The Palace

For the arena, see The Palace of Auburn Hills. For the hotel, see The New York Palace Hotel. See also Palace (disambiguation).
The Palace
Genre Drama
Created by Tom Grieves
Directed by Metin Hüseyin
Maurice Phillips
Starring Rupert Evans
Jane Asher
Zoe Telford
Roy Marsden
Lorcan Cranitch
Sophie Winkleman
David Harewood
Sebastian Armesto
Composer(s) Richard Chester
Joby Talbot
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 8 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) George Faber
Charles Pattinson
Tom Grieves
Producer(s) Gina Cronk
Editor(s) Annie Kocur
Beverley Mills
Running time 45 minutes
Production company(s) Company Pictures
Distributor All3Media
Original network ITV, STV, UTV
Picture format 16:9 1080i
Audio format Stereo
Original release 14 January (2008-01-14) – 3 March 2008 (2008-03-03)
External links

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).



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[1] International broadcast sales were handled by All3Media, Company Pictures' parent company.[2]

EpisodeWriter Director Ratings Original airdate
Episode 1Tom GrievesMetin Hüseyin4.59[3]14 January 2008 (2008-01-14)
Richard, Prince of Wales and Prince George are out clubbing when their father, King James III, dies suddenly while at the opera. Richard then succeeded to the throne as Richard IV, and within hours has met the Prime Minister Edward Shaw (John Shrapnel). Richard's elder sister, Princess Eleanor, is immediately jealous of his new position as she believes she should be Queen and she and her Private Secretary Major Simon Brooks start plotting to discredit Richard. Abi speaks to a publisher about doing a tell-all book. Meanwhile, footman Jimmy sees the King kissing a woman in the Throne Room, and The Sun threatens to break the story after James III's funeral. Before this happens, the King does a live television interview with Joanna Woodward (Harriet Walter). During the interview, Richard speaks candidly about his feelings of inadequacy and his love for his country.
Episode 2Chris LangMetin Hüseyin[a]21 January 2008 (2008-01-21)
The King is having an affair with Miranda Hill (Shelley Conn), the married press officer to the Prime Minister. Their relationship soon ends when her office leaks old drunken photos of him—the leak comes after the King argues with the Prime Minister over defence cuts. Richard inflames him by appearing to criticise the cuts and invites a recent war-widow to tea. Meanwhile, Prince George admits to the Palace's Chief Superintendent Peter Bayfield (John Ramm) that he hit a man while driving at night, and did not stop to see if the man was all right. The Palace then tries to cover this up with only a handful of people knowing, but Princess Eleanor manages to find out from the security officer who was with Prince George at the time. Eleanor then tells Richard and encourages him to cover it up, so she can leak it later to make them both look bad.
Episode 3Tom GrievesMetin Hüseyin[a]28 January 2008 (2008-01-28)
The King's relationship with Miranda Hill continues despite, at first, Miranda's reluctance to do so. The relationship between, Abigail and Simon begins to flourish, although Abigail has no idea that his motives for this lie in the fact that the King's sister, Princess Eleanor, is determined to find out her brother's mystery lover. The King, after some persuasion, forces Prince George to confess and visit the victim of the car accident. After his visit to the hospital it is evident that the brothers' bond has broken. On discovering the identity of the mystery lover, Abigail hints to King Richard that she knows. This results in the King visiting Abigail in her flat and she assures him that she will tell no one. After their meeting the King leaves the building and is photographed by the press.
Episode 4Tom GrievesMetin Hüseyin[a]4 February 2008 (2008-02-04)
Abigail is now the centre of attention with her picture splashed all over the newspapers after cameras caught the King leaving her apartment. Sir Iain grows even more suspicious of her by asking himself the question why was the King there in the first place. However, Princess Eleanor's aide, Simon, figures the real identity of the King's lover, Miranda, and goes straight to inform the Princess who in turn informs the Sunday papers. The Prime Minister and Sir Iain rush to the King's assistance and come up with a cover story. They will tell the world that Abigail is the real lover and keep the identity of Miranda a secret. The King, however, rejects the plan and his relationship with Miranda ends.
Episode 5Charlotte JonesMaurice Phillips3.31[3]11 February 2008 (2008-02-11)
In order to cause trouble, Princess Eleanor encourages her mother to wear a sentimental diamond necklace that was taken by the British in the days of the Raj. The Indian government now want this back; when Charlotte wears it during the state visit of the Indian President, a diplomatic incident occurs. Richard wants to give it back, but also is worried about taking it away from his mother due to its sentimental value. Eventually, the Queen gives the necklace to the Indians herself. Meanwhile, the Honourable Alice Templeton (Clemency Burton-Hill), Richard's childhood friend, is invited to the Palace by the Queen, who hopes they will fall in love and marry. However, when Abi is talking to the King, they end up kissing. Also, the new head chef proves unpopular with the rest of the staff.
Episode 6Tom GrievesMaurice Phillips3.20[3]18 February 2008 (2008-02-18)
After an intruder breaks into Princess Eleanor's bedroom, she and her office move from Clarence House to Buckingham Palace. Simon then moves into Abi's office, and discovers that she is the palace servant writing a "tell all" book. While putting on a brave front, Eleanor secretly is deeply disturbed by the intruder, especially after he kills himself, as she did not return his love for her. Meanwhile, Abi offers her resignation after kissing the King. He refuses it and says they should continue as before. Alice tells Abi that she loves Richard and the public reaction to her friendship with the King is very positive. At the gay wedding of one of the Palace servants, Alice kisses Richard, who says he does not love her. Alice believes that Richard and Abi love each other.
Episode 7Chris LangMaurice Phillips[a]25 February 2008 (2008-02-25)
Richard tells Abi that he loves her, and they are just about to kiss when they are interrupted. At her 18th birthday party, Princess Isabelle gives a speech damning the Monarchy and calling for a republic. This speech is filmed by a friend and ends up on the Internet. Isabelle then disappears and after a few days the Palace questions her mental health. She responds by doing an interview with the News of the World. Soon after the Palace track her down, and the family doctor diagnosis Acute Anxiety Syndrome (AAS). After being persuaded by Richard, Isabelle agrees to get treatment at a hospital. Meanwhile, Simon shows Princess Eleanor Abi's manuscript. Eleanor then tells Abi she will show it to the King unless she tells her all of Richard’s secrets.
Episode 8Tom GrievesMaurice Phillips3.46[3]3 March 2008 (2008-03-03)
Princess Eleanor tells the Archbishop of Canterbury, who will be crowning the King, that Queen Charlotte had an affair 25 years ago, which might question Richard’s paternity. The priest then informs Sir Iain, and soon the entire Palace knows. Charlotte confesses to Richard that she did have an affair, but knows that he is legitimate. Meanwhile, Abi continues to be threatened by Eleanor and Simon, so confesses to Richard about the book and tells him about Eleanor’s plans to become Queen. He then has an argument with Eleanor and, following a DNA test proving he is the rightful king, says after the Coronation that he will send her to a remote island for six months to "recover" from her illness. Eleanor then sacks Major Brooks. After he is crowned, Richard and Abi, who has given back the advance for the book, tell each other they still love each other and she persuades him to give their relationship a go.


