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British empire monarch George V and his wife Queen Mary decide to hide their last-born son, Johnnie, from the public, being embarrassingly affected by epilepsy. While his protective elder brother is ruthlessly groomed for court life, Johnnie gets packed off to a country cottage on the royal estate Sandringham. With his full-time governess Lalla, a substitute-mother, he's abandoned to playfulness and virtual social neglect. The Great War and the Russian Revolution change life in Britain, also at court, even at Sandringham, where royal refugees are expected.Written by
King George V had 6 children, two of which used the name George. His second to eldest son was Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George, known to the family as Bertie but used the name George VI when he became king. This is the son who had a very bad stuttering problem that began in very early childhood and lasted into adulthood. The second to youngest son was Prince George, Jonny's closest sibling in this film. Prince George, Duke of Kent, grew up to live a life which was considered scandalous, and died in an aeroplane crash in 1942. See more »
When the Union Flag is at half mast at the death of Edward VII, it is upside down - the side attached to the pole should have the thick white band at the top. See more »
[about the Tsar who is swimming in the sea]
He looks like an emperor fish!
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Prince John, youngest son of George V and Queen Mary, was handicapped by learning difficulties and the epilepsy which eventually killed him at 14. He spent most of his life hidden away on the Sandringham estate, but he was well cared for and not entirely forgotten by his family (he appeared with his brothers and sisters on a Newfoundland stamp issue). Stephen Poliakof has taken this sad story and created a wonderful tale of growing up in a royal family who, far from ruling their roost, were hidebound by convention, slaves to 'appearances' and emotionally crippled. John, however, is virtually free from all of this as his brother George remarks 'he is the happiest of us all' (or words to that effect).
John and George (later the Duke of Kent) are able to observe some notable historic personalities and moments. When their grandfather Edward VII (Michael Gambon) dies, most of Europe's royalty turn up to the funeral. George, on chatting terms with Lord Stamfordham (Bill Nighy), his father's private secretary, follows the diplomatic descent into World War I. And there is the fate of cousin Nicky, Tsar of Russia, and his family, at the hands of the Bolsheviks. We see these events from the child's viewpoint, or rather from the viewpoints of two rather different, though close, children. This gives a sort of dreamy immediacy to the story, unadorned with explanations.
While his mother Queen Mary (Miranda Richardson) is both physically and emotionally distant, John is given plenty of love and affection by his nurse Lalla (Gina McKee). Despite his disabilities he thrives under her care to an extent his parents find overwhelming.
It's hard to tell how much of the story is based on fact and how much on Poliakoff's imagination, but it scarcely matters. He has created a story which actually evokes sympathy for royalty, a major achievement in this republican age. Prince John, the royal refusenik, leading his band of retainers across the landscape, is an evocative sight.
The settings are gorgeous, though none of the real places (Sandringham, Buckingham palace) is used. The acting is all first-rate; Tom Hollander's earnest George V and Miranda Richardson's stern but not totally unfeeling Queen Mary stand out, along with the boys playing the two princes.
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