Secrets of the Royal Palaces: Princess Diana’s private second funeral, phone-hacking scandal and Lord Snowdon

No, it’s not an insight into the alleged sordid world of Prince Andrew…

Britain’s royal palaces are rich in an untold history, incredible artworks, and dramatic and funny tales. Building on the success of the first series, Secrets of the Royal Palaces recently returned to Channel 5 with a brand new set of stories.

From Princess Diana’s private second funeral at Althorp to a snowbound pub lock-in for the Queen, and Wallis Simpson’s infamous lobster dress shoot for Vogue.

With exclusive access, the documentary unlocks the secrets of the eight most famous royal palaces; Windsor, Hampton Court, Versailles, Sandringham, Brighton Pavilion, Kensington, Buckingham and the lost Palace of Whitehall.

Historian Kate Williams tells scandalous and shocking stories of ancient palace history. And eyewitness accounts backed up by specialist historians, royal commentators and ex-royal staff members give us even more sumptuous interiors, secret tales and spectacular revelations.

In this third episode of the current series, it’s over to Versailles. One of the most enormous and impressive palaces in the world. King Louis XIV built it in 1634 as a way of controlling the French aristocracy by forcing them to come and live in this golden prison, where the ‘Sun King’ could keep his eye on them. But making mirrors was a closely guarded secret held by Venetian glassmakers, so to build the Hall of Mirrors, Louis XIV had to smuggle mirror artisans into France, pursued by wannabe assassins trying to stop them giving away their secrets.

Palace insider Colin Tebbutt reveals what happened in the hospital on the night of Princess Diana’s accident, and how he had to protect her body from the still relentless press. And how, for the briefest moment, he thought she was alive.

The phone-hacking scandal breached palace walls to steal the princes’ secrets. Journalist Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire worked together to gather material by hacking their phones until the police set a trap for them. The following court case would reveal just how far the scandal went.

By marrying into the family, Lord Snowdon was able to get to know the real Queen behind the royal mask. But even after his marriage to Princess Margaret fell apart, he kept the Queen’s confidence and remained one of her favourite photographers. We tell the story of one iconic shot of the Queen with her grandson Peter Phillips.

And Kate Williams gives viewers her unique take on some of the more gruesome elements of royal history, including how Henry VIII, in pursuit of revenge, changed the law so he could execute an insane person, and how George III kept his five adult daughters trapped in the palace rather than let them marry.

Secrets of the Royal Palaces, Channel 5, 8.30 pm

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