Five hours - double DVD
set - plus over two hours of extras footage in addition to the
three original BBC programmes first broadcast in March 2005.
First programme: The Banquet
Originally Broadcast on Sunday 27 March, 8:00 pm - 9:00
Second programme: Four Seasons
Originally Broadcast on Sunday 3 Apr, 8:00 pm - 9:00
Third programme: The Ranger
Originally Broadcast on Sunday 10 Apr, 8:00 pm - 9:00
As a Windsorian born and
bred, the view of Windsor Castle above the town has always meant
a great deal, such that on the fearsome occasion in 1992 when
we watched the red glow above the castle and the flames leaping
high into the sky from the Brunswick Tower, it was hard to believe
that our much loved castle would or could ever be the same again.
In many ways the castle is not the same
as it was, but with the great skills that were assembled for
its restoration, it is arguable that the castle is now even better
than it was before, with a number of new and imaginative features
added, not least the Lantern Lobby that has transformed a rather
dark and dimly lit area into a masterpiece of light oak.
The BBC's new series about life in the
castle is, in short, fascinating. It is a source of great pride
that perhaps the most famous castle in the world continues to
maintain the high standards and attention to detail with which
it has been associated for so long. It is this attention to detail
that was so much to the fore in the first of these programmes
as it concentrated on the events and plans surrounding the visit
of President Jacques Chirac of France on the occasion of the
100th anniversary of the 'Entente Cordiale' between the UK and
France, originally signed on April 8, 1904.
The high-point of the visit was the State
Banquet laid on in the St George's Hall followed by a concert
performance of selections from Les Miserables in the Waterloo
Chamber. For some reason that for the moment escapes me, the
Waterloo Chamber was renamed the Music Room for the night, though
I think it fooled no-one, especially not the French President,
although he may well have smiled at this additional attention
We saw the meticulous attention to detail
as it applied to the laying out of the great dining table with
almost 150 place settings, the French polisher walking its length,
standing on the table with his British Airways flight slippers
on, ensuring the perfection of the polished surface. We saw the
perfect alignment of the chairs, and the care taken over the
seating plan and we were shown the Housekeeper's staff practising
their skills in unpacking and repacking a guest's suitcase, carefully
taking notes of every item and its location, though I do hope
that all guests were advised that their packing would be so scrutinised
by the castle staff upon their arrival!
With such care and attention to every
aspect of the preparations it is a shame that President Chirac
didn't take equal care over his arrival time. With stop-watch
precision required, President Chirac arrived, we are told, thirty
minutes late. Even the Queen plays her part in this precision,
understanding its importance in achieving a faultless event.
The Queen always takes a close interest in, and comments constructively
upon, much of the preparation herself. This is no wonder for
she has very many years experience of such thing, Princess and
Queen, so it was no surprise to hear HM herself proposing that
the Thames Valley Hospice here in Windsor should be given the
flowers from the banquet immediately after they were no longer
required at the castle.
At this point I should point out for
the benefit of those with Republican tendencies that this banquet
was a state affair and therefore paid for by the Foreign Office
and was an important step in trying to renew amicable relations
following the French refusal to back the recent war in Iraq.
Here is a perfect example of how the Queen in her 'apolitical'
rôle can play an important part in restoring relations
with other countries that no politician could so readily achieve.
And as to cost, were any Presidential banquets ever held on the
The second episode covers Easter and
the Royal Family's stay at Windsor from where all royal business
is conducted rather than from Buckingham Palace. The programme
takes a look at the Queen's horses, both those she rides, and
those used for ceremonial purposes, and features Terry Pendry,
the Stud Groom, as he trains two Windsor Greys. One of the oldest
and grandest of ceremonies, the Garter Procession and Service,
is also featured.
The final programme features a guided
tour of various areas in the Great Park with The Duke of Edinburgh,
The Chief Ranger, acting as guide. The Duke takes a keen interest
in Windsor Great Park and its history as well as its care and
maintenance, understanding as he does that a very long term view
must be taken, often 100 years and more, when it comes to tree
planting and conservation.
What a feast these programmes