TV and Radio

TV review: Beware the House of Windsor in Ireland

Amol Rajan conducted 80 hours of interviews fro the The Princes and The Press. Picture by Patrick Smith
Billy Foley

The Princes and the Press, BBC 2, Monday and BBC iPlayer

IRELAND doesn't have to concern itself much with royalty.

When the Free Sate replicated the British system of government, it placed the monarch's limited list of powers in the hands of a directly-elected president.

We've got Michael D, the UK is due to get Charles.

The Irish president gets to agree to the dissolution of the Dáil and ask a prospective Taoiseach to form a new government. He appoints cabinet ministers and judges on the advice of the government and also considers, with the advice of his council of state, if new pieces of legislation are constitutional.

Other than that, he gets to go to events and peace-building functions - or not in the case of Armagh.

Michael D gets to live in the splendid former home of the British viceroy in Dublin's Phoenix Park but he doesn't claim to be genetically special and the media treat him, as they did his predecessors, as they would other politicians.

Queen Elizabeth has not dissimilar responsibilities but her family claim a genetic right to sit on the throne and have, not surprisingly, a significantly different relationship with the British media.

In this two-part programme, the excellent Amol Rajan considers how the new generation of royals (the sons of Charles and Diana) have split from each other and have a confrontational relationship with most of the media.

Obviously, there are many fictions in this relationship, not least on the media side, which claims to be holding important institutions of state to account but is mostly searching for any bit of gossip to interest its paying customers.

‘Tiaragate', for instance, purports to tell the story about a palace row over whether Meghan Markle could wear an emerald-encrusted tiara at her wedding. This was problematic, apparently, because there was a connection to Russia and the bloody media would seize on it.

This, it seems, upset Meghan and caused Harry to utter, “What Meghan wants, Meghan gets.”

Cue admonishment from the Queen to someone involved and later on someone made someone else cry.

One reporter claims Harry got the slap on the wrist from the monarch, another says it was Meghan. In a rather dramatic, over-the-shoulder interjection, Rajan said he hadn't a clue which reporter was correct after 80 hours of interviews for the documentary.

While the royals claim they only want fairness from the media, they routinely expect the press and broadcasters to support their pet project and are not averse to using their PR offices to attack other factions of the family.

But to be fair to William and Harry, their view of the media is of course influenced by the role of the paparazzi in the death of their mother.

The BBC seeks to maintain a position above the fray, pointing down at the tabloids for causing all the trouble.

It was notable (at least in the first episode) that there was no mention of Martin Bashir's difficulties in the way he secured an interview with Princess Diana.

Nonetheless, Rajan, the BBC's Media Editor, did a solid job to interview almost the entire pack of royal correspondents, print, broadcast and the BBC's own.

Perhaps there will be some revelations in next week's concluding programme because he's certainly got the palace worried, with a statement after broadcast claiming the BBC was giving credibility to “unfounded and overblown claims”.

It makes the row about the President's refusal to attend the Armagh event look tame.

But we may not be out of the woods yet on this island. We'll have to wait and see if any potential settlement on an ‘agreed Ireland' would see a role for the House of Windsor.

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TV and Radio