on May 1, 2012
In this three part series, the viewer is taken on an excursion through three of the palaces that Queen Elizabeth II has as her official places of residence: Buckingham Palace in London, Windsor Castle, and Holyrood House in Edinburgh. Fiona Bruce escorts us through the history and lore -- always interesting -- of each palace in about an hour. I found the history of Buckingham Palace most interesting, with it starting as a swampy outskirt of London and a favoured hunting ground for Henry VIII and then as a country house for the Duke of Buckingham, and finally how it became the handsome residence under the guidance of Prince Albert. Windsor wasn't quite as good, but still interesting from the summer season when tourists flock and such as St. George's day. What was a surprise to me was the story of Holyrood House, and made me all the more keen to journey to the United Kingdom. But the big reveal here were the objects from the Royal Collection -- held in trust for the British people by the Queen -- that were shown, and the interesting stories behind them. History geeks will have a grand time with this. The only draw-back were the extended bits with Fiona Bruce, who played the 'Dig ME!' screen time just a little too long. Four stars overall.
on July 7, 2012
I won't go on & on. I'm not that kind of reviewer, but I would like to share what I like about this DVD. I received "Queen's Palaces" for a birthday gift and I absolutely love this DVD. We get to see inside Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle & Holyrood House in Scotland. Each segment was so well done by Fiona Bruce. She flowed through the rooms (she, appropriately styled as well), which made you think you were beside her. The history of the palaces and objects in them were so interesting, you didn't want the segments to end. She made even George IV appear interesting explaining his differing decorating style with other sovereigns (including his mad & frugal father George III). It was nice to get the history about Holyrood House, which we do not hear of often enough. This DVD is worth every penny to purchase and keep in your collection. I hope they bring out a second companion to this series. There is so much more we can appreciate in the other houses. Well Done BBC & Fiona Bruce! God bless the Queen & her family.
THE QUEEN'S PALACES (2012, presented by Fiona Bruce) is an interesting documentary series showing, well, the Queen's palaces. It also shows a few of the places she can call "home". In these pages you can find the data you need to learn about what this documentary shows regarding Buckingham Palace, Sandringham, and the others.
Now on to my deeply personal viewpoint about all this. Fiona Bruce is a fine presenter, a bit of a rough voice for my taste but she is always respectfully soft-spoken too. However, between shots of Fiona's stunning beauty and various silly drawings involving the history of the land the palaces are built on, etc., etc., ... you get the picture?
No? Well this documentary gives very little in the way of pictures, that is the point. Frankly it is a stupendous waste of time and production money to have done a thing like this. Each episode, that is, each residence, has about an hour devoted to it. Well I have calculated about 10 to 15 minutes of that shows you the exteriors, the interiors, and the grounds.
Guess what the other 45 minutes consists of? - give up?
As badly as I like to watch anything about England, and as much as I wanted to like this documentary, I just can't do it. Fiona Bruce's attractiveness as a presenter and narrator notwithstanding, I find myself drifting away from these episodes. And that is tragedy on a scale almost unknown to Anglophile film-lovers.
It is almost unheard of that I would steer viewers from anything English and factual. Yet here is this series which serves as a reminder: the British do tend to ruin a simple, good thing if they get the chance.
Get this if you must - I know I won't waste my money on it - it is definitely not short on quality. It's the quantity that matters in these cases however, and this series simply does not cut the mustard. We are not amused.
on February 7, 2013
I was so looking forward to viewing this series.
But, OMG, it is awful. Fiona Bruce - dressed in blue Saran Wrap - dominates. And this is not good.
She is OK as a narrator, and that should have been her role, while lovely scenes of the palaces are shown. Instead, we get a LOT of airtime with Fiona walking, walking, walking, talking, singing (I kid you not), and even sitting in a gondola in Venice. Yes, Venice. Of course Venice is wonderful, but I purchased the DVD to see the Queen's palaces. You know, in England and Scotland.
Was the director in love with Bruce?
I also cringed at the inaccuracies and the many many many missed opportunities.
The DVD should have been titled: THE INCREDIBLE FIONA BRUCE while she deigns to pay a bit of attention to some old palaces.
In short: a painful viewing experience. The numerous good reviews are baffling.
on January 20, 2013
Not enjoyable. The whole documentary focuses on the narrator. The viewer sees far more of her than the palaces. Who's idea was that? She has a very nice voice for narration, but she should have been heard and not seen!
on December 1, 2012
While it was a thrill to see the inside of these palaces once again, this DVD could have covered more ground (making it even more interesting) by either extending the length of the individual features or cutting out Fiona Bruce whose bad strappy sandals with wooden (?) heels began to get on my nerves. Ah, yes, but our wee Fiona is a star, ennit? And she'll not let us forget it neither. Shots of Fiona tramping the grounds, swishing along the corridors, grandly pushing through the mirrored interior doors, and (twice) opening the front doors to Buckingham Palace like she lived there both made me cringe and wasted valuable reel time. The only interesting traipsing incidents were when she picked her way underground to the river Tyburn beneath Buckingham Palace and when she followed the secret stairway at Windsor. Oh, and did I mention that she takes up reel time by rendering a reedy version of a Mendelssohn duet? Och! All this Fiona business is meant to make the documentary more human and less dry, but I found it an intrusion. I would have preferred a floating camera through these fairy tale palaces like I was discovering them by myself. Fiona could've done voice-over and rare brief interviews.
