The Crown S3: Imbroglio

Charles

Season 3’s ninth episode essentially covers the breakdown of Charles’s relationship with Camilla. Or, as we’ve now come to see it, the ending of Part One. In The Crown’s world, their demise was taken out of their hands slightly, or at least out of Charles’s, thanks to palace machinations directed by the Queen Mother and Earl Mountbatten. The events depicted are a mash up of those from 1972 and 1973, but per usual for this season, there’s quite a bit of fiction.

The long and short of it is that Earl Mountbatten and the Queen become aware that Charles is seriously considering proposing to Camilla. This news is duly shared with the Queen Mother and Philip, and all of them save the Queen find this hard to swallow given that Camilla is clearly not a virgin and perhaps not quite grand enough to marry into the Royal Family. The Queen is the lone voice of dissent, arguing that she was once allowed to marry her love despite notable protestations over Philip’s lineage and background.

She is finally convinced otherwise when she learns that Camilla isn’t as committed to Charles as he is to her, thanks to Camilla’s still ongoing relationship with Andrew Parker-Bowles. This fact is confirmed to the group by Anne herself, who matter-of-factly says that she knows this to be the case because she was at one time the fourth person embroiled in this love quadrangle (now triangle). Did that scene happen in real life? I doubt it, but Anne was hilarious during it.

So, Earl Mountbatten arranges for Charles to be stationed abroad with the Navy, while the Queen Mother urges the swift marriage of Andrew and Camilla. Cut to the Queen giving the toast for her 25th wedding anniversary with Philip, speaking of what binds a marriage, while Camilla and Andrew marry, and Charles cries on a ship.

And in the background the Conservative government is at war with miners’ union, lest there be any doubt that things are a bit shaky in England.

The first wave of Charles and Camilla’s relationship is one that I think warrants its own blog post at some point, but for the sake of fact-checking, we can get into a bit here. The logistics of it – Camilla’s relationship with Andrew, and their involvement on the side with Charles and Anne is mostly correct. What’s overdone here is the sense that Charles was whole-heartedly in love and set on marrying Camilla in 1972. In fact, the narrative that Charles couldn’t marry Camilla because – unlike Diana – she wasn’t “intact,” as the episode delicately (or rather grossly) puts it, is only part of the picture. I get that it all seems more romantic that way given what happened later, but…no.

The Charles we’re presented with this season is a young, idealistic man with a firm view of how he wants to chart his royal course. In this case, with Camilla by his side. In reality, Charles was a young, indecisive man who waffled a fair bit thanks to a crippling fear of getting it wrong. That very anxiety consumed his courtship with Diana, only the ball bounced the other way: a proposal. In 1972/3, Charles was 24/25 years old and in fact agreed with Earl Mountbatten that he was simply too young to marry. Camilla didn’t choose Andrew over Charles; she chose the known over the unknown. What the show gets right, however, is that I do think Camilla was more in love with Andrew than the Prince at this point. He may not have been the love of her life, but he was certainly the young love of her life.

As for the direct involvement of Mountbatten and the Queen Mother, let’s be quite clear: in reality, these two people didn’t care for one another. I suppose it’s possible they could overcome their antipathy for a common goal, but the actual figures didn’t scheme this directly. I can only assume this is an homage to their behind-the-scenes meddling. The real Mountbatten wanted Charles to eventually settle down with his niece, while the Queen Mother strongly endorsed Charles’s marriage to Diana, given that Diana’s grandmother was her lady-in-waiting. Worth pointing out, however, is that there is some credibility to the idea that Mountbatten had a hand in it – at least one royal biographer, Sarah Bradford, has argued he was behind Charles’s naval appointment.

But none of the above is actually what bothered me about this episode. What did is what they left out. I get that they mashed up in 1972 and 1973, but there was another wedding in the latter year that is given short-shrift: Anne’s. In November 1973, she married Mark Phillips, marking the first marriage of the Queen’s children, and I find it strange that the show would completely ignore this milestone. It was also a rather pivotal moment for Charles because Anne had been a bit of an emotional rock for him during his young life and he is believed to have felt that he was losing her…at around the same time he lost Camilla. I guess where I net out here is that there was enough drama in reality for the show to make do with.

This episode concludes our involvement with the younger royals, so it’s worth taking a look at how they’ve set up the fourth season. The obvious is that Camilla is positioned as the one who got away. There’s a bit of a time jump between this episode and the finale, which makes sense for Charles and Camilla since their romantic relationship isn’t believed to have resumed until 1979, after Camilla had given birth to her two children with Andrew. As for Anne, I would imagine the fourth season will cover her marriage somewhat, even if it’s never given as much attention as, say, Margaret’s. Given that she and Phillips separated the same year as Charles and Diana, and given the similar role that infidelity played, it would be odd to ignore the parallels…or the extent to which this behavior was normalized in those circles in a way that was anathema to the general public.

One final thought, this episode opens with the Duke of Windsor’s funeral, and while we covered in the last recap my thoughts on how they’ve positioned Charles and Camilla as David and Wallis’s emotional heirs, the [fictitious] scene in which Wallis and Camilla stare at one another was chilling. I also had no problem with Wallis telling Charles point-blank that his family wasn’t harmless, which we’ll get into more next episode.

With that, I’ll post a recap of the finale tomorrow morning, and I’ll do an overall look at the season in the afternoon.

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