The Palace was a British drama television series that aired on ITV in 2008. Produced by Company Pictures for the ITV network, it was created by Tom Grieves and follows a fictional British Royal Family in the aftermath of the death of King James III and the succession of his 24-year-old son, King Richard IV, played by Rupert Evans. It also stars Jane Asher and Zoe Telford. The series was filmed on location in Lithuania in 2007 and broadcast from 14 January to 3 March 2008. It was cancelled after one series due to low viewing figures.
On the sudden death of King James III, his 24-year-old elder son, Richard IV, inherits the throne. This causes resentment with his elder sister, Princess Eleanor (Sophie Winkleman), who wants the throne for herself. Her Private Secretary, Major Simon Brooks (David Harewood), helps her in trying to discredit the new king. Richard's younger brother, Prince George (Sebastian Armesto), is a party-animal, while the younger daughter, Princess Isabelle (Nathalie Lunghi), is an A-Level student. Their mother is the now-widowed Queen Charlotte (Jane Asher).
Abigail Thomas (Zoe Telford) is Richard's secretary who plans to write a tell-all book about her life in the Palace. Richard's Private Secretary is Sir Iain Ratalick (Roy Marsden). Other staff featured in the series are Abigail's personal assistant Lucy Bedford (Fiona Button) and the Press Secretary Jonty Roberts (Lorcan Cranitch).Rupert Evans as King Richard IV
Jane Asher as Charlotte, The Queen Mother
Sophie Winkleman as Princess Eleanor
Sebastian Armesto as Prince George
Nathalie Lunghi as Princess Isabelle
Roy Marsden as Sir Iain Ratalick
Zoe Telford as Abigail Thomas
David Harewood as Major Simon Brooks
Lorcan Cranitch as Jonty Roberts
Hugh Ross as Jeremy Robinson
John Ramm as Chief Superintendent Peter Bayfield
Fiona Button as Lucy Bedford
Shelley Conn as Miranda Hill
John Shrapnel as PM Edward Shaw
Christine Bottomley as Natalie
Clemency Burton-Hill as The Hon. Alice Templeton
Anton Lesser as Archbishop of Canterbury
John Benfield as Ray Mellor
Laura Haddock as Lady Arabella Worthesley Wolsey
Dominic Jephcott as Dr Philip Hooper
Frank Mills as Jack 'Dobbsy' Dobbs
James Thornton as Milton Bishop
Harriet Walter as Joanna Woodward
Huw Rhys as David Waverley
Owain Arthur as Jimmy Clacy
Kate O'Flynn as Ruby Riley
Russell Bright as Neil Haslam
Heather Tobias as Anne Featherstone
Amit Shah as Kulvinder 'Vinny' Ganatra
Valentinas Klimas as King James III
The Palace aired on Mondays at 9 p.m. Each episode is about 45 minutes long and originally aired in a 60-minute slot with adverts. The broadcasts were sponsored by Warner Leisure Hotels, both on television and on itv.com. International broadcast sales were handled by All3Media, Company Pictures' parent company.
Tom Grieves initial pitch centred on "a woman operating within the shadow of power". Ideas for the "power" included the Prime Minister, Sir Mick Jagger, and Rupert Murdoch before he settled on a fictional royal family. The relationship between the woman and the royal family was modelled on that seen in The West Wing between Jed Bartlet and his staff; Grieves desired to mimic The West Wing's "talky, aspirational, sophisticated" style in his own series. The earliest summaries of the plot placed the focus of the series on a woman who is working undercover at Buckingham Palace with the intent of writing an exposé of the King's life. The woman (later named "Abigail") "goes native" and cancels her book because she falls for the King.
The series was written by Grieves, Chris Lang, Charlotte Jones and Toby Whitehouse. Grieves was influenced in his writing by Hamlet; he explored how Richard deals with the "ancient, ritualistic institution" that he inherits after James dies. The writers deliberately avoided making comparisons to the real royal family, despite the links made by media between Richard and George to Princes William and Harry. Patrick Jephson, the former private secretary to Diana, Princess of Wales, was consulted extensively during production, working with the writing team for over a year. The series was greenlit by ITV in January 2007.
Sets were designed by Taff Batley. Batley scouted production locations in Hungary, due to the expense a production the size of The Palace would have if filmed in the UK. A site was eventually found near the dock in Vilnius, Lithuania. Exterior sets of Buckingham Palace were scaled down from their true counterparts because of the length of time full-sized replicas would take to create; the scale sets alone took ten weeks to build. Red gravel for the palace courtyard was mimicked using clay that was bound for a new tennis court under construction nearby. Interior sets were built in an ice skating rink on the other side of the city. They used plasterboard instead of the lighter, cheaper plywood that would have been used on a British-based set. Batley referred to documentary footage to find a basis for his designs of bedrooms and other private areas of the palace that would otherwise not be available for public viewing. Locals were hired as extras to portray lords and ladies in large crowd scenes. Unaccustomed to bowing and curtseying, the extras had to be trained and some scenes reshot. The first block of four episodes was directed by Metin Hüseyin and the second by Maurice Phillips.
Prior to the broadcast of the series the pressure group Mediawatch UK called it "tawdry and offensive", suggesting that viewers would confuse the scripted television characters with the real British Royal Family. Lord St John of Fawsley called it "very near to the bone" and Penny Junor, the biographer of Charles, Prince of Wales, suggested ITV is exploiting the royal family by presenting fiction as fact. The Guardian previewed it as one of the top 50 shows (including film, theatre and television) to watch over the Christmas period.
After the first episode aired, Nancy Banks-Smith said in The Guardian that The Palace "is the TV equivalent of balloon modelling. It feels like being shot to death with popcorn." She also said that "I never fail to be amazed when decent actors - Walter, Marsden, Cranitch, Shrapnel - bob up in tosh like this." Andrew Billen said in The Times "I am delighted that, as with The Palace, the channel is setting before us something other than a grim regional detective or a comedy drama about suburban adultery. The Palace inhabits an incredible world all of its own. In that respect it is believable: the real palace undoubtedly does, too." James Walton for The Daily Telegraph wrote that for "sheer weirdness" there "was no match at all for The Palace". Keith Watson wrote in the Metro said that The Palace "pitched itself just right, its tongue-in-cheek study of a faction-riven upstairs clan contrasting with the bitching and backbiting of the downstairs footmen." He concluded his review by saying "Much of The Palace may be playing for laughs but it promises a sting in its blue-blooded tale".
The day after the series ended, Watson wrote "I know I'm in a minority here, but I shall miss the Dynasty-style antics of King Rich and his nemesis Princess Eleanor, with Rupert Evans and Sophie Winkleman top hole as scheming royal siblings." Rupert Evans played a very convincing, young King, with all the right flares. Watson called the series a victim of "ITV1’s ratings-crazy drama cull", referring to its impending cancellation.
In April 2008, ITV announced that The Palace would not be renewed for a second series, due to low viewing figures. The last episode had been watched by 3.1 million people.
The Palace was released on DVD in the UK (Region 2) on 17 March 2008.