The Royal

The Royal is a British period medical drama produced by ITV and aired normally on Sundays in the early evening slot; episodes after 21 June 2009 were also broadcast on ITV HD. The show consisted of eight series of one-hour episodes and was broadcast on ITV from 2003 until the show was cancelled in 2011, with repeats continuing on ITV3. The show is set in the 1960s and focuses on the fictional "St Aidan's Royal Free Hospital", an NHS hospital serving the fictional rural seaside town of Elsinby and its surrounding area. The show began as a spin-off of ITV's period police drama series, Heartbeat, featuring characters from Heartbeat during the first three series, before becoming its own entity.

The Royal
The Royal intro.
StarringJulian Ovenden
Zoie Kennedy
Robert Daws
Amy Robbins
Opening theme"Somebody Help Me" by The Spencer Davis Group, sung by Michael Starke
Ending theme"Somebody Help Me" (instrumental) by The Spencer Davis Group
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series8
No. of episodes87 (List of episodes)
Running time60 minutes
Production company(s)ITV Studios
Original networkITV
Picture format16:9
Audio formatStereo
Original release19 January 2003 (2003-01-19) 
31 July 2011 (2011-07-31)
Related showsHeartbeat
The Royal Today
External links

The show itself was shot within Whitby, Scarborough, City of Bradford and the North Riding of Yorkshire, and stars of The Royal included Ian Carmichael, Wendy Craig, Robert Daws, and Amy Robbins. The show itself generated its own spin-off, entitled The Royal Today, which used the same settings but in the present day.


The setting of The Royal was first introduced as part of the story for the 14th episode of the 12th series of Heartbeat entitled 'Out of the Blue', in which the hospital was used to treat Heartbeat character Vernon Scripps and several people of Aidensfield. The benefit of this and its connection to the show, helped it to gain its own series, though it initially began as a spin-off with several characters from Heartbeat appearing in episodes as part of its main plots or side story; the most prominent of these appearances were Claude Greengrass (Bill Maynard), PC Alfred "Alf" Ventress (William Simons), and PC Philip "Phil" Bellamy (Mark Jordon). By the end of the third series, the show's ties to Heartbeat were discontinued, with the show's production team working to make it into its own entity by the fourth series. Unlike its former parent show, The Royal uses the song "Somebody Help Me" by The Spencer Davis Group as it main theme tune, with an instrumental version playing over the ending credits.[1]

The majority of the plots in each episode centred around medical emergencies or a serious medical case, and often featured moral dilemmas created or exposed by these matters. Additional story-lines also included staff members dealing with personal problems or issues, and an occasional side-story in a similar vein to Heartbeat. While the show tended to avoid political topics on the whole (the Vietnam War was briefly featured in one episode), its main themes focused and centred upon the conflict between progressive and conservative social ideals, as well as the ethical challenges and social changes faced by the hospital's staff, a reflection of its setting and what was faced by the world in the 1960s. Although the setting used includes references to 1960s events, such as the coming of colour television, like Heartbeat the show featured a number of anachronisms, such as the use of "a glass ceiling", an expression not coined until some years later.

Set roughly twenty years after the creation of the National Health Service, a theme running through the series is the previously independent hospital's attempts at preserving its methods and standards within a National Health Service portrayed as bureaucratic and concerned more with efficiencies than patient care.


Filming of the interior scenes of "St. Aiden's" utilised both The Leeds Studios and St. Luke's Hospital, Bradford, the latter of which was chosen because it had not been updated in many years, and retained the appearance of what a hospital would appear like in the 1960s. The exterior scenes of the fictional hospital used the Red Court building on Holbeck Road, within Scarborough's South Cliff, and included the nearby park area and Holbeck Clock Tower; scenes were shot during the summer months.[1][2] [3]The remaining scenes outside the hospital covered the area of the North Riding of Yorkshire, including Whitby and Scarborough.

