THE QUEEN’S PALACES: Monday 26th September, BBC1, 9pm
Fiona Bruce drew back the luxurious red curtains for one final time last night as viewers were treated to a behind the scenes peek at the Queenâs Scottish bolt-hole, Holyroodhouse.
Questions have been raised about whether Bruceâs new gig as presenter of Antiques Roadshow combined with her sporadic appearances as royal correspondent genuinely qualify her to write and present a series on the history of the British monarchy. Perhaps rightly so. But in this third and final episode of the series, the frequency with which an enthusiastic array of bespectacled experts appear saves the programme from farce.
The five hundred year old palace of Holyroodhouse sits between the dramatic Salisbury Crags and extinct volcano of Arthurâs seat. This moody setting does not go unnoticed by the production team and the opening scenes would not look out of place in a fourth Lord of the Rings movie. Viewers are promised âmurder, mystery and a struggle for power…a biography in stoneâ?. But Bruce soon pops the suspense with her perfectly manicured fingernail when she directs our attention to the innocuous tapestry of a cat.
Hearing about the history of Mary Queen of Scots is all jolly interesting, however, and the programme certainly does not skimp on detail. There were plenty of gory details about the murder of Maryâs Italian stallion secretary by her âaristocratic thugâ? husband, Henry Stuart. The Queenâs own grisly end is recounted by Bruce with sinister delight.
Unfortunately it also appears that although you can take the girl out of the newsroom, you canât take the newsroom out of the girl. Bruceâs well-seasoned newsreader tone forces her to place emphasis on some of the most average facts, giving us the impression that we should be stunned by the fact that a staircase was built âon the outside(!)â? of a building in France.
In between wandering the halls of Holyroodhouse or Queen Maryâs French home in Blois, Bruce is sent out to the freezing fields surrounding the palace to explain about Queen Maryâs penchant for hunting which involved specially imported beasts, or some decadent pastime of bygone days.
The stories and facts are all relatively interesting and a close look at the artefacts in the house will certainly intrigue many viewers. The problem with the series, and this episode in particular, is that it fails to mention anything about the modern day royals. We see nothing of their living quarters, nothing of their staff and hear nothing of their visits to the area. If this is a bid to avoid disrespecting her majesty then I canât help but think that she shouldnât have let Bruce come a-wandering in the first place. It seems to be a particularly inoffensive, textbook tour of the palace and would not be out of place in the cassette players of eager tourists taking a taped tour.
I think Bruce is trying to avoid any more nasty run-ins with Prince Phillip. She has been burned once and she ainât about