The Windsors Coronation Special review: Witty, uproarious send-up of the royals
I’m not sure what the actual coronation will do to cheer up a nation rather too close to recession for comfort, but Channel 4’s The Windsors Coronation Special really is the right royal treat we all need. Forget your Coronation Quiche; while you can’t eat this televisual feast, it’ll bring you a veritable regal banquet of fun. (Actually, you can’t eat Coronation Quiche either, because the recipe doesn’t work, like everything else these days, but we oughtn’t labour that point at this special moment in our island’s story).
Oftentimes, tragically, our real royals do their best to make satire redundant, but The Windsors’ writer Bert Tyler-Moore (his co-writer George Jeffrie sadly died in 2020) once again renders our reigning family into a highly amusing gallery of grotesques. The brilliant ensemble cast, as ever, gamely portray them as uncomplicated, two-dimensional, doltish, pointless figures – which is harder than it sounds.
The storylines are, as usual, bawdy panto meets crude tabloid reportage, and are fairly incidental to the cartoonish royal characters as they clown about. A pretty accurate, spreadsheet-obsessed Rishi Sunak (Amit Shah) informs the new King that the nation simply can’t afford a proper coronation, but Charles, played by Harry Enfield with the full gurning compliment of Carolean tics and mannerisms, plus prosthetic jug ears, insists on his “mega-coronation”. Charles explains to his impertinent first minister that monarchy is about more than money, and it is precisely because “my people are hurting” that, as he sees it, he needs to “reach out and offer spiritual succour from the window of a four-ton gold coach”.
Prince William (Hugh Skinner, a man who can a skin a vowel at a hundred paces) sides with Sunak, as does the austere, spectral Princess Anne (Vicki Pepperdine, on manic form). Anne cancels the service at the Abbey and books a room at the Holiday Lodge Express in Slough instead, for a “budget coronation”. Charles, horrified at the prospect of being crowned “in the sort of venue where one might hold a wake for the chairman of the local rotary club”, abdicates. Wills takes over, but the common people demand the full English, so he promises Pa “all the pomp and ceremony a small to medium-sized economy can afford”. Charles gets his big day, and the whole extended family ends up happy and glorious on the Buckingham Palace balcony.
Along the way, Pippa Middleton (Morgana Robinson, vamping it up) impersonates a mousey Sophie Wessex (Anna Morris, a welcome addition to The Shadow Firm); Anne swallows the Kohinoor diamond to stop Camilla getting her hands on it; Prince Edward (Matthew Cottle) turns kinky; Kate Middleton (Louise Ford) tries to hug someone; and the socially useless Sloanes Beatrice and Eugenie (Ellie White and Celeste Dring) flee up North, devastated after discovering that “we’ve been sidelined because of daddy being too honourable”. No one – no one – can drawl quite as aristocratically as Ms White.
It’s all sublime, finely observed nonsense, exceptionally witty and sharply edited. The usual half-hour helping is stretched to one hour, and still they leave one wanting more. The only components missing are Prince Andrew, for obvious reasons, and Fergie, whose wistful vulnerability was always so beautifully conveyed by Katy Wix.
Given that the special has been in production for some time, the team do well to make it as reflective of the present state of our soap-like House of Windsor, though they take a bet that both Meghan and Harry (Kathryn Drysdale and Richard Goulding) will come to London, just so they can get some footage for another Netflix documentary (not such a far-fetched notion, to be fair). And yes, by the way, Harry is still so epically dim and lovestruck that he thinks Meg’s New Age babble makes her “wiser than Gandhi”.
The Windsors Coronation Special is an early reminder that, as Enfield’s fussy old monarch declares, no other nation can “dress up in silly costumes and remember that we once had an empire” quite as well as Britain – and nor can anyone else send up the royals quite so uproariously and victoriously. Long may they reign.