The Crown

the-crownSuggested by Brad Nelson • Queen Elizabeth II is a 25-year-old newlywed faced with the daunting prospect of leading the world’s most famous monarchy while forging a relationship with legendary Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill.
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29 Responses to The Crown

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    You first thought may be, “Oh, no. Not another drama about the dreary royal family.” That’s certainly what I thought. But I gave it a shot.

    I’ve watched three episodes and started the fourth. I’d be very interested in hearing what Mr. Kung thinks about John Lithgow’s portrayal of Churchill. But what isn’t in question is the extraordinary fine touch, cinematography, and production values of this. This is, so far, extraordinary and gripping to watch. If you have Netflix, give it a shot. That may be the only place you can find it now.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    The first four episodes were very good. A couple after that were somewhat mediocre. But one of the best ones, just concluded, was “Assassins” which is centered around the commissioning of a portrait by Parliament and the House of Lords to commemorate Mr. Churchill’s 80th birthday.

    Who knows how many of the details of this drama are factual. But Mr. Churchill hates the portrait (which his wife later unceremoniously burns) even while (at least in this adaptation, likely highly fictional) has an engaging interlude with this modernist artist.

    I’m no expert on the royal family. But I would say this series looks to be an even-handed approach. Obviously such a series is going to focus more on the controversies and failures. You never will see the hundred days in a row where everyone did their jobs without incident.

    That said, it would seem the only member of the royal family of late with even an ounce of true blue blood is Elizabeth Tudor herself. Her husband, at least in his younger years, seems to have all the flaws of what you might call a lower-class youth. Princess Margaret seems to stir up trouble where none was desired or required. And although Edward VIII might have made a passable king had he stuck to it, he seems to be a thorough flake. His brother, the unlikely king, seems on the contrary to have been a very good king. Churchill certainly was very fond of him (although he was also an ally to some extent of his wayward brother as well).

    Lithgow is certainly good enough in terms of evoking the Churchill look. But he doesn’t do much with the voice. Still, it’s not horrible. Claire Foy is excellent (even in that subtle banality) as Queen Elizabeth II. Vanessa Kirby is a spry and spirited Princess Margaret.

    A series such as this could be, and probably is, lost in the plethora of series and movies about the royal family. But I consider this one a far cut above.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Who knows how many of the details of this drama are factual. But Mr. Churchill hates the portrait (which his wife later unceremoniously burns) even while (at least in this adaptation, likely highly fictional) has an engaging interlude with this modernist artist.

      Churchill did hate the portrait and Clementine did burn it. I don’t recall the bit about the interlude with the artist.

      That said, it would seem the only member of the royal family of late with even an ounce of true blue blood is Elizabeth Tudor herself.

      Elizabeth’s family name was Windsor. This had been changed from Saxe-Coburg due to WWI.

      Her husband, Prince Philip was from the Battenberg family, changed to Mountbatten, also because of WWI.

      And although Edward VIII might have made a passable king had he stuck to it, he seems to be a thorough flake

      He was something of a flake, but he also was a bit too close to the Nazis and made a number of admiring statements about them in public.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        They had some back-and-forth between Churchill and the English modernist artist that I thought was constructed, although interesting. They ended up liking aspects of each other’s art and Sutherland delved into Churchill’s psyche regarding one of his numerous pond paintings. That may sound strained but it came off well in the episode. Supposedly Churchill added the pond soon after Marigold’s (his 2-year-old) death. Septicemia, I think it was.

        One of those pond paintings I do find quite nice and interesting. Whether it is representative of Churchill’s wish for people to probe into his dark anguish, I couldn’t say. Sounds like hogwash, but it’s a legitimate way of speaking amongst artists. Whether it is just window dressing and an affectation, I couldn’t say for sure.

        And isn’t this one rather nice. I think this is rather nice as well. It seems unusual to expect a politician to not be little more than a one-note talent such as Obama who excels at corrosive and dishonest rhetoric, although apparently he can play a passable round of golf. Churchill may have been building his entire life to a political career (with Destiny giving a hand), but he certainly wasn’t of the vapid type who voted “present.” He wasn’t an empty suit. In fact, look how full he was indeed.

        And, yes, I think the series shows a newsreel or something regarding the Duke and Duchess visiting Hitler. They were of the same caliber of empty suits as the little snot-nosed twit who is Prime Minister of Canada.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Bush 43 has been doing a lot of painting since he left office, and reportedly is reasonably good.

