TV Review: The Queen’s Sister

 “You will not menace the House of Windsor”

Lucy Cohu has the dubious pleasure of being one of the few women I would probably turn for,  she radiates an old-school glamour and sensuality that I find near-irresistable and I’ve loved the few stage performances of hers I have been able to catch (Speaking in Tongues, Broken Glass and A Delicate Balance). So I was quite happy to take in the Channel 4 television movie The Queen’s Sister, in which she took the lead role of Princess Margaret, in the name of the Jubilee Weekend 😉

It’s a semi-fictionalised account of her life by Craig Warner (although knowing so little of the reality, I couldn’t have told you what was real and what wasn’t) which focuses on her struggles against the establishment as she followed a life of largely wanton hedonism and leaving a trail of paramours behind her. Whether her previously married lover whom she was forbidden from wedding, the long-suffering husband prone to infidelity, the young pop singer who offers a faint hope of redemption, her relentless partying, fondness of always having a drink in her hand and general spoiltness consistently makes life difficult for herself.

I found it a highly entertaining romp: Cohu captures perfectly the insouciant arrogance of the junior princess, permanently in the shadow of her elder sister (who we cleverly never see), constantly pushing the conventions of what a Royal could be seen to do in an age of increasing press intrusion and public republicanism. So early on as she scandalously smokes in public, it becomes a social trend; later on she is confronted with the changing social mores as the audience of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane have to be cajoled into applauding her arrival into the Royal Box when once it would have been de rigueur.

Cohu is the motor that drives this occasionally frothy piece along, but she is supported by a great cast with a nice number of theatrical spots. Aden Gillett as her first would-be husband, Dominic Mafham’s carefree lover, Meredith MacNeill as a confidante, but most impressive for me was Toby Stephens as the Earl of Snowdon. He’s not an actor who I’ve really liked on the stage but he has great televisual presence and as the man catapulted into a whole new world, he is excellent. The struggle for him to deal with the rules of etiquette, enforced even in private, and his ‘subordinate’ position to his wife is most compelling, and there’s sweetness too as he shows her a little of ‘ordinary life’ in a great scene where the couple mingle incognito with market traders and pub regulars for the first time in her life.

So a great turn from Lucy Cohu and an engaging 90 minutes of TV (which you can watch on the Channel 4 website) which may be undemanding and historically a little vague to say the least, but when it is this entertaining, it hardly matters a jot.

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