Queen and Country uses a mixture of personal recollections, classic archive film and contemporary footage to tell Queen Elizabeth II’s story, beginning with her ascension to the throne in the early 1950s.
 

Queen and Country

This blog is really about a series we’re airing Sundays at 8 p.m. called Queen and Country. Bear with me while I meander my way to the point (if, indeed, I have one).

My friend Bob the Canadian is a merchant sailor, a musician and a bohemian. Not one of those fake “lifestyle” bohemians, either. I have never known anyone with fewer material needs, a more curious mind or a greater openness to all kinds of people and experiences. Among his many life adventures, he has roamed with gypsies, lived with the Cree of northern Quebec, delivered diapers and food via barge to villages in the Arctic circle and once found himself living in a cave in France (well, what happens when you run out of money in Europe?). When we first met, I was sure he was making this all up — until I met some of his friends. He writes wonderful poetry and makes up amazing, hilarious songs off the top of his head. These days Bob lives in a little stone house in the midst of Canadian cattle country, in the winter warming his wee home with a wood stove and himself with Hudson Bay wool blankets, purchased at his favorite store, the “Sally Ann.” That’s Canadian (or Bob) for “Salvation Army.”

This is not the expected profile of a man who loves the Queen. But Bob does, and he sometimes gets teary-eyed about it.

The first time he and I talked about Queen Elizabeth II — and, believe it or not, she comes up often — we were looking at her image on the Canadian $20 bill. Bob got a little weepy. I started to laugh. Wrong response. He may be Canadian (and an atypical one when it comes to She), but he also has the heart of a British subject.

What is it about The Queen?? The public’s fascination goes much deeper than tabloid celebrity obsession. Maybe Queen and Country will offer some insight. That’s why I’m watching it Sunday nights at 8 o’clock on PBS 45 & 49.

For Americans accustomed to a “throw-the-bums-out” ritual every few years, perhaps we cannot fathom the deep historical continuity or transcendence of time embodied in the figure of a monarch. If you ask Bob, he’ll launch into a complicated reverie that involves Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, the mythic imagination, a little Joseph Campbell and reflections on our longing for cosmic order. He likes to think about the best things a king or a queen might represent — a symbol of grace, majesty, justice, benevolence, stability and social order. He doesn’t deny the historical realities of abuse of power or imperialism or dismiss arguments that it may be an archaic form of government. To him, these are examples of something good gone bad. “It’s not flawless, but it is a foundation,” says Bob. “In the anatomy of authority, there should be a steadfast steward of the people. The monarch should represent the noblest aspirations of our collectiveness.” Or something like that.

That’s just one man’s ideas. If you’re trying to understand the Brits and their monarchy, check out Queen and Country. But don’t expect an exposé. This is an unabashedly affectionate look at a woman who has ruled for more than 50 years.

You’ve only missed the first installment (which aired Nov. 4) and since the programs are not episodic, you won’t feel out of the loop. You can read the four program descriptions below. In an effort to retain the true British flavor — er, flavour — of the series, I haven’t bothered to translate the text to American.

 

QUEEN AND COUNTRY

Part One: Servant of the People (Sunday, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m.)
In 2002, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Golden Jubilee and became only the fifth monarch in British history to do so. To commemorate this historic event, Queen and Country, a landmark series written and presented by William Shawcross, the award-winning writer and royal commentator, tells the definitive history of The Queen’s fifty years on the throne. The first programme in this four part series looks at the changing relationship between The Queen and her people. The last fifty years have been one of the most difficult periods in our history and Britain today bears little resemblance to the country The Queen inherited in 1952. Queen and Country tells the story of The Queen’s accession following Her father’s death while she was in Africa and the huge impact the coronation had on post-war Britain. The deference with which The Queen was greeted then is very different to modern attitudes to the monarchy and the programme charts changes in The Queen’s approach from the introduction of Royal walk-abouts to Christmas broadcasts and the fly-on-the-wall documentary, Royal Family, made in the 1960s. Bringing the story up to date, The Queen is shown at one of her garden parties and chatting informally with members of the British table tennis team at a reception at Buckingham Palace.

Interviewees in this first programme include Baroness Thatcher, John Major, The Princess Royal and Lady Pamela Hicks, a former lady-in-waiting as well as many ordinary people who have met The Queen during her reign. Revelatory, authoritative and entertaining, Queen and Country is both a candid portrait of the Queen and an absorbing study of the changing face of the monarchy and of Britain during the past half-century.

