From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
On Monday, September 19th I was glued to the TV watching the funeral service for HM Queen Elizabeth II. Since I live in the US and did not want to stay up all night, I recorded the 6-hour BBC coverage. It was a moving and awe-inspiring event; very well planned out by the former Queen and executed to precision by her family, staff, and the military.
No one does parades like the British! After crying for six hours, I was spent and ready for something Queen Elizabeth related that was upbeat. The 2015 movie, A Royal Night Out totally filled the bill.
Two Princesses Who Want to Celebrate VE Day
Inspired by real and imagined events, this comical romantic comedy takes place on a very important night in the history of the British people, and the world—Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 1945. In celebration, all of London will be partying except the nineteen-year-old Princess Elizabeth and the fifteen-year-old Princess Margaret who want to join the festivities outside the palace as ordinary citizens. Their parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, finally relent to their pleas, but with conditions. Two Royal Army officers must escort them for the evening. The girls happily accept.
Sarah Gadon as Princess Elizabeth and Bel Powley as Princess Margaret. (Images courtesy of Atlas Distribution Company/Ketchup Entertainment.)
A Comedy of Errors
Incognito and dressed to the nines, the two princesses arrive at the Ritz Hotel with their bodyguards and are shown into the ballroom, surprisingly filled with their mother’s aristocratic cronies, none of which are under the age of 80. This was not what the two princesses had in mind for an evening of dancing, drinking, and celebration. The two army officers are soon distracted by other revelers and neglect to notice their two young charges escaping the ballroom to seek a livelier crowd. Elizabeth and Margaret are soon separated which causes the crisis in the plot whereby Elizabeth searches for her younger sister through the streets of London encountering a series of mishaps, meet-ups with dubious companions, riding on parallel double decker busses, drinking and dancing in pubs, bars, and nightclubs, unknowingly visiting “knocking shops,” and meeting an assortment of unscrupulous characters before being happily reunited and eventually returned to Buckingham Palace at dawn.
Jack Gordon as Captain Burridge and Jack Laskey as Lieutenant Pryce, the two hapless officers assigned to escort the Princesses. (Images courtesy of Atlas Distribution Company/Ketchup Entertainment.)
Rubbing Elbows with Commoners
Screenwriters Trevor De Silva and Kevin Hood took the amazing fact that Elizabeth did celebrate the evening outside of the palace and ran with it by adding in Margaret (a party-girl later life) and imagining all sort of mishaps and adventures for two young ladies of royal birth rubbing elbows with commoners on an eventful night when many were too drunk to remember much of anything. They play off the “toff” vs everyman themes cleverly by placing Elizabeth with a young war-weary pilot from London’s lower class who is in a life crisis and Margaret with a naval officer intent on seduction. The director Julian Jarrold (Becoming Jane) plays these scenes out as high comedy with bits of drama and a sweet romance sprinkled in. The soundtrack is pure 1940s swing standards a la Glenn Miller and the costuming is period perfect.
Bel Powley and Sarah Gadon as princesses Margaret and Elizabeth dancing the Lindy Hop. (Images courtesy of Atlas Distribution Company/Ketchup Entertainment.)
The “what if” story is very brisk with overtones of classic 1940s comedy tropes. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne would have fit right into in this movie. Just don’t think about it too seriously and let yourself laugh. We know from Queen Elizabeth’s diaries that she was a participant in celebrations on VE Day: “Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, Pall Mall, walked simply miles. Saw parents on balcony at 12.30am – ate, partied, bed 3am!” Not to pop your balloon, but her sister Margaret was safely tucked up in the palace.
Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill, King George VI, and Princess Margaret waving to the crowd from Buckingham Palace balcony on VE Day 1945.
An Antidote to Grief
If you are in the mood to be charmed by a feel-good pastiche that will make you laugh after the passing of the longest reigning British monarch, and the most stable public figure in the world, A Royal Night Out is a great antidote to assuage the grief.
4 out of 5 Stars
- A Royal Night Out (2015)
- Studio: 20th Century Fox
- Director: Julian Jarrold
- Screenplay: Trevor De Silva & Kevin Hood
- Cast: Sarah Gadon, Bel Powley, Jack Reynor, Rupert Everett, & Emily Watson
- Length: 1 hour and 38 minutes
We viewed this movie with our Amazon Prime Video membership. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox © 2015; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2022, austenprose.com.