In the middle of his five-month sojourn abroad, we are shown a depiction of quite the boat life. Philip and his male companions are spending their days competing in feats of strength and their evenings drinking, smoking and carousing with random women. Their exploits are captured by Philip’s private secretary, Mike Parker, in letters back home to their club where they are read aloud for laughs.
Unfortunately for Philip, the party is coming to a temporary end. He has to return to, you know, actual work by representing his wife at the Olympics in Melbourne. To make the party feel better, they’re all going to commit to a beard-growing competition in the meantime.
In Melbourne, Mike arranges for a reporter to meet with Philip. Generally a random journalist who wants to meet and interview a member of the Royal Family would be told to shove off, but this one is pretty, blonde and young so she is shown to Philip’s room. There they are left, but instead of romance she starts conducting an actual interview, one which aims to focus on Philip’s background. His mother’s mental breakdown, his father’s womanizing, his sisters’ membership in the Nazi party – softball questions, all. It’s physically uncomfortable to watch and difficult to imagine how the reporter thought this would all play out. For his part, Philip pulls rank and ends up storming out.
As for the reality of Philip’s childhood – yes, there’s quite a bit of truth in the depiction. There’s also some dramatic license. You can catch up on it here.
In the background, of course, the indiscreet partying is playing into the hands of Mike’s wife perfectly. She wants a divorce, but in order to be granted one she needs to prove infidelity and neglect. She seeks the help of a waitress at the club who had been sleeping with Mike not realizing he was married. It is with her help that she gets her hand on a letter outlining quite bluntly the womanizing going on – “a whore in every port” is one choice phrase. This is bad news for the Palace, of course, for the divorce of a Private Secretary is never ideal and his close proximity to Philip means the RF stands to be painted with same brush.
As for Elizabeth, the Suez Crisis is unpopular and a marked failure. The British are forced to retreat and humiliated abroad. She and her children decamp for Christmas at Sandringham, while she prepares for her annual address to her people. This year there’s going to be a slight change and Philip will join her in his own speech, so, as Michael Adeane explains to Elizabeth, the two of them at least sound like a united force. Michael is subtle, but Elizabeth gets the gist and agrees. The optics, if not the marriage itself, should at least be sound.
So Philip and Elizabeth deliver emotional speeches broadcast on Christmas that essentially read like the two talking to one another across the airwaves. Philip ends up standing on the deck of the Britannia looking out into the distance like the hipster poet he is. Perhaps even he can draw the connection between a childhood marred by a broken family and a scenario in which he is so far removed, literally and figuratively, from the wife and children waiting for him at home.