A grand royal design
Bloody Nora, said the Prince of Wales. Really, royal or not, that was the only appropriate answer.
Filmed before taking the throne, Charles oversaw renovations to Dumfries House in the Scottish Lowlands, leading a £45million consortium he assembled to save the stately home and its unique collection of furniture Chippendale for the nation.
As his ambitions for the project swelled on A Royal Grand Design (ITV), the future king envisioned a science and technology center in the 2,000-acre park, an adventure complex, a walled garden…and a gazebo, or ornate look- off tower, commanding the splendid views.
A boneless suburban man in body, Charles had no intention of seeing gutters of bog stallions on his lookout. He wanted gargoyles.
Kevin McCloud (pictured) presents A Royal Grand Design on ITV
At a site meeting amid heaps of bricks and mud, its designer produced a sample gargoyle – on loan, he said, from the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, from nearby Drumlanrig Castle.
The waterspout, carved in stone and ancient, had been removed from the castle wall, to save HRH the trouble of climbing a ladder to see it. Even within an aristocracy renowned for its noble oblige, it was clearly more obliging than usual.
And that’s when the royal B-word was spoken, in a puzzled whisper.
This wonderful documentary, filmed over ten years, was full of surprises to have the most staid Dowager Duchess spit out her pink gin in a spray of four-letter words.
For the average Ikea shopper like me, the biggest shock was the price of 18th century furniture. A Chippendale bookcase was valued by auction house Christie’s for up to £4million – before a private buyer bid for £12million.
In the end, nothing was sold, but Charles revealed how the entire collection was about to be dispersed. The house’s former owner, racing driver Johnny Dumfries, 7th Marquess of Bute, had everything sent to removal trucks, before changing his mind and accepting the £45m royal offer sterling.
The trucks were stopped on the M6 in Cumbria at 1am and turned back. Whether Charles used the police to do this or the Household Cavalry we weren’t told, but it’s handy to have one or the other at your disposal in business negotiations.
Why a Chippendale is so valuable might seem hard to fathom, until cameras sneak into the late Marquess’s bedroom. Even a Philistine could see that the canopy bed was an exquisite work of art.
Wooden ivy swirled along the fluted bedposts, up to a silk canopy depicting a spellbinding night sky. One of the conservation experts slid onto the bed covers, threw back his head, and held out an arm. “Where is the count? she sighed, lost in a moment of romance.
The ten years spent restoring Dumfries House will barely be long enough to bring the ill-fated Captain Hugh Laurie and his passengers home on an interplanetary cruise liner, to Avenue 5 (Sky Comedy).
This sitcom — created by Armando Iannucci, who wrote The Thick Of It — is literally going nowhere: the ship has lost its bearings and won’t return to Earth for at least a decade.
As the series returned for a second run, the captain nearly headed for the Sun, but didn’t.
With no plot, other than a constant catalog of panics, the script tries to keep us guessing by occasionally killing off characters and introducing others. Jonathan Aris of Sherlock has now joined the cast.
Otherwise, Avenue 5 relies on random one-liners. The best came as the crew battled food shortages and the impending stellar fireball. “Burn or starve,” grumbled the chief engineer, “it’s good to have options.”