The week the Queen and Prince Philip celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary, Woman magazine commissioned Miles to construct a scenario to reflect a stage in their lives similar to many couples when the children have left home, the house seems a little empty, time hangs heavily and they are thrown back on their own relationship…
A new TV drama serial in one part
The scene is a large palace in London, at the bottom of Constitution Hill. Well, it’s not that large. I mean it’s not as large as nearby Westminster Abbey or even Stage Place, the office tower block, and nobody even lives there, only comes in during the day. So when people criticise Buckingham Palace as being too large for just a few people to live in, they should remember the even larger places where nobody lives at all. Is that understood? Right.
In this palace live a middle-aged couple. They are our monarch and her husband. They are sitting together in the drawing room after supper. Or drawing together in the sitting room. Either will do.
QUEEN: I still think it’s too big.
QUEEN: The palace. It’s enormous, and hardly anyone lives here.
DUKE: It’s not that huge.
QUEEN: Even the forecourt is huge. By the time you’ve gone to pick up the milk from the gate in the morning and walked back again, it’s usually gone sour.
DUKE: Well, it’s not as big as Westminster Abbey or Stage Place, and nobody even lives there.
(Author’s note: I know we’ve had this argument already in the introduction, but the people watching this on TV won’t know that. Or that the Queen has different ideas about it from me.)
QUEEN: I still think we ought to move somewhere smaller.
DUKE: That would be impossible.
QUEEN: Do you think we couldn’t get a mortgage?
DUKE: No. I think we couldn’t get an Act of Parliament. And you’ve got to admit it’s very convenient for opening Parliament, trooping colours, beating retreats and all that.
QUEEN: (sighs) Yes, I suppose so. (She starts humming)
DUKE: (leaps out of his chair and stands up) I wish you wouldn’t do that!
QUEEN: Do what?
DUKE: Hum the National Anthem.
QUEEN: Sorry dear. (He resumes his seat and goes back to ‘The Daily Telegraph’) What gets me down is that it is so quiet now. Since the children left, I mean.
DUKE: It wasn’t that noisy when they lived here. They always made their noise in another wing. Anne could have ridden horses down her corridor and we wouldn’t have known.
QUEEN: Gosh! That might explain the marks in the carpet and the funny smell.
DUKE: Still, you’re right. It is quiet without them. Anne in the depths of Mudshire. Charles choosing curtains for his new house or going to Welsh evening classes again. Andrew bombing around in helicopters. And there’s Edward…where is Edward? One wonders what he’ll be up to soon.
DUKE: I beg your pardon?
QUEEN: Jesus College, Oxford. That’s where I hope he’ll be going.
DUKE: Mmmm… It’s pretty grand, isn’t it, naming your college after Jesus? Can you think of anything half as grand?
QUEEN: I can think of something three times as grand. Trinity College.
DUKE: Nice one, Queen. (A pause) Shall I turn on the nine o’clock news?
QUEEN: What on earth for? It’s always so depressing. Especially when somebody says that Her Majesty’s Government is determined to do something, and I can’t even understand what it is they are trying to do.
DUKE: Don’t worry. Nobody else does either. No, it’s not the news I’m after – I just thought we might see the children on it. You know, Andrew rescuing someone in a helicopter or Charles opening something or Anne falling off…
QUEEN: We agreed – no more jokes about falling off horses.
DUKE: Sorry. It’s just that, as they have so little time to write, it’s about the only way I can keep up with what they’re doing. See what Diana’s new dress is like. Look for Charles’ hand signals.
QUEEN: Hand signals?
DUKE: Didn’t you know? Well, you know both Charles and I both stand and walk with our hands behind our backs? The thing is, you can do it in several ways: clasp your hands together, hold your right elbow with the left hand, hold the left elbow and so on. They all mean different things.
QUEEN: Like what?
DUKE: Can we go yet? This man is boring – please, someone, rescue me. I have forgotten this lady’s name. That sort of thing.
QUEEN: How childish.
DUKE: Not at all. It’s saved my life several times. (Long pause) We could get out a video.
QUEEN: Not the wedding again!
DUKE: Not the wedding again. Sounds like one of those books.
QUEEN: What books?
DUKE: Oh, nothing, nothing. (Pause) Shall I get out the photo album?
QUEEN: I’d rather not. You always manage to get the private detectives in the foreground. Or get me from behind.
DUKE: When I am always walking a few paces behind you, I don’t have much choice. (Pause) Did I tell you that Jimmy Young has asked me to go on his prog. again?
QUEEN: Will you go?
DUKE: Mmm, I think so. The money’s not great, but it’s fun.
QUEEN: I never get asked to go on.
DUKE: Well, it’s different with you, dear. Anyway, you’ve got your own programme, at Christmas time. On all channels too, I may say.
QUEEN: Don’t remind me!
DUKE: And you never have guests on your programme. Maybe if you got Jimmy Young on, he’d ask you back to his.
QUEEN: I think you’re being a bit flippant about a rather important subject.
DUKE: I wouldn’t say that Jimmy Young’s prog. is that important.
QUEEN: (glares but says nothing)
DUKE: It would be nice if one of them phoned.
QUEEN: One of who?
DUKE: The children.
QUEEN: Mmmmm. I’ve told them they can always reverse the charges from Australia, or wherever. Trouble is, the operator never believes them when they say their name is Prince Charles.
(The phone rings and the DUKE leaps over to it.) Hello? Who is it? Pardon? (He puts his hand over the receiver and turns to the QUEEN) Are we Paddington train inquiries? (She shakes her head) No, I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong number. Is there anything I can do...? Oh. He’s gone. Pity. Sounded quite nice.
QUEEN: Are we Paddington train inquiries indeed!
DUKE: Well, the Palace has so many departments these days, you can never be sure. Man rang me up the other day trying to sell me a horse. I sent him packing. Turned out it was one of the equerries trying to get through to the mews.
QUEEN: We are not a mews.
DUKE: Nice one, Queen.
QUEEN: Do stop saying that!
DUKE: Yes, dear. (Pause) It would be nice if someone just dropped in. Wouldn’t have to be one of the children. Anyone – a duke or earl or somebody, popping in to pass the time of day.
QUEEN: Oh, yes. Unfortunately it’s not that easy to drop in at a palace. It’s all right in an ordinary house - just ring the bell and say, we’ve dropped by. Here you’d have to run the gauntlet of half the army. Even then you’d probably get pinioned to the wall by some over-zealous police officer.
DUKE: Police do a good job in damned difficult circumstances.
QUEEN: Yes. I like Sting best, personally.
DUKE: Nice one, Queen – oh, sorry!
QUEEN: Did you know there is a pop group called Queen?
DUKE: Heard about it the other day. Saw a poster for a record called Queen’s Greatest Hits. Got quite a shock. Didn’t know you’d been cutting a few tracks. Was quite relieved when they told me it was a group.
QUEEN: Why don’t you put a record on?
DUKE: There isn’t really much choice. It’s either regimental marches or anthems of all nations.
QUEEN: What about that samba record the President of Brazil gave us? We never listened to that.
DUKE: It was made of gold, unfortunately. Had to go straight in the vaults.
QUEEN: Oh dear. (Pause) It’s so quiet without the children.
QUEEN: I really think we ought to move somewhere smaller, you know,
(At this point the reader should go back to the beginning and start again.)