03 December 2011

Royal Splendor 101: Royal Documentary Recommendations

The other day, somebody asked for some recommendations from my favorite royal documentaries. Sure, why not? Sounds like a nice leisurely topic for a weekend chat. I'll give you some suggestions, and you can give me some, and then we can all go out for ice cream later.

My favorite things are the little behind the scenes glimpses of our royals going about their business. It's such a refreshing - and occasionally eye-opening - change from still photographs and videos of speeches and hand-shaking. Accordingly, my very favorite royal documentary is Monarchy: A Royal Family at Work.
It opens with a thoroughly annoyed Queen sitting for Annie Leibowitz and continues on in 5 parts, following British royal family members around as they work and covering the preparations that go on behind the scenes. Snippets are available on YouTube - part 5 is embedded above - but the whole thing can be purchased on DVD. Worth it.

Along the same lines, Windsor Castle: A Royal Year is an interesting look behind the scenes at the Queen's favorite home. Prince Philip is particularly entertaining in this one, showing the cameras around the castle and estate, and it covers the prep for Charles and Camilla's wedding from a backstage perspective.
Again, I can only find snippets on YouTube, but all three parts are available on DVD.

NRK has recently produced a two part documentary called Kronprinsesse Mette-Marit about - you guessed it - Crown Princess Mette-Marit. The doc has drawn criticism for painting too rosy a picture of this controversial princess and her unconventional entry into the royal family, but since I don't speak Norwegian and can't understand the interviews anyway, that didn't bother me so much. Instead, I just enjoyed the glimpses into royal family life: Mette-Marit and Haakon have couches in their kitchen and Timeless Tiaras on their front table. You get to peek onto the royal yacht while the family was getting ready to depart for Crown Princess Victoria's wedding, and see Crown Prince Haakon lead a family jam session on his guitar. It is in Norwegian without English subtitles (if anyone knows of a subtitled version, do let me know), but there is a fair amount of English spoken in Part 2. You can view Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Philip at 90 is another great documentary focusing on a single royal, produced obviously for his 90th birthday earlier this year. He's always entertaining, even more so now that he's reached the age where he has a good excuse to say whatever he wants.
This is Part 1, you can click through for Part 2.

Constantine: A King's Story is a fascinating look at the demise of the monarchy in Greece.
Though it's rather sympathetic to King Constantine - through interviews here he tells his own side of the story - it does not leave him purely a victim in the loss of his throne, as some overly sweet portrayals might. Plus, you get a few bonus shots behind the scenes of Pavlos and Marie-Chantal's wedding celebrations.

Another excellent depiction of the fall of a monarchy can be found in The Last Shah, a BBC documentary that depicts how Shah Reza Pahlavi's reign ended up the last in a 2,500 year monarchy.
It's always interesting to dip a little further into the stories of some monarchies that don't get as much press as the European ones do.

 Ending on a fluffier note, Britain's Royal Weddings is good fun.
Many of the stories told here will be old news to veteran royal watchers, but let's be honest: royal weddings don't get old.

What are your favorite royal documentaries? 
Hook us up with a link if you can!