CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s TV: Forty years on, traitor Blunt may still be the Windsors’ downfall
Queen Elizabeth And The Spy In The Palace
Line Of Duty
Royal documentaries now fill so much airtime, they must be one of the UK’s biggest industries.
There are surely more people employed as talking heads, serving up palace gossip while sitting in armchairs flanked by bookcases, than are working today in shipbuilding or coal mining.
Following last week’s excellent profile of the Queen’s lifelong friend and lady-in-waiting Lady Pamela Hicks, this week ITV is showing The Day Will And Kate Got Married, and The Queen Unseen.
Queen Elizabeth and The Spy in the Palace was far from the usual speculation and tittle-tattle. The spy in question was Sir Anthony Blunt (pictured) who was named as a Soviet double agent 40 years ago
Channel 4, meanwhile, filled its Saturday schedule with The Windsors: Inside The Royal Dynasty and The Queen’s Lost Family.
Queen Elizabeth And The Spy In The Palace (C4) looked little different from any of these. It delivered the same mixture of archive footage, aerial shots of Windsor, mocked-up documents and professors in cardigans.
The story it told, though, was far from the usual speculation and tittle-tattle. This was more like a royal gardener burying hand grenades instead of tulip bulbs in the flowerbeds at Sandringham. It wasn’t until the end of the hour that some of the allegations started going off with a bang.
The spy in question was Sir Anthony Blunt, Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, who was named as a Soviet double agent 40 years ago.
Even if your knowledge of royal scandals extends no deeper than The Crown, you’ll know the name — Blunt was played by Samuel West in an episode of the Netflix drama. The traitor kept his post and his title when the FBI exposed him in 1964 but Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies) gave him a look of cold disgust, which made Blunt wince a bit.
Photo album of the weekend:
Every snap told a story in the rockumentary Freddie Mercury: A Life In Ten Pictures (BBC2), a festival of anecdotes and memories with the emphasis on the star’s off-stage personality. Great fun.
It gradually became clear, as this documentary unpacked its evidence, that the royal servant was far worse a villain than was ever admitted when Mrs Thatcher denounced him to the Commons in 1979.
As an MI5 officer involved in planning the D-Day landings in 1944, he jeopardised the operation by revealing its secrets to the Kremlin.
He also revealed to Moscow that British codebreakers at Bletchley Park were able to read German Enigma signals.
It was sheer luck that this venal man did not cost the Allies victory in World War II, not once but twice over — yet he cynically pleaded that he had acted on his conscience.
With an explosive final flourish, the show declared that even now Blunt’s treachery could prove devastating. According to Russian journalist Gennady Sokolov, President Putin has a cache of microfilm consisting of hundreds of wartime papers linking senior royals including the dukes of Windsor and Kent to the Nazis.
‘If the documents were published, it would lead to a huge scandal,’ claimed Sokolov, ‘the result of which could even be the fall of the dynasty.’
Boom went the tulips.
All these machinations were child’s play compared with the complexities in Line Of Duty (BBC1). DI Arnott (Martin Compston) was trying to kick his painkiller addiction by becoming an alcoholic instead.
All these machinations were child’s play compared with the complexities in Line Of Duty (BBC1)
He complained that backache hampered his performance in bed, but the triple-double Scotch he was swigging can’t have helped.
I know we’re not supposed to understand half of what’s going on, but I really can’t make out why trainee copper Ryan Pilkington (Gregory Piper) hasn’t been arrested on suspicion of murdering his colleague PC Lisa (Tara Divina). DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) was already so suspicious of him that she tailed him, before his patrol car made an unexpected detour into a reservoir.
Now AC-12 have evidence of his gangland connections, yet they leave him in uniform. It doesn’t make sense.