royal Family in the way they are accustomed should have been enough to make anyone queasy.

• Arsene Wenger attended the 100th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale dinner. Hey, Bobby, what’s French for ‘sell out’?

• There were no terrible Prince Phillip gaffes to laugh at, although in one brief interview he did keep saying “Ye Gods”, as if he was living in the 15th century or his script had been written by Terry Pratchett.

• By the end, the average viewer was left with far too many questions: Is the Official Royal Stick that’s used for measuring the exact length between banquet table and banquet chair kept in an Official Royal Stick Cupboard? Are there any Official Royal Spare Sticks in case someone misplaces the Official Royal Stick? And is ‘Official Royal Stick’ a pet term used by Prince Phillip in the bedroom on the third Friday of every month? What are gold plates like to eat off of? What does Tony Martin the Castle Flagman do in between hoisting and lowering flags? Is that his only job? Is he on call 24 hours a day in case the Queen pops down to 24 hour Asda to buy some Baileys Haagen Dazs ice cream? Just how long does it take to put the Official Royal Stamp on 300 pats of butter? And why does Prince Phillip have to have an extra pat to everyone else? And so forth.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


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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