The Queen's Platinum Jubilee Celebration, review: Cringeworthy TV lets down five-star arena display

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Queen Elizabeth leaves after watching the Royal Windsor Horse Show Platinum Jubilee Celebration at Windsor Castle - REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Queen Elizabeth leaves after watching the Royal Windsor Horse Show Platinum Jubilee Celebration at Windsor Castle - REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Celebration was a night of spectacle, but the best moments didn’t involve the performers. They didn’t even involve Tom Cruise, despite ITV executives clearly believing he was the star attraction. Rather, it was the sight of the Queen watching the show with such delight.

She beamed when her beloved horses and ponies were led around the arena, including her trusted fell pony, Carltonlima Emma. Minutes earlier she appeared moved as she watched her granddaughter, Lady Louise Windsor, drive the late Duke of Edinburgh’s carriage, having taken up the sport he so enjoyed.

There had been fears earlier in the month that the Queen would miss the event. But here she was, looking positively radiant. Nor did she flag during the show, despite its nearly three-hour running time.

She seemed genuinely happy to be there, and even raised a hand in wry acknowledgement when Omid Djalili, acting as the “herald” for the evening, joked: “Your Royal Highness, on behalf of everyone here, we’d like to very humbly thank you for choosing us over the State Opening of Parliament.”

Lady Louise Windsor during the A Gallop Through History performance as part of the official celebrations for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee at the Royal Windsor Horse Show at Home Park - Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Lady Louise Windsor during the A Gallop Through History performance as part of the official celebrations for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee at the Royal Windsor Horse Show at Home Park - Chris Jackson/Getty Images

If the Queen was thoroughly enjoying herself, that would be because she was in the arena itself, and not being subjected to ITV’s coverage. The actual show was a five-star display, with everything going perfectly to plan (save for some horses at the beginning being spooked by the national anthem).

The event director, Simon Brooks-Ward, deserves a pat on the back. But the television production was cringeworthy: inane commentary, showbiz interviews and a series of ad breaks in which the broadcaster thought it appropriate to plug the new series of Love Island.

The Queen showed she was enjoying herself at the event - Chris Jackson/Getty Images
The Queen showed she was enjoying herself at the event - Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Julie Etchingham did a faultless job. Phillip Schofield, however, should not be allowed near anything like this again. To put it politely, he’s no Dimbleby. A commentary about French horse manure was probably his lowest point: “Mushroom growers pick it up and use it as fertiliser, so remember that next time you have mushrooms in Paris!”

Queen Elizabeth and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, watch members of The King's Troop Royal Artillery perform - REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Queen Elizabeth and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, watch members of The King's Troop Royal Artillery perform - REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

For some bizarre reason, Schofield felt the need to issue health warnings about what we were watching. “At one point we are going to see a man going under his horse - don’t panic, this is not a loose saddle strap, he’s supposed to be there,” he fussed, introducing an equestrian display team from Azerbaijan. “Please don’t be alarmed: we will see horses lying down in a sleeping position,” he said during a performance by riders from Oman, as if we viewers would have mistaken the stunt for an equine fit of the vapours.

A Gallop Through History performance - Chris Jackson/Getty Images
A Gallop Through History performance - Chris Jackson/Getty Images

ITV also treated us to a full 45 minutes of build-up: Ant and Dec (the latter referring to the Queen as “everyone’s favourite grandma”), Dame Joan Collins, Dame Maureen Lipman describing the monarch (I think I heard this right) as “a real geezer”. And then for the person whom ITV clearly considered to be the main attraction - not the Queen but Tom Cruise, who was allowed to plug his new Top Gun sequel as if he was on the This Morning sofa.

Cruise has a relationship with the royals: it was reported last month that he hosted a private screening of his latest film for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. He also has a home near Windsor, and he said all the right things about the Queen’s devotion to duty. But, really, what was this American actor doing here? Apparently, he was added to the bill by ITV.

One can’t blame Cruise for saying yes, and he obviously has great respect for the monarch, but the aforementioned interview made it seem as if the event was simply part of his promotional duties for Top Gun.

American actor Tom Cruise arrives for the Platinum Jubilee at Home Park - Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images
American actor Tom Cruise arrives for the Platinum Jubilee at Home Park - Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

Still, Cruise was good as a presenter, delivering his lines with an air of relaxed confidence. Some of the other presenters, namely Damian Lewis and Adjoa Andoh, were weirdly stilted, as if over-awed by the occasion.

The one thing Schofield did get right was his description of the line-up as “eclectic” - Martin Clunes, Gregory Porter, an American singer and actress called Keala Settle.

At least Dame Helen Mirren was a suitable booking, dressed up as Elizabeth I and performing the Tilbury speech (“I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England too) with great gusto.

Dame Helen Mirren during her performance - Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Dame Helen Mirren during her performance - Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Much was made, pre-event, of the pairing of Cruise with Alan Titchmarsh - potentially the most mismatched duo since Mick Fleetwood and Samantha Fox hosted the 1989 Brit Awards. In the event, they were not on screen at the same time, although Titchmarsh did reveal that he’d snapped a selfie with Cruise at his wife’s request.

Actually, Titchmarsh was a perfect choice. He has been involved with the Royal Windsor Horse Show for several years, and knows just how to work the crowd. When he described the Queen as the “constant heartbeat of this nation”, she gave a shrug; only the more showbiz members (and ex-members) of the Royal family revel in that kind of praise. But the audience watching at home surely agreed with him.

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