TV goes royal 'crazy' in run-up to Harry and Meghan marriage


Republicans might like to look away from their television screens for the next six weeks.

An avalanche of royal documentaries is set to flood schedules across the world in the run-up to the marriage of Britain's Prince Harry and the American actress Meghan Markle next month.

"The world has gone crazy for the royal wedding," said Nick Bullen, the king of British royal TV, who has nearly nine hours of programmes in the pipeline for National Geographic, America's Fox network and Britain's ITV.

Rival shows such as "Invitation to a Royal Wedding", about the behind-the-scenes planning for the big day, are among a raft being snapped up by buyers at MIPTV, the world's top TV market in Cannes, France.

"Kate and William was big," said Bullen, referring to the 2011 wedding of the second in line to the throne to the Duchess of Cambridge. "But the Meghan factor has been huge. This is now an American story, one of their own, an American princess," he added.

"The last American to marry into the royal family was Wallace Simpson and look what happened there. That was quite a big world story."

Markle is like nothing the British royal family has ever seen before, Bullen told AFP.

"We now have a divorced mixed race actress. She is beautiful, clever and opinionated. She is bringing something to the House of Windsor that has been missing for an awful long time. She is making the Windsors feel relevant to an audience that hadn't considered them before."

New young and black fans

African, black and ethnic minority audiences are now relating to the royals in a way they never did before, said the head of Spun Gold films.

That comes on top of "the whole new generation who have been brought to the royals" through the runaway success of "The Crown", Netflix's number one series, Bullen insisted.

His company's history of the family, "The Royal House of Windsor" was also a big surprise hit on the online platform, showing the curiosity they now spark with young audiences.

"The Queen's Wikipedia page has reported record traffic after 'The Crown' as viewers check the plot with the facts," he added.

Bullen, whose company won a BAFTA award for its documentary on the Queen's 90th birthday, said for royal programmes to work they had to have real insight.

"We don't make toadying TV, some people have. But in a world of fake news you need truth at the heart of it, and if you have that you have a hit show."

But he admitted that the Palace had to be kept onside "to keep making these programmes. We keep them in the loop. You have to play with a very straight bat."

'Relaxed and funny' Queen

Among the other new royal docs being previewed at Cannes is a highly unusual and unexpectedly touching portrait of the Queen.

"The Queen's Green Planet" reveals her lifelong passion for trees, with a "relaxed and funny" monarch taking the naturalist Sir David Attenborough on a tour of the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

The pair, both 91, were born within three weeks of his each other, and have a wonderful screen chemistry, director Jane Treays told AFP.

"They laughed and were quite playful with each other. They have known each other a long time and because of that, we see quite surprising things like her real passion for trees.

"She has spent her life planting trees, and so have her ancestors. It was very beautiful and touching to see how she relates to them, and how much they mean to her. She has a particular love of some London plane trees planted by Queen Victoria", her great-great-grandmother.

The film, made by ITN to highlight the Queen's bid to build a network of global protected forests, will be broadcast in Britain on April 16.

In one hilarious moment, the Queen reveals that her huge collection of new varieties of plants came from people who were unsure of what to get her.

"I've been quite difficult to give presents to," she quipped, "so they've said, 'Oh, let's give her a plant.'"

Britain's Prince Harry to marry Meghan Markle

  • Britain's Prince Harry is to marry his US actress girlfriend Meghan Markle early next year it was announced Monday, with the Queen leading a chorus of approval and best wishes for the couple who got engaged in secret earlier this month.
  • "His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle. The wedding will take place in Spring 2018," Clarence House, Prince Charles's office, said a statement.
  • The couple's engagement was sealed in London and the prince then informed his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, close members of the royal family and had also sought the blessing of Markle's parents.
  • "The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh are delighted for the couple and wish them every happiness," said a message on the monarch's official Twitter page.
  • The couple will live at Nottingham Cottage in London's Kensington Palace, where his brother William and his pregnant wife Kate live with their two children.
  • Harry's 36-year-old bride-to-be is best known for her role as a lawyer in the hit television show "Suits".
  • Reports that Markle, who is expected to become a duchess, was moving her two dogs -- Guy and Bogart -- to London further fuelled rumours of the first royal wedding since William and Kate in 2011.
  • The actress's parents Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland said in a statement they were "incredibly happy" and wished the couple "a lifetime of happiness."
  • "Our daughter has always been a kind and loving person," they said. "To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents."
  • Prince Harry revealed Monday that he proposed to US actress Meghan Markle over roast chicken, and said she would be "unbelievably good" at her new royal role despite its pressures.
  • The couple said they were enjoying "a cosy night" at home in his cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace earlier this month - "trying to roast a chicken" - when he got down on one knee.
  • "She didn't even let me finish, she said, 'can I say yes? can I say yes?' and then there were hugs," Harry said in the couple's first interview since the announcement of their engagement earlier Monday.
  • They revealed they knew little about each other when they were set up on a "blind date" by a mutual friend.
  • Harry said he had never heard of Markle, while the actress added she was largely ignorant about the British royal family and just asked of their friend, "is he nice?" The date went so well they immediately met up again before going camping together for five days in Botswana just a few weeks later.
  • "Then we were really by ourselves, which was crucial to me to make sure we had a chance to get to know each other," Prince Harry said.
  • They spent the first few months after that staying in, cooking dinner and watching television to avoid any public attention.
  • Bookmakers have already started taking wedding related bets, with Westminster Abbey a firm favourite to host the event and fashion label Alexander McQueen favourite to design the dress.