This DVD shows us a bare dusting of these three great palaces, and tosses in a few interesting facts, but omits some really fascinating bits, so the tours seem a bit fluffy, but they're better than nothing at all! I, for one, would've loved a peek into the private living quarters, but I don't think anyone is permitted that.
When I visited Holyrood House I was amazed at the small size of the living chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was herself a tall woman. I suppose it made heating more efficient. During his murder, Rizzio was dragged down a short flight of stairs to a large chamber in which Mary used to receive delegates, and the floorboards there feature a sizable blood stain rumored to be his. This room now houses works of art, among which are two small but intriguing portraits: one of Anne Boleyn, and one of her sister, Mary, hanging in this gallery presumably because Anne's daughter, Elizabeth I, was a cousin to Mary of Scots. I wonder these two works of rare art aren't shown more often in textbooks because the bewitching and playful smiles on the lips of the dark-haired sisters, coupled with their snapping dark eyes, make them look for all the world like really fun people to know and not so stupid either. No wonder Henry VIII was attracted to them.
At St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, Fiona took us into the Choir stalls and while omitting mention of it, strode over the in-floor tomb of no less an historical personage than Henry VIII and his favorite wife, Jane Seymour. (Bending down to touch that tombstone gave ME chills of awe.) Inside the castle proper, among the great art works is a full length portrait of Mary Queen of Scots often used in textbooks and biographies. Since there weren't many portraits painted of her, it might have been interesting to see this one.
As for Buckingham Palace, the gilt work is overpowering in real life, and I was told it's kept up by a full-time team who start at one end of the palace and work through room by room until they reach the end, then go back and start again. Amazing.
Remember, the Queen is in Scotland in August so Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle are open for tours in her absence. I managed to go through Holyrood House in September. These are buildings well worth seeing in person.
on October 2, 2013
This series was an interesting idea that fell well short of its potential. While the history presented was fascinating (albeit shallow), the narrator and writer, Fiona Bruce, puts herself in the frame as much as the palaces she is profiling. There are seemingly endless shots of Fiona walking and gazing at objects, usually in a brightly colored dress that makes her stand out from the background in dramatic fashion. The camera, on several occasions, pans slowly from her feet to her head, giving us a full body view, as if she is the real feature of the show. These type of shots are so frequent that they quickly become silly and distracting. Not recommended.
on June 17, 2013
I watched this during the three weeks that it was on PBS and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had the pleasure of touring Buckingham Palace 4 years ago and when you walk up the staircase before you enter the Throne Room and look down and then look up, all you can say is "Wow!". I thought that he introduction by the Prince of Wales at the beginning was a nice touch because he would be as familiar with the as anyone else would.
on July 13, 2012
I found this video series to be quite enjoyable. I found the the part about Buckingham Palace to be particularly interesting as I haven't found much else on its history.
on August 10, 2012
This DVD contains episodes on three historic residences of English sovereigns: Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and Holyroodhouse (in Scotland). The tours are beautifully filmed. You will feel that you have visited, with your own private tour guide.
On the con side, the series would benefit by less Fiona Bruce air time and more from the many experts, who only speak briefly on the tours. In a few cases, Ms Bruce's comments are misleading and uninformed.
For example, when the purchase of Leonardo da Vinci's anatomical drawings by King Charles II is mentioned, it is not explained that the workings of the human body were being explored at this time, and there was a general fascination with the human body as a machine. So much so that public dissections were well attended events. The anatomical drawings would have been admired as ahead of their time, by King Charles II, who was very interested in science. The public interest in anatomy comes after the groundbreaking work of William Harvey on the workings of the circulatory system, in the early 1600's.
In another case, when the ceremonial dirk carried by George IVth, on his Scottish visit, is shown, it is not made clear that the knife and fork, also carried in the dirk sheath, were travel cutlery, though a rather extravagant knife and fork set, carried by all travelers of that time. Hosts were not expected to go to the expense of providing eating utensils to guests. Also in those pre-detergent days, many people preferred not to share their personal items with others, so most people carried their own knife and fork. The fork originated in Italy. English visitors to Italy carried the new utensil back home. In the 1600's, eating with a fork was considered a foppish affectation. From the Medieval period, the knife was used to cut up food, and pieces of food were conveyed to the mouth on the tip of the knife. By the time of George the IVth's Regency, the fork had become common place in England. Search for "necessaire" plus "Regency" for more information on the subject of travel cutlery.
All in all, I highly recommend the series, but take it with a grain of salt. I was surprised to find a couple of research gaffs in a BBC production. If you are truly intrigued and want to know more, visit several of the excellent sites on the web on various periods of English history--Elizabethan, Jacobean (James Ist), Georgian, Regency, and Victorian.