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Edward explains `Crown & Country’

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For all those Americans who are rather obsessed with both Britain and the British royal family, "Crown & Country" ought to be just the thing.

Not only does this two-hour documentary, which airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on KUED-Ch. 7, deal with some of England's most prominent historical sites, but it was written, produced and hosted by an actual member of the royal family - Prince Edward, the youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II."I've always enjoyed history, said the prince, who goes by Edward Windsor for this project. "History is basically stories. And you'll find that, with this series, it is just a selection of stories."

The stories are about various sites in Britain, some of them very familiar and some less so.

"It's the case of trying to find a series of places that have good stories attached to them," Windsor said. "In some cases they have got obvious stories, (like) Windsor and Sandringham.

"But going to the less obvious ones like Portsmouth and Winchester and Cambridge was the fun part. And actually digging out the stories there and the involvements and the relationship between the crown and those particular parts of the country. There were many different stories and many different tales to tell."

"Crown & Country" travels to Windsor Castle; Portsmouth (the seat of British naval power); Cambridge; Winchester (home of the famous cathedral and the capital of England from the ninth to the 13th centuries); Sandringham, the 19th-century estate so beloved by the current royals; and Bury St. Edmunds, the spot where the tragic tale of England's first patron saint played out.

The documentary includes plenty of gorgeous film footage of the various sites, narrated by Windsor, who also appears from time to time (dressed quite casually, by the way). There's the occasional re-creation, as well as a number of odd but fascinating stories.

Windsor shows us a table at Windsor Castle on which the beheaded body of Charles I was laid as it was sewn back together before burial. And the actual bullet that killed Lord Nelson at Trafalgar. And tells the tale of how tea may first have been drunk in England.

And is that a copy of the round table hanging in Winchester Cathedral - and is Winchester actually the site of King Arthur's Camelot?

"One of the things we were very conscious of for this series was that, although it's history, it is certainly not intended as a history lesson. . . . And, secondly, that it should be entertaining," Windsor said.

And "Crown & Country" is actually more travelogue than it is history lesson.

"There are whole chunks of history that we basically avoid," Windsor said. "For instance, we mention on several occasions the Magna Carta, but I wouldn't dream of trying to explain the Magna Carta on this series because everybody would switch off before we got halfway through.

"There are lots of academics out there who will no doubt criticize the program and say, `Well, you can't prove that.' . . . But so what? It's been handed down, it is known as a piece of folklore. Why not include it and let the viewers decide whether or not they want to believe it?"

Windsor himself admits to being somewhat surprised at some of what he discovered while putting "Crown & Country" together.

"That story about Charles I and the table there - I didn't know that, for instance," Windsor said. "I've been to Portsmouth on numerous occasions. I didn't even know that Portchester Castle existed before I did this particular series."

What "Crown & Country" is not is a look inside the lives of the current royal family. Oh, Windsor makes occasional references to his parents and there is some footage of the queen, but that's about it.

"Whether anybody will end up being better informed about the royal family today as a result of this, I doubt," Edward said.