The Queen and The Coup

Rating 6.9
Streamer All4
Seasons 1
Episodes 1 x 45 mins

If the events in Salisbury are a reminder of the fraught relationship between Britain and Russia in the 2010s, then The Queen and The Coup is a welcome recollection of how events in the 1950s shaped the British role in the Middle East for the following seventy years. Reviewers, however, are not so sure about the title.

Carol Midgley in The Times rates the lead interviewees Professors Rory Cormac and Richard Aldrich who steer viewers through the story of how the Shah of Iran was persuaded not to flee his country by Britain and America in 1953. They “provided terrific detail in a gimmick-free documentary that treated the viewers like grown-ups (so rare!).” In the Independent Ed Cuming also thinks this is a great story, worthy of examination, but that including the Queen in the billing is, as Her Maj might say, a bit orf: “Given the documentary’s title and the way her involvement is trailed in the opening minutes, I half-expect her to parachute into Tehran.” However, “The tangential reference to the Queen might lure a few viewers, but it’s a misleading title. There is a good reason the Queen does not intervene in foreign affairs.” Writing in The Telegraph Anita Singh points out that “as a rule of thumb, if a documentary keeps bashing you over the head with claims that its contents are a bombshell, you will find yourself underwhelmed.” However, despite the over-egged title she calls this “a fascinating story.”

Fascinating it is. Ignore the misleading mention of the Queen and enjoy this examination of a crucial piece of the history between London, Tehran and Washington. With the story still unfolding today, it’s quite a marvel to see how the subtlest of interventions can change the course of history.

First shown June 2020.

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