In early 2021, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was just a few months away from turning 100. In preparation, members of the royal family sat down for interviews to recount their memories and celebrate the Queen’s husband. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a landmark celebration turned somber when Prince Philip died in April 2021, just before he could turn 100.
Produced for the BBC, Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers is very much a public relations piece. More than a dozen members of the royal family have been interviewed including Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Princes William and Harry. Though billed as an inside look at the Duke of Edinburgh, this is clearly a slick production meant to blandly celebrate the easily digestible public persona of a man in the public eye for almost a century.
Anyone familiar with Prince Philip will learn nothing new. Raised in Germany (and quickly glossing over any Nazi connections), Philip was known for his quick wit, blunt honesty, and the love he had for Queen Elizabeth. His early life is full of B-roll and features excerpts from his midshipman’s journal from the Royal Navy and his experience in World War II. While it doesn’t break new ground, it is a stark reminder of just how much history he witnessed and participated in.
Once he is married to Elizabeth, the documentary shifts into familial anecdotes mostly regarding his litany of hobbies. While presented as passions, the truth is this is a man that had no real job for the vast majority of his adult life. His passions were often just very well-funded hobbies. He enjoyed barbecuing and wouldn’t let anyone else touch the grill on family outings. He loved designing gardens for the family’s massive Scotland escape, Balmoral. He flew planes, kickstarted the World Wildlife Fund, played polo and got very into competitive coach driving. The man had a lot of time on his hands.
In many ways, the documentary feels like a very well-produced home video played at a funeral. This is purely a family remembering a man they loved. While they mention Philip’s retirement from public life in 2017, there is no mention of the embarrassing political snafus that preceded the decision. The royal family ploughs ahead with remembering their patriarch, perhaps most plainly illustrated by the interviews with Prince Andrew (plagued by associations with Jeffrey Epstein) and the lack of interviews with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan Markle.
Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers is produced by the Crown and utterly uninterested in critically examining Philip’s life. With rose-colored glasses firmly affixed, it offers those obsessed with the royal family a highly-produced peek behind the curtain into the dynamics of the most famous family in the world. While not must-watch television, especially for Americans, it’s still worth seeking out on Discovery+ if you can’t get enough of the royals. If nothing else, it can help tide you over before the next season of The Crown.
*This film is streaming on Discovery+.