Royal ventures into the world of production

Prince Edward and a friend get to grips with a TV camera at Alton Towers Theme Park in preparation for the filming of the Gra
Prince Edward and a friend get to grips with a TV camera at Alton Towers Theme Park in preparation for the filming of the Grand Knockout Tournament. The Prince will be joining three other royals in captaining teams of personalities in a series of fun games for charity.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are not the first members of the royal family to turn their hand to producing films and television programmes.

With Harry and Meghan signing a major Netflix deal, estimated by some to be worth 100 million or even as much as 250 million US dollars, here is a look at how some of the other Windsors have fared behind the camera.

– The Earl of Wessex

Edward, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh’s youngest son, masterminded and organised a royal version of It’s A Knockout in 1987.

He persuaded the Princess Royal and Duke and Duchess of York to dress up in medieval costumes and perform slapstick feats for the TV game show.

The programme, staged at Alton Towers, attracted 18.3 million viewers and raised more than £1 million for charity, but was seen as an embarrassment to the royal family.

Edward
Edward preparing for the Grand Knockout tournament (PA)

After its finale, Edward stormed out of a press conference after journalists showed little enthusiasm for the pageant.

He joined Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Company as a production assistant, working behind the scenes, handling paperwork on musicals such as Cats and Starlight Express.

He established a production company The Theatre Division staging plays but it collapsed in 1991.

Edward then set up a film company, Ardent Productions, in 1993, putting his own money into the project.

His business card styled him “Edward Windsor, Television Producer” and he said the name Ardent represented ambition, motivation and strength.

But he was accused of cashing in on his royal status after making programmes about the royal family including the Windsor Castle restoration, the abdicated Duke of Windsor and a historical documentary Crown And Country.

Edward also sparked a bitter row with his brother the Prince of Wales when an Ardent crew was found filming at St Andrews University shortly after Prince William began studying there in 2001.

Charles was said to be incandescent with rage after discovering the team was from his brother’s firm.

The crew was accused of continuing to film despite being warned they risked breaching a media agreement to allow the student prince his privacy.

William at St Andrews
Prince William arriving at St. Andrews University accompanied by his father in 2001 (Toby Melville/PA)

Ardent was making an A-Z of Royalty show for an American cable company.

The events sparked a royal crisis with the Queen’s senior advisers stepping in, ending in Ardent having to hand over their master tapes to Buckingham Palace.

Edward later vowed to stop making TV programmes about the royal family.

Ardent made substantial losses most years.

Edward eventually stepped down from commercial work in 2002 following controversy over the Wessexes’ dual roles, and Ardent was voluntarily dissolved in 2009 with assets of just £40.

– Sarah, Duchess of York

The former royal, Sarah, Duchess of York, was one of the executive producers of the 2009 film, The Young Victoria, which starred Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend.

It was the duchess’s idea to make a film about Victoria’s early years and her romance with Prince Albert.

The ex-wife of the Duke of York previously wrote a book about the long-reigning monarch, entitled Travels with Queen Victoria.

The Young Victoria
Actresses Miranda Richardson and Emily Blunt with Sarah, Duchess of York at the world premiere of The Young Victoria in 2009 (Yui Mok/PA)

Her eldest daughter Princess Beatrice was given a non-speaking role as an extra, and the movie drew mostly favourable reviews and won Baftas for costume design and make up.

Following the coronavirus outbreak, the duchess launched a Storytime With Fergie And Friends YouTube channel.

She has been reading a daily children’s book to entertain youngsters, particularly during lockdown.

The duchess’ on-screen appearances in documentaries have caused controversy.

In 2009, she went undercover with Princess Eugenie for an investigation into homes for abandoned children in Turkey, which enraged the country’s authorities, sparking legal problems after she was accused of breaking strict privacy laws.

In another programme, Sarah spent time on a Manchester housing estate in a show aimed at bringing back community spirit but which angered some locals who claimed it painted the wrong image of their area.

– The Prince of Wales

Heir to the throne Charles has appeared in numerous documentaries, but he also once guest edited Countryfile.

He approached the BBC himself to ask if he could take on the role to mark the show’s 25th anniversary in 2013.

Charles
The Prince of Wales during a National Hedgelaying Championships (David McHugh/PA)

Presenter Julia Bradbury told how the prince, a champion of organic and sustainable farming, accidentally whipped her across the face with a stray branch during filming, but was very apologetic.

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