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Who’s had sex with the most British monarchs (on screen)?

One actor can boast he’s played potential lovers of both a King and a Queen.

While reading about the imminent return of posh royal soap opera The Crown, something suddenly occurred to me: when Matt Smith accepted the role of Prince Philip, he may have become the first screen actor ever to have played people who have had it off with both Queen Elizabeths. Now, at this point you might reasonably object that (a) Elizabeth I was widely to believed to have died a virgin, and that (b) Smith has never played anyone who has even slightly plausibly had sex with Elizabeth I. But you’d be wrong.

Because Smith played BBC TV’s Doctor Who, who – when he was played by David Tennant – was heavily implied to have got lucky with Good Queen Bess (“...so much for the Virgin Queen, you bad, bad boy!”) He even ended up marrying her in the show’s 50th anniversary episode, though things clearly didn’t work out, as an older version of Elizabeth wanted him executed (in a prior episode – time-travel, eh – we’ve all been there right lads?). Tennant regenerated into Smith, therefore Smith has played someone who’s bedded Elizabeths I and II. But can anyone beat that?

Trawling IMDB cast lists, I found 15 actresses who have have played wives or lovers of two different monarchs – The Crown’s own Eileen Atkins (Mary of Teck, wife of George V) has done it, having also played Eleanor of Aquitaine (Henry II’s missus) in the terrible Russell Crowe movie Robin Hood.

Natalie Dormer, before she was Margaery Tyrell, wife of different claimants to the throne of Westeros in Game of Thrones, played both Anne Boleyn (The Tudors), and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother (2011’s W.E.). Helena Bonham Carter also played both of those roles – in a 2003 TV movie, Henry VIII, and The King’s Speech, respectively.

Other notables include Zoë Wanamaker, who married Richards I & III as Berengaria of Navarre and Anne Neville; Glenn Close, who played another Eleanor of Aquitaine and Alexandra of Denmark (wife of Edward VII), and Joely Richardson, whose been Catherine Parr (Henry VIII) and Wallis Simpson (Edward VIII).

But the joint record holders are Claire Bloom and Jeanette Sterke, with three kings a piece. Sterke played Richard II’s wife Anne of Bohemia in 1955 TV movie Richard of Bordeaux, and then in the BBC anthology series BBC Sunday-Night Theatre became both Anne Boleyn and Maria Fitzherbert, who was briefly the wife of George IV before the marriage was declared to be invalid.

Claire Bloom’s “royal career” has spanned over five decades – she played Anne Neville in the 1955 film of Richard III, Catherine of Aragon in the 1979 TV movie Katharine of Aragon and most recently Mary of Teck in the King’s Speech. (While we’re counting, she also played two actual monarchs - Anne and Victoria, plus Doctor Who’s mum. Beat that!).

Male preference in succession means there have been fewer opportunities for men to play the husbands and lovers of our monarchs – truly, political correctness has gone mad – so no man has played the lover of more than two of our monarchs. So, does Smith hold the male record?

Well, maybe. The only other actor who may have been able to claim to have (at least notionally) bedded two Queens on screen was the late Robert Hardy, who in two different BBC dramas played Prince Albert and Robert Dudley – Dudley was a favourite of Elizabeth I and has often been supposed to be her lover, even if there’s no evidence that the relationship was ever consummated.

Dudley was also played by Robin Bailey, who thus has a plausible claim on two monarchs, having earlier played Robert de Vere, Duke of Ireland and rumoured lover of Richard II – making him the only screen actor to have played potential lovers of both a King AND a Queen.

But Smith is, as far as I can tell, the only person to have the "double Elizabeth". For now: the next series of The Crown will see the part of Prince Philip recast as time marches as on. And if Olivia Coleman, the show’s next Queen Elizabeth II, had her way, her choice for Prince Philip would immediately match Smith’s record – because she wants David Tennant. Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey indeed. Peter Capaldi, Jodie Whittaker: you may have new career goals.

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Why do politicians keep making podcasts?

Nick Clegg is the latest to take to the internet airwaves.

“Rage is the opposite of reason. Discuss!”, Nick Clegg declares jauntily at the start of the first episode of his new podcast, Anger Management. The former Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister can now be heard on the internet airwaves fortnightly, grilling guests about what he calls “the politics of anger”. Since his show is introduced by a montage of angry politicians shouting, it’s guaranteed to raise the listener’s blood pressure before the host even starts talking.