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.[4] 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.[5][6]

The series was written by Grieves, Chris Lang, Charlotte Jones and Toby Whitehouse.[6] Grieves was influenced in his writing by Hamlet; he explored how Richard deals with the "ancient, ritualistic institution" that he inherits after James dies.[4] 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.[7] The series was greenlit by ITV in January 2007.[2]

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.[8] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] The Guardian previewed it as one of the top 50 shows (including film, theatre and television) to watch over the Christmas period.[11]

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."[12] 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."[13] James Walton for The Daily Telegraph wrote that for "sheer weirdness" there "was no match at all for The Palace".[14] 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".[15]

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.[16]

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.[17]

DVD release

The Palace was released on DVD in the UK (Region 2) on 17 March 2008.[18]


1. ^ Ratings for these episodes fell below the Top 30 most-viewed programmes; BARB does not publicly release these figures.


  1. Piasecka, Isabella (2008-01-11). "ITV signs up Warner hotels for Palace drama". Media Week. Haymarket Media. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
  2. 1 2 Shepherd, Rob (2007-01-11). "ITV1 to turn Buck House into West Wing". Broadcast Now. EMAP. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Weekly Viewing Summary: Terrestrial Top 30", Broadcasters' Audience Research Board website, BARB Ltd..
  4. 1 2 Burton-Hill, Clemency (2008-01-02). "Is a TV drama about the royal family sacrilege?". The Spectator. The Spectator Ltd. p. 16.
  5. Conlan, Tara (2007-01-11). "ITV commissions Buckingham Palace drama". Media Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 2007-12-27.
  6. 1 2 Hemley, Matthew (2007-08-15). "Asher and Evans to star in ITV1 royal drama". The Stage. The Stage Newspaper. Retrieved 2007-08-22.
  7. Jephson, Patrick (12–18 January 2008). "Heir & graces". Radio Times. BBC Magazines. pp. 15–16.
  8. 1 2 Scott, Danny (12–18 January 2008). "Behind the scenes: Baltic exchange". Radio Times. BBC Magazines. p. 16.
  9. Kay, Richard (2007-12-17). "A royal culture clash". Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers. Retrieved 2007-12-27.
  10. Hastings, Chris (2007-10-21). "'Fictitious' ITV drama provokes royal rumpus". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Group. Retrieved 2007-11-30.
  11. Staff writer (2007-11-27). "A Dickens of a Christmas". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 2007-11-30.
  12. Banks-Smith, Nancy (2008-01-15). "Last night's TV". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 2007-01-23.
  13. Billen, Andrew (2008-01-15). "The Palace; City of Vice". The Times. Times Newspapers. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  14. Walton, James (2008-01-15). "Last night on television: The Palace (ITV1) - City of Vice (Channel 4)". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Group. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  15. Watson, Keith (2008-01-15). "Crowning story". Metro. Associated Newspapers.
  16. Watson, Keith (2008-03-04). "Copycat culture". Metro. Associated Newspapers.
  17. Holmwood, Leigh (2008-04-10). "ITV axes struggling drama The Palace". Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 2008-04-12.
  18. "The Palace on DVD". Retrieved 2008-10-06.

External links

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