A lot happens this episode, which is good news after two episodes that mostly deviate from our main characters. An engagement, a wedding, two pregnancies, a baby and one Palace house party with rock n’ roll and a conga line. Fantastic. I am going to offer a slight fact-check to the episode, which does play it a bit fast and loose with timelines, while addressing a few of the issues the episode puts forth.
One issue some had with The Crown’s depiction of Edward VIII in the first season was that it attempted to hold his love affair with Wallis Simpson up against Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend as a direct parallel. In doing so, the political concerns that many in Edward VIII’s government had about him were ignored and by that, of course, I mean his known affection for Germany and seeming tolerance for Nazis.
I had a feeling we’d be seeing this Séraphine coat soon. The Duchess of Cambridge has been recycling several pieces debuted during her pregnancy with Princess Charlotte and this one, first shown off during a whirlwind tour of New York City in 2014, is certainly memorable.
George V ascended the throne following the death of his father, Edward VII, on May 6, 1910. Though the royal house was still branded “Saxe-Coburg-Gotha” and not yet Windsor, his reign was a remarkable step towards modernity and away from the stifling Victorian atmosphere that had so defined his grandmother’s reign. George and his wife, Mary of Teck, had long established themselves as not only reliable members of the Royal Family, but two who didn’t put much stock in formality or ceremony. While Edward VII had never allowed guests to sit while he was standing or retire to bed before he and his wife, Alexandra, George quickly did away with such practices, instilling a more “country home” environment into his residences.
And while his father had always kept a close eye on the machinations of Western Europe, tied so tightly to the family thanks to the intermarrying of cousins, George was more concerned with the longevity and health of the British Empire. It was from these instincts that he hashed out a plan to follow up his coronation in Westminster Abbey with one in Delhi and a royal tour to each of his dominions. As Prince of Wales, he had conducted a successful tour of India in 1904, while his father had made a similar trek in the 19th century. Indeed, it was only Queen Victoria, the first British Empress of India, who never made the journey.
Normally I like to recap these episodes by focusing on the actual show as opposed to fact-checking, but in this case I’m going to deviate. This covers such a specific moment in time that I think it’s worth drawing out what was going on, particularly as the episode ends with a short epilogue on Lord Altrincham.
As depicted, in August 1957 a piece called, “The Monarch Today,” ran in a small publication, the National and English Review, which was written by Altrincham and criticized not only the Queen but the courtiers surrounding her. Altrincham already had a reputation for near heresy thanks to his position on women in the Anglican Church and his lobbying against the House of Lords, which he claimed was full of members unfit to serve. His opinion was given more attention than it perhaps normally would have thanks to his own background, which included an education at Eton and Oxford, a title and service as an officer in the Grenadier Guards.
We’ve spent the first three episodes focused almost exclusively on Elizabeth and Philip (with a little dash of the Suez Crisis), but now we turn to Margaret – a shift imparted to us by the score of “Princess” in the opening scene and Matthew Goode riding in on a motorbike. Fair enough. We’re at a country wedding that Margaret is attending sourly while the photographer, Antony “Tony” Armstrong-Jones, is snapping pictures of random hands and shoes. Look, if my wedding photographer pulled that crap, I’d probably end up quite annoyed.
I think we can safely say Charles and Anne are getting a hell of a lot more screen time this season than they did the last. Heaven help us, but Elizabeth has been shown actually interacting with her children on multiple occasions. Shocking. But before we we get to that, let’s start at the beginning.
There’s nothing quite like a divorce scandal, is there? This time, of course, it is Mike and Eileen Parker, and the latter’s inability to live one more day in her sham of a marriage is enough of a threat to the House of Windsor to compel Tommy Lascelles out of retirement. Frankly, I was glad to see him because no one else quite captures the incredible snobbery and pained realism that defines the very Palace hounds Philip hates.
Eighty-one years ago today King Edward VIII signed an instrument of abdication to step down from the throne, an act witnessed by his three younger brothers. On December 10, 1936, Edward had been on the throne for less than 11 months following the death of his father, George V, and his time in the top job had been a series of actions that lost him the trust of much of his government, horrified his family and broken any number of traditions that had once been taken for granted. His last task would come the next day when he issued royal assent for the declaration of abdication.
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.
And so we are back. It’s February 1957 and Elizabeth and Philip are locked in some guest accommodations in Lisbon, free from the Palace and their children, to have their Come to Jesus moment. Divorce isn’t on the table, but Philip likens their life to a prison and Elizabeth is exhausted by his whining.