With all of the fuss surrounding the movie 'The Queen', one would think this is the first dramatization of the royal family. In fact, it isn't. Who could forget the 1982 movie: The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana starring Catherine Oxenberg as a young and naive Diana? or the 1992 update Charles and Diana: Unhappily Ever After, where she reprises her role, this time as disillusioned Diana. Diana seems to be an extremely popular subject for royal movies, but what about the other side of the story?
After a long wait, finally, we have a docu-drama telling the story of Charles and Camilla! They would be impressed by it; a sympathetic portrayal and it shows them young and relatively good looking. The title of this comes from the often quoted phrase Prince Charles used during his engagement interview. When the happy couple were asked whether they were in love, Diana replied "of course", and then Charles "Whatever in love means". Did Prince Charles know this phrase would haunt him the rest of his days?
The story covers the period from when they met in 1971, until the day of Prince Charles' wedding to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. First of all, I was a bit disappointed they ended it there. Where was the Dynasty worthy confrontation of Diana and Camilla? the slow-motion flying bread-rolls? They completely missed out on all the juicy stuff which would have made this bearable to watch.
The docu-drama begins with the disclaimer: For the purpose of dramatization, some characters, events, and dialogue have been invented'. This show thereby becomes a dramatization of all of the unsubstantiated quotes attributed to Charles, Camilla, Prince Philip and other members of the family. But it's not without it's fun points. Part of the fun became predicting the lines. While watching, I was waiting for Camilla to say "My great-grandmother and your great-great-grandfather had an affair, so how about it?". The fact that they didn't fall back on this sensational chestnut appealed to me. But they don't completely avoid it. The closest they come is Camilla saying that her great-grandmother's duty was to curtsey and then get into bed. Who says romance is dead?
The character of Camilla, portrayed by Olivia Poulet, bears more than a passing resemblance to the real Camilla at the same age. Prince Charles, stiffly portrayed by Laurence Fox has the awkward mannerisms down pat. Uncle Dickie, Prince Philip, and the Queen are in the background, while Princess Anne, acting as the sardonic voice of reason, is completely bored by it all. Ah, if only we could all be so blase about ruining other people's lives!
Charles seriously considers marrying Camilla, but Camilla, as her character says, has 'no desire to be Queen'. They contemplate the ramifications of having a future together. But there are obstacles: Uncle Dickie disapproves and duty calls. Charles goes off to the navy, hoping that Camilla will wait for him. Unfortunately for Charles, in the interim, Camilla marries Andrew Parker-Bowles and starts a family. But however hard he tries, Charles can't forget Camilla.
Andrew Parker-Bowles (Simon Wilson), hardly the cuckolded husband, has his own affairs, and is happy to 'lay down his wife' for the country. Her husband's unfaithfulness sets the stage for our sympathy and understanding when an unhappy Camilla, reluctantly turns to Charles for comfort.
But there's an obstacle to their happiness: Charles has to find a wife and sire heirs. Number one on their priority list is someone who will not interfere with their affair. Sitting at a table, pen in hand, Camilla and Charles brainstorm possible spouses. After a series of unsuitable women, they find Diana, pathetically portrayed by her doppelganger Michelle Duncan. Watching Lady Diana Spencer plead with Charles about Camilla, any sympathy we might have for the main characters is lost. Especially when Charles and Camilla get ready for the wedding with melodramatic, funereal music playing in the background.
Ultimately, there were no surprises. However it was refreshing to watch something which shows some sympathy for Charles and Camilla. Fallible, but not the diabolical schemers we would be led to believe by the press.
Although no one will win an Oscar for their performances, this is recommended if you're want a brief synopsis of their love story. Royal watchers, however, may find this extremely contrived.
© Marilyn Braun 2007
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