The King Who Never Was Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
Vittorio Emanuele di Savoia is the last heir to the throne of Italy. He and his family were exiled in 1946 and could not return for the next 56 years. He has been the centre of many … unpleasantnesses. The most recent were the charges of criminal association, racketeering, exploitation of prostitution and sundry other delights, of which he was later acquitted. But, in Netflix’s latest contribution to the swelling ranks of true crime documentaries, The King Who Never Was, the makers concentrate on the scandal that really made his name: his arrest in 1978 for the killing of 19-year-old Dirk Hamer and the subsequent 38-year campaign by Hamer’s sister Birgit to get some answers.
In the summer of 1978, Birgit and her brother joined a group of glamorous young Italian friends on a trip to Cavallo – a French island near Corsica and the playground of the Savoy family. “We were neither few nor quiet,” says one of the friends now, still glamorous in middle age and still incredulous at how the fateful night unfolded. The Savoy family could, she feels, legitimately have found them annoying. They also “borrowed” the dinghy tied to Emanuele’s boat in the bay where their own three vessels were moored, to get them to a restaurant and back in the evening. Late that night, Emanuele set off to get it back. He took his rifle. “Because in Corsica, danger is always round the corner,” he says now. Two shots were fired. One travelled through the cabin walls of the nearby boat Dirk was asleep on and hit him in the stomach. Emanuele was arrested and a few days later signed a letter admitting civil liability for what would turn out to be a mortal injury. Months later, after 19 surgeries, Dirk died. The day before he did so, Emanuele was bailed and left Corsica for Switzerland.
Birgit’s fight to have the crown prince put on trial for her brother’s death began. The documentary follows the next four decades of disappearing documentation, vanishing evidence, stalled (or never started) investigations, allegations of witness intimidation, and claims by Emanuele’s wife Marina – as devoted to her husband’s cause over the ensuing years as Birgit is to hers – that the hospital doctor who first treated Dirk said he had been shot at point blank range. One of the visiting Italians owned a gun and when it was found on the boat Emanuele’s lawyers had a field day. There could have been another shooter! Probably was! Almost certainly, in fact! In footage from the time, one of them is seen making what he seems to consider not just a relevant but a decisive point. “This is the first time since Marie Antoinette,” he says dramatically, “that a member of the royal family has been imprisoned.” Emanuele was not tried until 1989, and was then only found guilty of possessing an unlicensed firearm.
Birgit remembers touring newsrooms, trying to publicise the case over the years as it threatened to fade into obscurity, and finding journalists either unwilling to write or unable to publish articles about the event. At every turn for decades, she says, she was thwarted by Emanuele’s influence – there is still power even behind a lost throne. The King Who Never Was lays out the differing accounts of what happened on the night, the unsatisfactory conduct of the trials that did happen, and the astonishing drive and persistence of Birgit (and, perhaps more unfortunately, Marina) as they played out across Europe for many years.
If the film begins with a slight sense of a barrel being scraped – a 1978 not-even-murder by a pseudo-royal the international market has largely never heard of? C’mon! – it soon justifies itself as an examination of how much can go right in your life if you have enough power, business connections, money and private travel arrangements. It takes up the genre’s common thread – the contingency of freedom and justice on all the things that should have absolutely nothing to do with them – and adds a royal twist without descending into sensationalism or gorging on the opulence and wealth of everyone involved. It gives plenty of space to all the main characters to tell their stories without interference, and if one side seems to crave indulgence and showcase an extraordinary amount of self-pity while the other seems, frankly, to transcend all earthly failings and make you want to lead a better life – well, that’s on each of them.