Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Prince Philip: The Plot to Make a King / Channel Four / VÍDEO /Secret History Prince Philip The Plot To Make A King HDTV x264 C4TV


Philip and Elizabeth in 1947. Photograph: National Portrait Gallery London/National Portrait Gallery London

Prince Philip: The Plot to Make a King review – ‘They mistrust and dislike Philip, for not being English, for not having gone to Eton, for not being one of us’

The story of the part-German prince, with sisters married to high-ranking Nazis, is not entirely unfamiliar, but it’s a good one, and there are some unseen pictures and footage thrown in to the mix

Sam Wollaston

Poor Prince Philip. Poor? That gaffing chump? I know, but, having watched Prince Philip: The Plot to Make a King (Channel 4), it’s hard not to feel, if not sorry for him, then at least a teeny bit sympathetic to the way he is.

His life didn’t start too badly, in a lovely house on Corfu. But then Philip’s father, the king’s brother, was sentenced to death. The family managed to get out of that one, and out of the country, to Britain, where they were mistrusted and unwelcome – not for the last time for Philip. France next, where Philip’s mother was packed off to a mental institution, though it’s unclear whether there was really anything wrong with her or whether her husband just wanted her out of the way so he could shack up with his mistress, which he did, in Monte Carlo.

So young Philip, who has already done exile and upheaval, is now effectively an orphan. And it gets worse: he is sent to boarding school, in Scotland, and is now being looked after – managed really – by his uncle Louis Mountbatten, who is ferociously ambitious for him, and wants him married to the girl who is going to be queen.

Others don’t, though. They mistrust and dislike Philip, for not being English (specifically for being German), for not having gone to Eton, for not being one of us. It doesn’t matter that he is in the Royal Navy and on our side in the war; his sisters are mostly married to high-ranking Nazis, so he’s at war with his own family. Even when he does, eventually, get the girl, it doesn’t become much easier for him. He has to give up his career, his name, his balls, and spend the rest of his life sulking around two paces behind his missus, swatting away irritants such as the press, “slitty-eyed” foreigners, women, mosquitoes, etc. No wonder he can be a bit tetchy.

There’s a bit of new stuff here – a sister’s memoir, some previously unseen old pictures and footage – even if the story isn’t an entirely unfamiliar one. It is a very jolly story though, and Tamsin Greig’s narration adds to the fun. Lovely punditry too, from Gyles Brandreth and some splendid old trouts who have resurfaced from another age and another world, Mountbatten sisters, and – my favourite – Lady Myra Butter, who certainly wouldn’t melt in her own mouth.

Prince Philip: The Plot To Make a King, TV review: How a pariah became a prince

The Channel 4 programme was interesting both as a biography of this eccentric royal and as a record of the behind-the-scenes machinations of an influential 20th-century figure

Oh, Prince Philip! What a card! Or perhaps you feel the 94-year-old king consort is a living, breathing argument for the immediate abolition of the monarchy? Either way, there's no denying his regular gaffes keep us all on our toes. Prince Philip: the Plot to Make a King was therefore interesting both as a biography of this eccentric royal and as a record of the behind-the-scenes machinations of an influential 20th-century figure. Not Philip, obviously, but his maternal uncle, Lord "Dickie" Mountbatten, the man who brought the royal couple together, as revealed by recently unearthed documents.

Now that we've all seen those images of the young Queen Elizabeth II giving a "Heil Hitler" salute on the front page of The Sun, the revelation that her husband also had connections to the Third Reich – as, in fact, did many British aristocrats of the period – didn't come as such a surprise.
Still, the photographs of a young Philip flanked by Nazi officers during his sister Cecilie's 1937 funeral were illuminating, as was the account of his early childhood in Greece and Paris. Poor Philip was only nine years old when his mother was carted off to an asylum and his father left his children and moved to the south of France to live with a mistress, whereupon Philip was enrolled in a Scottish boarding school, then Dartmouth Naval College and taken under the wing of his colourful uncle.

So how did the young midshipman come across? The word "Adonis" was chucked around rather too liberally by some of these talking heads, but you know how fawning royal biographers can be. More interesting was the account of Mountbatten's ingenious and strenuous efforts to ingratiate his nephew with the British establishment.

He never wasted an opportunity to advance his scheme within the hearing of any influential person and, crucially, suggested that Prince Phillip adopt Mountbatten as his surname. Because if ever a name were a tad too German-sounding, it's probably Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. Yet, still, the senior royals turned their noses up. "He was rather like Princess Diana when she first came into the royal compound," observed historian Christopher Wilson. "He wasn't one of us."

Prince Philip: The Plot to Make a King, review: 'intriguing'
We should make the most of this fascinating character while there's still time, says Christopher Howse

I had thought from the juicy title, Prince Philip: The Plot to Make a King (Channel 4), that this would be about some mad scheme like the request from the newspaper man Cecil King to Earl Mountbatten of Burma in May 1968 to become titular head of an emergency government if blood ran in the streets under Harold Wilson’s rule.
The nearest this documentary by Richard Sanders came to such a loony venture was in digging up a suggestion made by the deeply suspect Kenneth de Courcy to the exiled Duke of Windsor in 1946, encouraging him to become regent if George VI grew too ill. Christopher Wilson, one of the engaging talking-heads in the film, wrote about that in The Sunday Telegraph six years ago. De Courcy had a smell of sulphur about him that could have soured the film, but wisely he was dropped from the narrative pretty smartish.
In an earlier draft the documentary was called Young Philip: The Battle for the Throne. At its heart was the desire of Mountbatten, Prince Philip’s uncle, to influence the Royal family through a dynastic marriage of his nephew to Princess Elizabeth. The idea was parallel to the Coburgs setting up Prince Albert to influence Queen Victoria.
But, as the calm voice of the narrator Tamsin Greig commented, Prince Philip of Greece was a bit too German. Queen Elizabeth, our Queen’s mother, was said to have referred to him as The Hun. His four sisters married Germans, three of whom became Nazis.
I spotted no royal Hitler salutes in the film, and indeed Philip fought the Germans. But pre-war footage showed him at a sister’s funeral surrounded by Nazis, and another sister was photographed next to Hitler at a dinner. After inviting Hitler to lunch at her flat, she wrote in her diary “We were impressed by this charming and seemingly modest man.” This charming man was not exactly what Morrissey had in mind, perhaps.
In the end it boiled down to this: What’s the Queen’s surname? Neither Prince Philip nor Princess Elizabeth had one. They were too grand for anything so vulgar, though they belonged to houses. So Mountbatten was cock a hoop when Princess Anne used the made-up surname Mounbatten-Windsor in the register when she married. He had a tie made with Ms and Ws mirroring each other.
I loved watching the top-rank talking-heads: Mountbatten’s daughters, the biographers Philip Eade and Gyles Brandreth, and the racy Piers Brendon (who quoted Sir Gerald Templer saying to Mountbatten: “You’re so crooked, if you swallowed a nail, you’d shit a corkscrew.”). So more, please, about the intriguing Prince Philip. We all like him, and there can’t be much time.

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