BBC Radio 4 soap opera The Archers yesterday marked the death of the Queen with a specially-recorded scene that was broadcast at the start of Sunday’s episode.
Listeners heard two of the serial’s longest-running characters, Lynda Snell and Lilian Bellamy, reminiscing about the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. “When you think of our lives since then, and everything that’s happened to us, the Queen has always been there – she’s just always been there,” Lynda reflected.
“Steady as a rock,” Lillian replied. “It’s going to be strange without her, I think.” Lynda then added: “It’s going to be very different without her.”
The characters were also heard discussing a book of condolence that had been set up in the church in Ambridge – the fictional West Midlands village where The Archers is set. Lynda, played by Carole Boyd, said she had struggled to find the right words to put down in the book, deciding finally on a simple sentence: “Dearest Ma’am. Rest in peace. You were an inspiration.”
“Do you think that was enough?” she asked tearfully, to which Lilian, who is played by Sunny Ormonde, replied: “Yes, I think that was perfect.”
The Archers has been broadcast on BBC radio since 1951 and has clocked up more episodes than any other continuous drama serial in the world. Although the soap is based in a fictional village, it has twice featured cameos from members of the Royal family: Queen Elizabeth II’s sister Princess Margaret in June 1984, and then the Duchess of Cornwall – now the Queen Consort – in February 2011.
Princess Margaret appeared as the surprise guest at a fundraising fashion show for the NSPCC in the ballroom of Ambridge’s local hotel, Grey Gables, while Camilla appeared in her role as president of the National Osteoporosis Society.
However, production issues make it much more difficult for television soaps to respond to major world events. EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale all moved in their schedules to make way for TV coverage of the death of the Queen. But when they come back, it could be hard to reference the death of the longest-reigning British monarch.
Normally, soaps are filmed around six weeks in advance, to allow for post-production work, including editing. According to the website Entertainment Daily, EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale have not said that they will slip in scenes regarding the Queen’s death.
EastEnders has in the past dealt with current real-life events, famously referencing Michael Jackson’s death in 2006. The soap is also known to add in last-minute scenes about sporting events, most recently the Lionesses' win at the Euros. Political events such as general elections have been referred to — Lou Beale once irately told a politician canvassing for her vote: "Ask no questions, tell no lies!" The UK’s Sam Ryder also got a rapid mention when he won second place at the Eurovision song contest with his song Spaceman.
Royal events have been mentioned at the last minute in the past, the latest one being Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s engagement news in 2017.
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