Tales from the Palaces

Narrator: Robert Lindsay
Acorn Media UK
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: E
Available 10 July 2006

The royal palaces are the backdrop to a thousand years of British history and are preserved as unique historical monuments. The conservation of these monuments needs to be balanced with the necessity of a continual flow of curious visitors...

The BBC has for a long time had a justified reputation for producing interesting and innovative documentaries, and Tales from the Palace continues this strong trend.

Tales is a ten part series looking at various English palaces across a twelve-month period. It would have been an arid affair to present the history behind each building with some plum voiced expert boring the pants off us, instead the BBC have elected the far more interesting idea of presenting the palaces from the perspective of those whose daily work and lives are wrapped up with their existence.

In essence, the programme is a kind of posh Life of Grime with narrator, Robert Lindsay, setting the scene before gracefully bowing out and allowing the custodians of the palaces to tell the story in their own voices. Essentially, the show follows the work of conservationist in Hampton Court, The Tower of London, Kensington Palace, The Banqueting House and Kew Palace. By allowing the custodians to present buildings, which some of them are quite clearly in love with, gives a personal, sometimes funny and often touching look at the palaces.

The first programme reveals some interesting things that I was unaware of, for instance although the queen owns these building in name she pays nothing towards their upkeep and surprisingly neither does the government. All the revenue that needs to be generated for the restoration and upkeep comes purely from tourists.

The program was originally transmitted this year (2006) and each half hour program delves into the need to conserve these monuments, which cover a thousand years of our history against the need to have endless visitors stream through in order to pay for their upkeep.

The format and presentation will help this documentary series appeal to a wide audience, not just history buffs. If you like to see people who obviously love their work, some of who are only just this side of eccentric, then you could do worse than invest in this double DVD set.

There are extras only on the first disc which consist of Histories, which are text pages about the palaces, and a Photo Gallery. Each individual programme can be selected. The video is nice and clean, with stereo only sound, but let's face it stereo is just fine given the disc's contents.

So a worthy addition to anyone's documentary collection, shame there weren't more extras.

Charles Packer

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