Frankie Boyle

Frankie Boyle

Frankie Boyle came to prominence when he won the Daily Telegraph’s Open Mic competition in 1996, launching his stand-up career.

On TV, he has appeared on every episode of BBC Two’s Mock the Week, and has been a familiar face on 8 Out Of 10 Cats, for which he was also a writer, They Think It’s All Over, Law of the Playground and BBC Scotland’s Live Floor Show.Other writing credits include 2DTV and 29 Minute Of Fame.

He has also been a team captain on BBC Radio Scotland’s Spin on This and Famous for 5 Minutes.

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Frankie Boyle’s Farewell To The Monarchy

Review of last night's Channel 4 programme

Frankie Boyle’s Farewell To The Monarchy is a welcome – and bitterly tart – antidote to the media’s wall-to-wall forelock-tugging Coronation coverage, which expects us to believe the pouring of God’s special oil from a gold, eagle-shaped ampulla as a perfectly normal part of a modern democracy.

We’re used to TV comedy shows coming with a warning about language some viewers may find offensive, but here Channel 4 saw wise to warn us that the comic would be expressing *opinions* some may find offensive. The snowflakes.

Those views are mainly a) that Prince Andrew is a nonce, the topic of many of his most rancorous gags, and b) we need to put an end to what he calls ‘Britain’s most boring crime syndicate’.

Boyle delivers plenty of astringent lines as he looks back at the heinous misdeeds of a few of the more famous Monarchs in Britain’s past. Henry VIII was ‘the only husband to whom Johnny Depp can feel superior’; Queen Victoria, as a ‘4ft 11in woman with nine kids and clinical depression’, would definitely have felt at home in Leith; and Richard II, given the Princes In The Tower murders, treated the Tower of London like Fred West treated his patio.

Such brutally harsh one-liners are all delivered down the barrel of the camera in Boyle’s cold-eyed deadpan that doesn’t always do them justice. They belong in a stand-up set performed to an audience rather than this odd hybrid that sits between comedy, anti-royalist diatribe and genuine history programme, and doesn’t quite satisfy any of those briefs.

For example, his segment on Lady Jane Grey goes into great detail about her execution and how you should swing your axe for clean decapitation but contains zero information about why she was installed on the throne or why she came to such a brutal end.

Nonetheless, insight does emerge from the opinionated one-liners and travelogue-like segments. Through a series of regal examples, Boyle compiles a charge sheet against the Royal Family down the centuries with the help of historians – predominantly American, which may or may not be significant.

In doing so, he allows the arguments against the monarchy to crystallise: primarily the inequity of vast unearned wealth and power being passed down the generations, and the genetic hierarchy meaning those who differ from whatever supposed ideal that family represent will have fewer rights.

We learn – as if we didn’t already know or suspect – how William the Conqueror plundered the lands he invaded to enrich himself and his chums and their descendants almost a millennium on. Even the late Duke of Westminster acknowledged as much when he was asked how entrepreneurs could become as rich as him. ‘Make sure they have an ancestor who was a very close friend of William the Conqueror,’ he replied.

Henry VIII displayed a ruthlessness which Boyle thinks the modern Royals still possess. ‘Only England could watch a man abuse six different women and think every school child should learn a rhyme to remember how he did it,’ he notes wryly.

Elizabeth I boosted her personal fortune from the slave trade, enabled by Francis Drake and – according to contributor Emma Dibridi pretty much invented racism in the process. Centuries later, Queen Victoria saw the PR advantage of turning the Monarch from a symbol of empirical power to a family unit people could relate to… even if she presided over a society that ‘treated women with a level of contempt and disregard barely seen outside a Met Police WhatsApp group.’

Boyle hopes and believes the Royal Family’s days are numbered, and when they are finally ousted, he calls for a celebration. ‘Let’s get out in the streets and raise a bottle to them,’ he concluded. ‘Filled with petrol and a burning rag’.

Frankie Boyle’s Farewell To The Monarchy is now streaming on Channel 4.

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Published: 1 May 2023


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