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Queen's 80th birthday
Lemn Sissay presents Inside The Queen's Head

The Queen's 80th birthday - BBC programming




BBC Radio 4


BBC Radio 4 has a variety of programmes including a special edition of The Archive Hour dedicated to BBC coverage of Royal Tours.


And Writing The Royals will delve into some of the biographies written on The Royal Family.


Writing The Royals


Monday 17 April, 8.00pm.


Denys Blakeway examines how royal biographies have evolved over the years - from hagiography to political salvos.


He explores the responsibility involved in 'writing the royals', the differences between official and unauthorised works, and the pitfalls that authors face.


The official authorised biography of a late king or queen is central to the preservation of the myths and heritage that define the British Royal Family.


Recognising the crucial importance of the historical record to its continuity, and, indeed, its survival, the House of Windsor has commissioned a series of mighty works that have become an essential part of the foundation of the modern monarchy.


Denys examines how far in this instance the record has been manipulated, in order to present the best possible gloss, and the extent to which the Royal Family has agreed to a rounded portrait, warts and all, of more recent monarchs.


King George V established the precedent that the official biographer should have full access to the Royal Archives at Windsor.


In return for the freedom of this treasure trove, discretion and tact in good measure were expected – and often given.


By the Eighties and Nineties candour amongst the living royals had become a weapon in the 'war of the Wales' and two biographies were published that led to the lid being blown off their unhappy marriage.


The Andrew Morton biography of Princess Diana was an astonishing portrait of an unhappy individual.


Jonathan Dimbleby's biography of Prince Charles was a much richer and fuller account of the man, and remains a treasure trove of insights and unpublished sources; but at the time it was a personal and public disaster for the Prince of Wales.


It led to the end of an era of increasing royal openness about their personal lives, and a return to the greater control of the official biography.


Nonetheless, over the last decade the publication of royal biographies has shown no signs of slowing down.


Contributors include Jonathan Dimbleby, Philip Ziegler, Hugo Vickers, Sarah Bradford and Gyles Brandreth.


Radio 4 Publicity


Inside The Queen's Head


Monday 17 to Friday 21 April, 3.45-4.00pm.


Poet and wordsmith Lemn Sissay takes his 'obsession for definition' into five very different talking shops for the Queen's modern subjects - five public houses that share nothing but their name, The Queen's Head.


From inside one of the oldest institutions in Britain, Lemn weaves a subtle but rich tapestry of modern Elizabethan life from the colourful threads of race, politics, town, country, hope, despair, bravado and resignation that tangle on nearly every street corner.


Lemn's aim is to capture the complexity of British society by using the pub - a confessional venue now open longer hours than churches - as a filter.


The distillate of humanity that he engages with - not always in good humoured exchange - will give him what he wants - a poem about Queen and country, beer mat and bar maid for each programme.


With a unique gift to get ordinary folk to open up to him, Lemn inhabits the world of the the regulars.


He sets himself the mission to find out what is beneath the skin of Her Majesty's 21st century Britain as it seeks solace, community, conviviality and oblivion - "a street version of the Queen's mind, a body impolitic," as he puts it


Radio 4 Publicity


Book Of the Week - The Queen at 80: The Biographer's View


Monday 17 to Friday 21 April, 9.45-10.00am.


Five extracts from a selection of biographies of the Queen to mark her 80th birthday on 21 April.


The readers are drawn from the nation’s best known acting talents.


Monday - The Little Princesses by Marion Crawford, the Queen and Princess Margaret's governess.


The extract taken from this memoir gives fascinating insights into the Queen's early childhood.


Published in 1950 this affectionate memoir sparked controversy as it was the first time that secrets of the private lives of the Royal Family had been betrayed for money. The reader is Hannah Gordon.


Tuesday - the extract taken from George VI by Sarah Bradford illuminates the close relationship between the Queen and her father.


Her marriage to the dashing Prince Philip also features. The reader is Anne-Marie Duff.


Wednesday - Robert Lacey's Royal: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II provides the third of our extracts. The reader is Alex Jennings.


Thursday - The Firm by Penny Junor. The extract from this biography explores the Eighties and is read by Emma Fielding.


Friday - an extract from Ben Pimlott's The Queen.


It is a portrait of monarchy which explores the difficult years following the death of Princess Diana, and takes us up to the Golden Jubilee when the Queen enjoyed renewed popularity. The reader is Geoffrey Palmer.


