The new King of comedy

Downton Abbey's Charles Edwards heads up a starry cast in a new royal sitcom from Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais

With Netflix’s The Crown picking up awards and the BBC’s Charles III coming soon, it’s a right royal time for the British monarchy on TV at the moment!

And there’s more to come, as Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, the writing team behind much-loved sitcoms The Likely Lads, Auf Wiedersehen Pet and Porridge, have penned new comedy Henry IX for Gold, which will air in the spring.

Set in present-day England, the three-parter stars Downton Abbey’s Charles Edwards as the titular fictional monarch who, after 25 years on the throne, is experiencing a mid-life crisis.

“Henry is very well loved, and he’s managed very well by his coterie of advisers,” explains Charles, whose striking physical resemblance to Michael Palin saw him cast as the Monty Python member in Holy Flying Circus. “But behind that, he’s all at sea in his role as King and in his personal life. He’s around my age, 47, and he’s thinking: ‘Is this it?’”

Appearing alongside Charles is a stellar cast that includes Colin Salmon as the King’s advisor, Annette Crosbie as his mother, Sally Phillips as his Scandinavian wife, Don Warrington as his valet and Kara Tointon as a florist who catches his eye.

For leading man Charles, who played publisher Michael Gregson in Downton and is currently appearing in TV drama The Halcyon, it’s the latest in a string of royal-related roles – he’s previously played Edward VIII in Bertie and Elizabeth, King George V in the stage play The King’s Speech and Princess Diana’s private secretary in the 2013 film Diana.

“There’s always a taste for royal stuff on TV, and we are constantly revisiting them,” he admits. “There’s a fascination with what goes on behind closed doors – and that’s partly the appeal of something like Downton Abbey.”

Ian MacEwan
Senior Writer

Ian writes about TV and film for TV Times, What’s on TV and TV & Satellite Week magazines. He co-hosts the weekly TV streaming podcast, Bingewatch.