 

Part Two: Private Passions (Sunday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m.)
In an age when the private lives of the Royal Family have become the subject of intense media attention, The Queen has remained a rather elusive figure. William Shawcross reveals what The Queen is like off duty: what her favourite pastimes are, how she relaxes and what has kept her going for the fifty years of her reign. The programme reveals who has most influenced The Queen and how she handles problems in her own family. Bishop Michael Mann, the former Dean of Windsor, talks of the Christian faith and deep sense of duty that underpins The Queen’s daily life. The Princess Royal talks candidly about having a mother who is also The Queen. The Queen’s love of horses is explored, with interviews from her trainer Fred Darling and Michael Oswald, her former stud manager, talking of her knowledge of, and passion for, racing. Sir Kenneth Stove, former Private Secretary, tells of an occasion when The Queen interrupted dinner with the Prime Minister to hear the results of the day’s racing. Bill Meldrum, her former gun dog manager, discusses her love of the country and her sense of mischief as she disguises herself to go on walks.

The programme includes footage of The Queen off duty with her dogs on the moors at Balmoral and with her horses at Sandringham. Home-movie footage of The Queen as a child is also shown for the first time.

 

Part Three: Enduring Loyalties (Sunday, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m.)
William Shawcross examines The Queen’s role on the international stage and in the Commonwealth. The Queen had 300 million subjects around the world when she was crowned Queen. Most of the colonies which acclaimed Elizabeth as Queen in 1952 have long since become independent republics. But Britain’s loss of its empire has to some extent been concealed by the growth of the Commonwealth, the association of former colonies all of whom acknowledge The Queen as its head. Elizabeth II has travelled more widely than all her predecessors put together. On her first Coronation overseas tour, the beautiful young Queen was mobbed just as excitedly as Princess Diana was thirty years later. People who have travelled with The Queen on foreign visits re-live the moments of excitement and difficulty and show how her talent for diplomacy has deflected many potentially embarrassing situations. Lord Chalfont, a Foreign Office minister on The Queen’s visit to Brazil in 1968, reveals how she put everyone at ease following a power cut in the middle of a ceremony at the presidential palace; Douglas Hurd, another former Foreign Office minister, explains how she tactfully handled a meeting with the capricious King Hassan II of Morocco. Leaders from around the world talk about the important role The Queen plays internationally. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, talks about the unique part The Queen plays in international relations.

 

Part Four: My Government & I (Sunday, Nov. 25 at 8 p.m.)
The Queen has had five Prime Ministers in five decades — as many as Queen Victoria had in 63 years. Over the half-century of her reign, change has been phenomenal. In all that time, argues William Shawcross, the only constant has been The Queen. The relationship between The Queen and her Prime Minister is at the heart of the constitution. Central to it is the regular weekly meeting between the two; every Tuesday evening when both monarch and premier are in London they meet to discuss the week’s events. What is said in their weekly conversations remains completely private. This week Queen & Country examines The Queen’s political role as Head of State and talks to Prime Ministers past and present to give some glimpse into the relationship. The Queen’s first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill, and in some ways he remained her favourite. Each was overawed by the other — he by her loveliness and youthful eagerness to learn, she by his long and victorious life. His daughter, Mary, talks about their relationship and says that her father was “pretty much in love with her.” In fifty years The Queen has only once been at the centre of deep political controversy: in 1963 she appointed a hereditary peer as Conservative Prime Minister, to the dismay of many in his own party. Her decision was so controversial that both main parties have ensured that the choice of Prime Minister is, in effect, no longer in her hands.

About Me
Lisa Martinez is Western Reserve Public Media’s Vice President of Marketing & Development. [more]

 

Read past blogs

Counting Down and Counting on You — Dec. 3, 2012

Cat Meets Squirrel, Offers Tour of House — Nov. 5, 2012

More, Please — Feb. 2, 2011

The Child Is Father of the Man — Nov. 15, 2010

In Praise of Simple Machines (And the People Who Know How to Use Them) — Oct. 25, 2010

This week, take time to stop and smell the dirt — April 19, 2010

It’s Like Shark Week for People Who Like Documentaries on the Subject of Religion — March 27, 2010

This is about Extreme Mega NOVA — Feb. 9, 2010

Pride and Prejudice: A Ridiculously Brief History of the Novel in Film — Jan. 31, 2008

Theeere Was Johnny — Jan. 7, 2008

The Name’s the Thing — Dec. 13, 2007

The British Really Are Coming — Nov. 28, 2007

Eavesdropping Heaven — Nov. 20, 2007

The Theoriousness of Theory — Nov. 12, 2007

Queen and Country — Nov. 7, 2007

Rats — Oct. 29, 2007

I Love Ruff Ruffman — Oct. 22, 2007

Eight-letter word for quirky documentary? — Oct. 15, 2007

Does Nova have a contender? — Oct. 1, 2007

 
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