Don’t look for any negative voices in Born to Royalty, the BBC’s unabashed celebration of the monarchy recounting the modern history of heirs to the throne. This documentary cannily timed to the impending birth of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s child doesn’t exactly dig very deep, but its often fascinating archival footage and stories of royal lineage dating back to the days of Queen Victoria (who bore no less than nine children) surely will delight devoted Anglophiles.
Featuring commentators ranging from Princess Diana’s former bodyguard and photographer to various journalistic figures dubbed the likes of “royal biographer” and “royal correspondent” to Queen Elizabeth’s elderly cousin, the film narrated by Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) breathlessly describes the royal family as “a symbol of continuity and stability both in Britain and abroad.”
The modern, hands-on parenting style of Prince Charles and Diana is favorably contrasted with that of their predecessors, which, we’re informed, resulted in “miserable princes and stuttering kings.” The latter reference, of course, is to George VI, Queen Elizabeth’s father, whose story memorably was told in the Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech.
Viewers no doubt will be well familiar with the tale of Charles and Diana’s storybook wedding and its aftermath, even if some of the footage, such as a very young William playing ball in front of a daunting phalanx of photographers, still startles. Of far greater interest is the segment devoted to the young Elizabeth, such as her delivering a moving radio speech at age 14 during World War II or the fact that she shared a private phone line with her sister Margaret, who was her only playmate.
The film ventures into hagiographic territory with its segment devoted to William and Kate, with several commentators gushing that they will make great parents and that William will be happily “changing nappies.” And just in case you have any lingering doubts about the monarchy, we’re reassured that “the royal ship could not be sailing in calmer, happier waters.”
Opens Friday, July 19 (BBC Worldwide)
Director: Lucy McDowell
Executive producers: Paul Hembury, Lucy McDowell, Soumya Sriraman, Aimee White
Editor: Jean Manthorpe
Not rated, 76 minutes