The Queen
Within recent years, the Monarchy of Great Britain appears to have had quite a lot hidden away from the public eye. Scandals – affairs – adultery – gaffs – bad dress sense – a funny accent – all of these things have just been shrouded from sight, so that they can present a united front in the face of adversity. And do you know what? This is something that isn’t seen within this 60-minute documentary made in 2011.

Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage

This documentary chronicles two tales of equal importance. The first tale is about the ill health of Great Britain’s mental health services within the 19th and 20th century. And the second tale, is about how the mental state of ‘the Queens hidden cousins’, Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon, have kept them secluded from the public eye since the early 1940’s.

Now to help this feature tell this duel tale, on display, there is stock photography, voice over narration, and pre-recorded interviews involving both experts and patients whom have knowledge in these two subject matters.

Here is a rough break down on how this show plays out:

  • THE LINE OF DECENT: The Queen Mother’s older brother and sister-in-law, John and Fenella Bowes-Lyon, had two children named Nerissa and Katherine. Unfortunately, though, these cousins to the current Queen were born with mental deficiencies, and neither of them learned how to talk or behave in a ‘normal’ way. Thusly, they were ‘officially diagnosed’ as ‘imbeciles’, and then dealt with accordingly.
  • OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND: In 1840, the Royal Earlswood Asylum for ‘idiots’ was established to look after and care for people whom were deemed ‘mentally unstable’. Then, in 1941, the Queen Mother's nieces, Katherine Bowes-Lyon and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, were kept there for several decades – without any visits from the Royal Family, whom thought that they had died. After that, in 1958, the ‘hospital’ stopped receiving charitable funding, and so this establishment was then integrated into the National Health Service. And finally, in 1997, due to governmental neglect, as well as an incentive to integrate people with ‘learning disabilities’ back into the community again, Royal Earlswood was transformed into a private residential complex.
  • THE RIGHT STATE OF MENTAL HEALTH: People classified in the 19th Century as being ‘idiots’ had an awful lot to put up with. Firstly, this was because most of these ‘unfortunate people’ were associated with the ‘lower classes’. Secondly, for people in Katherine and Nerissa standing, it was deemed unacceptable for them to be seen in ‘privileged society’. Thirdly, because people with ‘this sorts of condition’ were all insufficiently diagnosed, they were all then ‘lumped together’ under one banner – and treated 'accordingly'. And fourthly, there was no prospects for people who had no understanding – and so, no money for them either. Or ‘care’ in some cases too.   
  • THE SISTERS: One year after Nerissa died (1987), it was reported in the national press that she and her sister, Katherine, had been placed in a hospital for the mentally disabled – even though Burke's Peerage stated that they had both died in 1963. Now this news has caused quite some controversy for the Royal Family – not that is has done Katherine or other Royal ‘secrets’ any good – except for Nerissa getting a proper gravestone, after being buried in a paupers grave.

Many a year ago, I worked in a Summer Camp in America, where I looked after people who had ‘behavioural difficulties’. Now, prior to this ‘temporary work diversion’, the only knowledge I had about mental health, was from the film ‘One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest’, as well as witnessing my Father look after these ‘unfortunate souls’ during his time as an RCO Care Officer for Mencap Services. However – presently – now, that I have had some ‘very moving’ and ‘hands on’ experiences’ in this field of care, all I can say is that whenever I watch a program such as ‘The Queens Hidden Cousins’, all I can feel is anger and resentment inside me –about how these people have been treated.

The Queens Hidden Cousin
OK, I have read quite a few of the reviews out in cyberspace concerning this show, with the majority of them blasting it for ‘stirring up trouble for the Queen’, or ‘showcasing facts that most people already know about already’. Nevertheless, do these ‘reviewers’ really know? Can these people truly understand what is really going on, if they have never experienced working in a mental health environment before? No – I don’t think so – because the majority of these ‘reviewers’ have no idea as to what it is like to see, breath, or feel, what these ‘unfortunates’ have gone through in their harsh lifetimes.

My focus lies with them – and not with the feelings for the privileged few.

Granted, I may be somewhat overtly sympathetic towards ‘people with disabilities’, because of my previous history caring for them. Still, that is not to say that one person – not even the Queen, whom I have much respect for – should not be abated for neglecting her ‘family duties’, and, personally speaking, should at least make an attempt to reaching out to her cousin, Katherine – even after all the time has gone by.

She does for charity, right?

Now I bet you anything – and I do mean anything – that if this did happen, then not only would the Queen put a big smile on Katherine’s face, but it would also show that she is a ruler with compassion and judgment that would elevate her above most of her ancestors – and that is really saying something. Moreover, it would be a nice way to temper the resolve for programs such as this one, which – in an exploitative manner – is used to disrespect the monarchy’s chequered history.

The Queens Hidden Cousin

Well, the problem I found with ‘The Queens Hidden Cousins’, is that: (1) The use of the word ‘hidden’ was somewhat redundant within this program, since the Queen and the public have known about ‘the cousins’ for over twenty years now. (2) I found that the story surrounding Katherine Bowes-Lyon and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, was used as padding within the overall tale – because the majority of it was mainly focused on ‘the past state of play for England’s mental health service’, as well as being a platform for ‘other people’ tales, whom have been associated with Royal Earlswood Asylum. And (3) Certain key facts concerning ‘the Royal conspiracy’ was merely touched upon – and then with only insinuation implied.

Overall, though, I did like watching this documentary. It brought back fond memories for me of a past work endeavour – it highlighted how some of the ‘old ways’ were not always the ‘good old ways’ – and, all in all, it made me think... and that is a good thing to do from time to time.

Nice but exploitative documentary – still worth the watch.


THE QUEEN'S HIDDEN COUSINS THE QUEEN'S HIDDEN COUSINS Reviewed by David Andrews on November 21, 2011 Rating: 5
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