The day has finally come: Queen Elizabeth II is dead. Her lifeless body lies in its coffin, as the royal family gathers round.
Her successor Prince Charles will now become the British monarch. With some hesitation, he accepts the crown. He knows full well what could await him.
So begins the BBC’s new and somewhat controversial production King Charles III. The film takes as its premise a theme that has long been taboo for the British public: The death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Even before its premiere broadcast in Britain, the programme had provoked strong reactions. Many question whether the plot is simply the basis for dramatic entertainment, or whether it in fact amounts to provocation of the royal family.
Director Rupert Goold was aware of this when adapting the celebrated Mike Bartlett play for the screen.
“The TV audience is much bigger and broader,” he said, defending the programme in a recent interview with the Radio Times. “But I hope that people who think it’s going to be anti-monarchist will watch the whole thing because I think it’s nuanced.”
The show stars Tim Pigott-Smith as Charles, Oliver Chris as William, Richard Goulding as Harry, Charlotte Riley as Kate and Margot Leicester as Camilla.
More fictional chaos
The bone of contention in some quarters is not just the fictional death of the Queen, but the chaos which ensues. Within days of assuming office, Charles refuses to sign a bill restricting press freedom, unleashing a constitutional crisis and nationwide protest.
At the same time, the Duchess Kate is plotting against the new king in order to manoeuvre her husband Prince William onto the throne. The film drifts into the absurd when the ghost of the deceased Princess Diana appears to her son William, relaying prophesies to him.
The BBC defended the production in advance of its first screening. “The public can distinguish fact from fiction.”
Buckingham Palace has yet to break its silence on the production, its press office offering only the familiar phrase: No comment. – dpa/Constantin Eckner