Tonight at 10 p.m. ET, CBC Newsworld airs part one of Diamond Queen, a three-part series that looks at the monarch’s life and reign. It’s part of an avalanche of books, TV specials and exhibitions or special events marking the 60th anniversary of Elizabeth II’s ascent to the throne. Most are forgettable attempts to cash in on the celebration, but some are worth watching.
Andrew Marr’s documentary is a step above most of the others for a simple reason: he gets her family to talk, on the record, about the Queen. And that’s incredibly unusual. Rarer still is that Marr gets peaks into their private lives, such as when Princess Beatrice, Andrew’s daughter, shows Marr the tiny Welsh cottage located on the grounds of the Royal Lodge of Windsor Castle that was built for the Queen and her sister, Margaret, when they were children. (Everything in Y Bwthyn Bach (the Little House) is child-sized, down to the sofas and even the kitchen appliances. While renovated, it hasn’t been updated since the 1930s.)
That being said, the first episode is surprisingly ho-hum, as though Marr is marking time before getting to the good stuff in the second and third weeks. It features way too many stand-ups by Marr—as if he’s out to prove that, yes, he really did see the Queen on tour here, or the Queen meeting a worthy there. It’s as if he wants the lead role in a Diamond Jubilee edition of Where’s Waldo?
The final two episodes (which I haven’t seen) deal with modernizing the monarchy, defining moments of her reign and her relationship with the media. Apparently, the must-watch scene is when princes Harry and William talk about the Queen overriding William’s outfit choice for his marriage last year to Kate Middleton. He may be king one day, but his grandmother still calls the shots.