Monday, 23 May 2016
398 Prince Regent
First viewed : September 1979
After ITV's success with Edward VII and Edward and Mrs Simpson , the Beeb came up with its own royal historical drama concentrating on the future George IV and his long wait for the throne.
Suave Peter Egan played George from his coming-of-age in 1782 to his accession to the throne in 1820, thus making considerable demands on the make-up department. It covered his debauchery with friends Fox and Sheridan ( Keith Barron and Clive Merrison respectively ), secret and illegal marriage to Maria FitzHerbert ( Susannah York ), disastrous real marriage to Caroline of Brunswick ( Dinah Stabb ) and ongoing generational conflict with his father George III ( Nigel Davenport ).
For all the costumed finery and gay antics there was a strong melancholic thread throughout the 8-part series as we watched George III descend into complete madness and the death of Prince George's only daughter Charlotte ( Cherie Lunghi ). Above all of course, we saw the slow physical decline of George and his pals from young bucks to exhausted old men; there was a very poignant scene where George receives the doddering Sheridan for the last time. I'm sure none of this would be lost on a certain jug-eared sexagenarian of our own day.
Talking of Sheridan, I remember my mum and sister going on and on about just having seen Clive Merrison in a play at the Oldham Colosseum like it was something extraordinary.
The series has never been repeated. I'm wondering if that has something to do with the fact that it was written by Ian Curteis who, you may recall, kicked up such a fuss about his pro-Thatcher Falklands drama not being broadcast a few years later.