Clegg is just the latest in a long run of politicians to try their hand at podcasting. Perhaps the most notable example in the UK is the former Labour leader Ed Miliband, whose Reasons to be Cheerful show made in partnership with the former Absolute Radio DJ Geoff Lloyd hit number two in the iTunes podcast chart when it debuted in September 2017 and was recently nominated for a 2018 British Podcast Award. Jacob Rees-Mogg, too, has a fortnightly podcast called the Moggcast, which launched in January 2018 and is hosted by Conservative Home. Where once a politician might do a phone-in show on LBC or guest host The Jeremy Vine Show  on BBC Radio 2 to show how in touch and relatable they are (as in Call Clegg, which aired on LBC from 2013 to 2015, or Ed Milibands lunch time death metal scream), they can now go it alone.

In his column in the i newspaper introducing the podcast, Clegg puts his finger on exactly why it is that politicians find podcasting so attractive: it’s all about control. “I have grown to abhor the tired and tested confrontational interview format,” he writes. On his podcast, “there is no wish to pounce on a slip of the tongue or endure a soundbite being hammered home”. There’s a freedom to this kind of on-demand internet audio, which can be delivered directly to an audience without having to get past the traditional gatekeepers of broadcasting. There’s no need to put up with John Humphrys or work with the BBC’s requirement for political balance. The politician, usually on the receiving end of whatever the interviewer wants to throw at them, is in charge.

Given this, it’s unfortunate that in his first episode Nick Clegg falls foul of his own edicts. His first guest is former Ukip leader Nigel Farage (coincidentally also the host of a podcast called Farage Against the Machine). It’s a slightly odd choice of guest to launch the show — made, no doubt, to generate controversy and a higher iTunes chart position — and it doesn’t exactly show Clegg’s broadcasting skills in a good light.

In a recorded disclaimer that plays before the interview, the former Lib Dem leader and vocal Remainer tries to pre-empt criticism that he’s giving a platform to someone with pretty unpalatable views. He explains that the first half of the 47-minute episode is meant to be about Farage’s “life, not really me cross-questioning him”, and that to hear them “locking horns more on the issues of the day” listeners must wait until the latter part of the show.

This approach results in Clegg letting Farage get away with a number of fact-light statements early on, and then later adopting the Humphrys-style tactic of repeatedly interrupting Farage before he can finish a point. As an interview style, it’s the worst of both worlds — neither spacious enough to allow the guest to explain their thinking fully, nor robust enough to provide an effective rebuttal. Hosting a podcast is a deceptively hard thing to do. It would take someone substantially more skilled behind the microphone than Clegg to completely reinvent the one-on-one discussion format in a single episode.

The lure of podcasting for politicians is in the way listeners react to the medium. The entire burgeoning podcast advert market is founded on research that points to a strong sense of intimacy between podcast host and audience — it’s a level of loyalty and engagement that surpasses many other forms of media. In politics, that can be harnessed for electoral gain: for instance, Hillary Clinton had a podcast called With Her that ran during her 2016 presidential campaign.

The trouble is that politicians aren’t necessarily that good at making podcasts. They’re not journalists, and they don’t often have a good nose for what makes a strong show for the listener, or take the advice of those who do. For those still in office (or, like Clegg, still wanting to participate in politics despite losing his seat), there are other pressures that can prevent them being completely honest on air. As Amanda Hess pointed out in the New York Times in 2017, the best episodes of Clinton’s podcast were made after she lost the election, when she moved out of campaign mode and just tried to process what had happened like everyone else.

The rise of the podcasting politician is the result of a few different factors: an increased dominance of personality in politics; the tendency for us all to gravitate towards our own “filter bubbles” of reassuring content; and an ever-more polarised media climate. For my money, the best show to come out of this trend so far is Ed Miliband’s. He leans in to the “geeky” stereotype that haunted him for his entire career and, guided by veteran broadcaster Geoff Lloyd, is seeking to make something that looks beyond the political bubble.

Podcasts are at their best when they serve a particular niche interest group: there’s clearly a community of people who enjoy listening to Jacob Rees-Mogg intoning bleakly about obscure areas of policy, and best of luck to them. Politicians should realise that it is not a form that works when you try to appeal to everyone. Otherwise, like Nick Clegg, they will end up telling Nigel Farage that he’s “very good at the high horse stuff about how the EU is ghastly” in a strained tone of voice.

Caroline Crampton is head of podcasts at the New Statesman. She writes a newsletter about podcasts.