So, here we are. The episode that has garnered so very many headlines in the last couple of weeks – the arrival of John and Jackie Kennedy at Buckingham Palace. Once again, however, we are playing it fast and loose with the timeline. Ostensibly a year has passed since the last episode and we are in June 1961 when the Queen and Prince Philip actually hosted the first couple, however by the end it’s November 1963 and the Royal Family is watching the aftermath of Kennedy’s assassination.
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.
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.
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.
Oookay, let’s get into this. We’ve spent the last month recapping the first 10 episodes of The Crown, but there’s one issue I’ve been saving up for a separate post because, well, I think it warranted more than a tacked on graf somewhere else. Since the show premiered last November it has prompted considerable criticism for how much attention it pays to its male characters at the expense of its supposed central figure: the Queen herself. Following an interview the creator, Peter Morgan, gave, in which he said the second installment would delve more heavily into the psyche of Prince Philip, the (fabulous!) FUG girls went so far as to write up a post denouncing the decision as sexist and tone deaf to its core demographic.
They’re not the only ones and, indeed, as early as its premier it attracted criticism from publications like New York Magazine for the same issue. I had a visceral response to this argument when I was first watching, but after deciding to recap the first season a year later, I decided to hold on delving into it to see if my opinion changed. My friends, it has not, and thus I’m overjoyed to offer this up as an endorsement for making snap judgments whenever you can. As quickly as possible, really.
Good lord, I forgot what a dour note this season ended on. By all reports, the second starts where the last picked up, in the middle of the Suez Crisis, which sounds fine to me considering the snapshots we got of the rising tension this episode deserved more and not less screen time. Alright, let’s get into it.