Cast and characters

Main cast and characters

  • Julian Ovenden as Dr David Cheriton (series 1–3), a GP and the series' original protagonist.
  • Zoie Kennedy as Meryl Taylor (series 1–5), a Senior Staff Nurse and Cheriton's primary love interest.
  • Robert Daws as Dr Gordon Ormerod (series 1–8), a GP and later, Weatherill's husband.
  • Amy Robbins as Dr Jill Weatherill (series 1–8), a GP and a staunch promoter of maternal medicine.
  • Linda Armstrong as Sister Brigid (series 1–8), a nursing administrator and ward sister.
  • Francis Matthews as Dr James 'Jim' Alway (series 1) Dr Cheriton's predecessor who is briefly seen.
  • Ian Carmichael as T. J. Middleditch (series 1–5, recurring thereafter), Hospital Secretary, Chairman of the Middleditch Trust.
  • Wendy Craig as Matron (series 1–8), nursing administrator, nicknamed "Toffee," a name she got whilst serving as an RAF nurse during the war. The name was bestowed on her by airmen at the RAF Station on which she was serving, thinking she was "toffee nosed".
  • John Axon as Nigel Harper (series 1–4), District Health Authority administrator.
  • Michelle Hardwick as Lizzie Hopkirk (series 1–8), receptionist.
  • Denis Lill as Mr Rose (series 1–8), a consultant general surgeon often assigned to St Aidan's.
  • Andy Wear as Alun Morris (series 1–8), a porter and theatre technician.
  • Michael Starke as Ken Hopkirk (series 1–7), St Aidan's head porter.
  • Polly Maberly as Dr Lucy Klein (series 2–3), a consultant psychologist and a foil for Cheriton.
  • Anna Madeley as Samantha Beaumont (series 3–4), a student nurse.
  • Paul Fox as Dr Jeff Goodwin (series 3–6), a GP and later, Makori's primary love interest.
  • Scott Taylor as Frankie Robinson (series 4–7), an ambulance driver and paramedic.
  • Natalie Anderson as Stella Davenport (series 4–7), a senior staff nurse and Frankie's longtime love interest.
  • Amelia Curtis as Catherine Deane (series 5–6), a senior staff nurse.
  • Kananu Kirimi as Dr Joan Makori, a GP and a member of Doctors Without Borders (series 5–6)
  • Robert Cavanah as Adam Carnegie (series 5–7), hospital secretary.
  • Sam Callis as Dr Mike Banner (series 6), a GP and sought-after locum physician.
  • Kari Corbett as Marian McKaig (series 6–7), a staff nurse.
  • Sarah Beck Mather as Susie Dixon (series 6–8), a student nurse.
  • Damian O'Hare as Dr Nick Burnett (series 7), a GP recruited by Jill following Goodwin and Makori's departures.
  • Chris Coghill as Bobby Sheridan (series 7), an ambulance driver.
  • Gareth Hale as Jack Bell (series 7–8), head porter of St Aidan's.
  • Neil McDermott as Dr Ralph Ellis (series 8), a locum GP noted for his forward thinking approach to medicine.
  • Glynis Barber as Jean McAteer (series 8), hospital secretary.
  • Lauren Drummond as Faye Clark (series 8), a student nurse.
  • Diana May as Carol Selby (series 8), a staff nurse.

Episode list


Below is the list of ratings of The Royal, giving an overall result for each series.

Series Year Rank # Average Audience Share
1 2003 10th 10.12 m
2 2003 11th 7.16 m
3 2003–2004 13th 9.17 m
4 2004–2005 12th 8.49 m
5 2006 10th 7.93 m
6 2007 11th 7.24 m
7 2008–2009 15th 4.91 m
8 2009–2011 15th 4.62 m (Incl. ITV1+1)
Overall Rating 2003 – 2011 Rank # Average Audience Share
12th 7.45 m

The Royal Today

In 2007, ITV commissioned a daytime spin-off of The Royal, entitled The Royal Today. The spin-off focused on the same settings of the main show, but set in the present day with a new cast of characters. The show ran for one series in 2008 between 7 January to 14 March. The show was axed due to low ratings.

End of production

Speculation surrounding the future of both Heartbeat and The Royal began in 2009, when ITV announced on 4 March that a loss of £2.7 billion was forcing it to make cutbacks in employment numbers, the biggest of which were made at ITV Yorkshire Studios. Many raised concerns that the shows were to be axed, after reports were made to that effect in early January, though a spokesperson stated later that the production of the shows was simply "resting".[4][5] No official news was given that the show was axed, but like Heartbeat, the series ended with a cliffhanger surrounding one of its main characters, when the final episode was aired on 31 July 2011.[6][7]


  3. "Historic St Luke Hospital buildings are demolished". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  4. Paul Revoir (28 January 2009). "Cash-strapped ITV axes family dramas Heartbeat and The Royal". Daily Mail. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  5. "Heartbeat and The Royal future in doubt: SIGN THE PETITIONS HERE – Local". Scarborough Evening News. 6 March 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  6. "The Royal". Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  7. The Royal: Goodbye Mr Rose 2 August 2011
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