Inside the Crown: Secrets of the Royals, episode one review - the Windsors' secrets are safe in this stale series

Anita Singh
The Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales, on their wedding day - AFP

What would be revealed by Inside the Crown: Secrets of the Royals (ITV)? The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s plan for world domination? The Duke of York’s Pizza Express receipt? Alas, its title was highly inaccurate. What we got was a stale bun of a documentary, the contents of which would only be news to you if you had just woken from a lengthy coma.

Steady yourselves, but it turns out that the Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales, were not happily married. You heard it here first. Did you have any idea that Princess Margaret was in love with a man called Peter Townsend? And you’ll never believe this: Edward VIII abdicated to be with an American divorcee! All of this and more was packed into an episode called Love and Duty.

You have to pity the researchers. Just when they thought they’d nicely top’n’tailed this with a smiling Harry and Meghan, the couple go and leave the country – putting love before duty, some might say. Cue hasty re-editing and a new bit of the voice-over saying something about the difficulty of balancing public and private lives.

It was a different ITV documentary, presented by Tom Bradby, that produced one of the royal scoops of the year as the Sussexes laid bare their unhappiness with palace life. This one was an assembly of the usual suspects (historians, royal “experts”) running us through a bog-standard history of royal relationships from Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson onwards.

Colourised footage of the Queen’s 1947 royal wedding was a visual treat, and there were occasional snippets that raised a smile: a description of the bachelor Duke of Edinburgh as “a big dog wanting a basket”, and the always-excellent-value Baroness Glenconner (will someone give this woman a series of her own?) recalling asking Princess Margaret which of their circle she would have married if she had to: “She said Sunny Blandford, so she might’ve had Blenheim.” 

Baroness Glenconnor, former Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret

Charles and Diana’s wedding gave me a jolt of nostalgia, and veteran photographer Ken Lennox shared a striking image that I had never seen before: Diana, overwhelmed by the crowds on an early Australian tour, sobbing in an open-topped car while her husband smiled away, either oblivious to her unhappiness or unwilling to acknowledge it.

It was perfectly pleasant to watch. But if you want some actual secrets about the royals, you’d be better off watching The Crown.