Radio 4 Publicity


Archive Hour – Royal Tours


Saturday 15 April, 8.00-9.00pm.


There is no better way of illustrating the ups and downs or the trials and tribulations of the Royal Family than the institution of the royal tour.


Denys Blakeway weaves through the colourful archive dating back to the Thirties and exposes the practicalities, pressures and politics within the tour as well as remembering the gaffes and glory moments.


The concept of the royal tour as we know it emerged during the last century as the then Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, was dispatched every summer to visit various countries in the Empire and Commonwealth.


By the Twenties, due to the encouragement both of politicians and members of the Royal Household, the tours had become a national institution and one of the principal justifications for the monarchy's existence.


The tours, vastly increased in scope and frequency since the war, have also been the stage for some of the most significant events in the life of The Queen, and of Great Britain, over the past 80 years.


It was on a royal tour of Kenya in 1952 that the then Princess Elizabeth learned that her father had died and that she was Queen.


During her reign the tour has become an enduring symbol of her devotion to duty and, above all, preserved the institution of the Commonwealth.


Successive governments saw her travels as a crucial way of advertising Britain's prestige at a time of fading influence abroad and decline at home.


The Queen and her husband travelled, time and again, to every corner of the world.


The fact that she was serving the current interests of her government led to some strange meetings with heads of state such as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and King Hassan of Morocco.


Lady Pamela Hicks accompanied the Queen on her 1952 tour and recalls the painful moment when she learned that her father had died and that she had become Queen.


Press secretary Ron Allison explains the organisation and sensitivities behind the scenes – from the Queen's comfort to the delicate political negotiations which take place to decide the route and routine of the tour: whose hand to shake first, which colour should not be worn and whether the bare feet and breasts of the locals should be covered.


Denys Blakeway also asks what the role of the Royal tour is today.


Radio 4 Publicity


BBC Radio 2


On Friday 21 April BBC Radio 2 features a night of programmes that includes a host of celebrities and public figures.


There will also be a tribute documentary on The Queen's life.


Friday Night Is Music Night (7.30-9.30pm)


This special edition of Friday Night Is Music Night is dedicated to HM Queen Elizabeth on the occasion of her 80th birthday.


The programme first came to the airways in the year of The Queen's Coronation - 1953.


Recorded earlier this month at London's Mermaid Theatre this programme celebrates with a wealth of young British talent from the world of classical music.


John Wilson conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra with special guests including BBC Young Musician violinist Nicola Benedetti and 14-year-old pianist Benjamin Grosvenor.


Brian Kay presents music for this grand occasion including popular arias and songs; Walton's march - Orb And Sceptre; Horseguards by Haydn Wood; Elgar's Pomp And Circumstance March No 4; and music from Eric Coates' The Three Elizabeths Suite.


Radio 2 Publicity


Happy Birthday, Ma'am (9.30-11.00pm)


To celebrate Her Majesty's 80th birthday, Mariella Frostrup presents an account of her life and reign through the decades.


In the course of The Queen's life the pace of change has been swifter than at any other period, socially and economically.


She has lived through the greatest threat to British life in the 20th century – World War Two - ten British Prime Ministers and 11 US Presidents.


She has weathered threats to her security and threats posed by the public laundering of private secrets by her own family.


The Royal Family is now subject to a level of public scrutiny that was unthinkable when The Queen first came to the throne.


Yet the Queen has maintained a level of respect and admiration amongst royalists and republicans alike.


In this 90-minute documentary those who are close to her, such as former press secretaries and courtiers, provide an intimate portrait of the monarch who is Head of State to 128 million people.


And those who have met her describe what it was like to come face to face with your Queen.


Contributions come from Lady Pamela Hicks, Lady in Waiting, Michael Shea, former press secretary, Lord Douglas Hurd, Robert Lacey, June Whitfield, Marguerite Patten and Humphrey Lyttelton.


Radio 2 Publicity


Listen To The Band (11.00pm-midnight)


Presented by Frank Renton, this special programme focuses on music with Royal connections, including marches, fanfares, dedications and special commissions by Masters of the Queens Music.


Highlights include Hymn from the Cries of London, a reworking of The National Anthem, played by The Regimental Band of The Coldstream Guards


BBC Birmingham Press Office





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