Comedy of Scale: Andrew Billen on Why Poliakoff's Story of the House of Windsor Is His Best Work Yet. (Television)

By Billen, Andrew | New Statesman (1996), January 27, 2003 | Go to article overview

Comedy of Scale: Andrew Billen on Why Poliakoff's Story of the House of Windsor Is His Best Work Yet. (Television)


Billen, Andrew, New Statesman (1996)


Truth to tell, I never knew that King George. V, our monarch during the Great War, was a small man. Played by Tom Hollander in The Lost Prince (BBC 1, last Sunday and this), he was very small indeed -- even the telephone on his desk seemed to dwarf him. This suited the writer-director Stephen Poliakoff well. Smallness was the surprising and original metaphor he arrived at to describe the whole of what was to become, for wartime PR reasons, the House of Windsor.

Set against momentously huge world events, the royal view from Sandringham becomes, in this drama, a comedy of scale. The Tsarina is shocked by how small Sandringham is when she visits. The snobbish Asquith finds the cramped villa in the Sandringham grounds in which George V and his wife live appallingly suburban. Inside, the princes play with toy soldiers and, when the real war comes, all the king can do is make small gestures too, serving small portions at his banquets while outside his queen forages for chestnuts, miniature food, to feed the troops. Later, she visits some of those who have returned mutilated from the front. One soldier, his legs unevenly amputated, looks, almost comically, foreshortened, like a glove puppet.

There was nothing intrinsically small-scale about the House of Hanover: the branches of its family tree overhung all of Europe. They were Germans -- we knew that -- but the Russian Romanovs are also cousins, so when George reneges on his promise to give them sanctuary after 1917, it is a family betrayal. His small-mindedness, combined with his neurotic neatness, is hinted at by his hobby, stamp collecting, but he is also agoraphobic. He exclaims to his man Stamfordham (played with knowing restraint and patience by Bill Nighy): "Small rooms -- always pleased to be in small rooms. Absurd things these palaces are." Yet in the palaces, the chief of staff and the politicians, the big men of history such as Ron Cook's nauseating Lloyd George, seem perfectly at home.

In the second episode, King George's mother, Alexandra (Bibi Anderson), greets the monarchas "my other tiny, little one". She has just had an audience with her grandson, Johnnie, the semi-autistic, epileptic prince who is at the centre of the piece. Johnnie, played beguilingly by Matthew Thomas (for once, the prep school accent and awkwardness of the average British child actor are appropriate), is King George's youngest child and dies aged 14 in 1919. Significantly, however, he is not small but clumsily big. Perhaps because of his unapologetic size, he can command a troop, albeit a household cavalry of gardeners and maids, and also a room. In a very touching scene near the end, he plays the trumpet for his family and when the king, who is keeping his prime minister waiting, makes to leave, Johnnie tells him to stay put.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Comedy of Scale: Andrew Billen on Why Poliakoff's Story of the House of Windsor Is His Best Work Yet. (Television)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.