Late Queen's 'humiliating' TV appearance that was 'biggest c***-up' in royal history

Queen Elizabeth II attends Derby Day during the Investec Derby Festival at Epsom Racecourse on June 4, 2016 in Epsom, England.
The late Queen didn't love the idea - but couldn't say no -Credit:Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

A decision made by the late Queen is considered one of the most unexpected and peculiar moments in recent Royal history.

In 1987, members of the Royal Family participated in the TV show It's a Royal Knockout - an idea conceived by Prince Edward. The event turned out to be a turning point for the monarchy, but for all the wrong reasons.

The programme, filmed at Alton Towers, featured four teams of celebrities - including John Travolta, George Lazenby, Toyah Willcox, Gary Lineker and Barbara Windsor - competing against each other in a series of ridiculous games.

The team captains were Prince Edward, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and his new wife, Sarah Ferguson.

The event was a disaster and has been described as one of the "biggest cock-ups" in the history of the Royal Family. According to royal expert Ben Pimlott, the late Queen was not fond of the idea from the beginning, a sentiment shared by her staff who also thought it would be a mistake, reports the Mirror.

An insider told Pimlott: "[The Queen] was against it, but one of her faults is that she can't say no."

Indeed, it was a disaster when it came to maintaining the mystery and prestige associated with the Royal Family. Recalling the show on Channel 5's Fergie Vs Diana: Royal Wives at War, expert Jennie Bond said: "It's a Royal Knockout will go down in Royal history as one of the biggest cock-ups of all time I think.

"It was a disaster from beginning to end, it was absolutely humiliating. Sarah with her usual gusto entered into it, and if she gets into something she does it with bells on."

Not all of the Royal Family took up the offer of taking part. Speaking on the same documentary, the Daily Mail's Richard Kay said: "Diana famously didn't take part, neither did Charles. He thought it was something that was beneath them.

"In a way, it's kind of unfair, Fergie took a lot of the blame, almost the scapegoat. Her behaviour was being commented on and I think, then, is when Diana came into her own."

The show was hosted by Stuart Hall, Les Dawson and Su Pollard. Paul Daniels acted as the chief referee.

Princess Anne's red team, raising cash for Save the Children, included Tom Jones, Cliff Richard, actress Jenny Agutter, and athlete Deborah Flintoff.

Fergie was joined by Michael Brandon, Ben Cross and Jane Seymour, while Prince Andrew's World Wildlife Team included Gary Lineker, Margot Kidder, Rhys Jones and John Travolta. The late singer Meat Loaf also took part.

Prince Edward was in charge of the yellow team, raising cash for the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. Among the celebs on his team were John Cleese, Eddie Grant, Peter Blake and Christopher Reeve.

And while it was a disaster for the dignity of the Royal Family, it was at least a commercial success: 18 million people tuned in, the fourth biggest audience for 1987, while more than 400 million viewers worldwide saw it at a later date.

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