          Conservative author Pauline Glen Winslow (author of I, Martha Adams, which was often described as a love letter to Reagan), in The Windsor Plot, does an alternative history involving the Nazi shenanigans with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1940.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I forget which one, but some famous artist opined that had Churchill decided to become a painter instead of a politician, he would have been one of the best of the twentieth century, or something like that.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Season two of “The Crown” was released Friday on Netflix. I’ve watched the first two episodes.

    First impressions: By all means, watch what I consider to be a quite riveting story in season one. You’d think this subject matter had been done to death. But this first season proves it has not.

    The second season, however, may prove that rule. The weakness of Matt Smith as an actor portraying Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, comes to the fore. When just playing the chronically moody and dissatisfied husband amongst a cast of characters and a quickly-evolving story, he was tolerable, even charming in his Royal Snowflakeness.

    But now he is just a boor. He can’t hold the scenes he is in. Conversely, Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II arguably continues to do a good job portraying the young monarch. But let’s face it: She is short on charisma as well. She’s a pasty-white face with not much to do but wear lavish costumes and go through the motions of what appears to be a meaningless monarchy. Without the earlier perspective of the young, rather normal young woman having greatness thrust upon her while she struggles to adapt — well, we’re basically then back to the tabloids, for all intents and purposes, simply waiting for the next scandal to drop.

    Kyle Smith has an article on the subject, and it sounds as if later episodes get better. And that well could be. It’s unlikely (compared to the riveting first season) they could get much worse. If the remaining episodes consist of little more than Elizabeth’s blank, somewhat scolding stare, and Philip doing not much more than looking dissatisfied and bored, there won’t be much to recommend this second season.

    The idiot rabble commentators at NRO have made the profound statement that “there is no justification for the royals.” But this is a drama, not a documentary. Like them or hate them, they were and still are. But certainly by season two, you can well understand that the royals are little more than set pieces, ornaments, well-dressed mannequins fulfilling some function that must be extraordinarily important, if only someone could remember what that was. Kyle makes an astute remark:

    And what of those who surround the Queen, the accoutrements to the figurehead? Elizabeth’s husband Philip (Matt Smith) and her sister Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) lead lives that are both magnificent and empty, glamorous and vapid. Looking at it from their point of view, you can understand how spending life on vacation could get old very quickly. It makes sense that both hunger for some relief from the monotony.

    I’m neither a smug republican anti-monarchist nor a vapid royal-watcher. There’s no need to trash the monarchy just because it is nor, as an American, be over-awed by it. And although it was somewhat interesting in episode two, season two, to see Philip and his band of merry men staging what was, in effect, a round-the-world stag party on the Britannica, the sequencing of the story was badly done compared to the earlier efforts of season one. Again, it didn’t help that Matt Smith just seems all wrong for the part.

    I’m guessing the series will improve. But the first two episodes are not a good selling point for sailing on.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      The monarch makes a number of appointments, such as judges and honors as well as at least the Archbishop of Canterbury among the clergy (and maybe more). How many of these are actually selected by the Prime Minster, I don’t know — nor do I know what would happen if she made choices of her own in those cases.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I know next to nothing of the history of Prime Minister Anthony Eden, as played by one of my favorites (primarily from “The Tudors”), Jeremy Northam. But what a bit of an oddball according to this portrayal. He has two or three official meetings with the queen. One was to meet her upon his election as Prime Minister. Another was to explain the seizure of the Suez Canal by Nasser and what Britain’s response would be. The final meeting was regarding his resignation. He seems a vain and slightly damaged character.

        As the Queen notes to Eden, her official position will always be to support the Prime Minister. They do not delve into policy. They are to be and remain mere figureheads. Still, these meetings between the Prime Ministers and the monarch are anything but perfunctory. Churchill had a lot of respect and sympathy for Elizabeth. In season one there were some nice scenes between them in his weekly audience.

        QEII has had 12 prime ministers. Forever is a long time, but it’s doubtful there will ever be a longer-reigning British monarch. She has reigned for over 65 years. She may ultimately be known as a cold, duty-bound monarch. But some things are modernized at their own peril. It’s common to say that this or that event will bring about the end of the British monarchy. It will likely go on, perhaps as unnoticed and unimportant as some of the small European monarchies that remain.

        But it’s hard to believe anyone will have much respect for the office, if you will, after Queen Elizabeth II is gone. She will almost certainly be the last person to fill that position who is actually given the reverence due a king or queen. Those who follow will likely be various iterations of pop-culture dressed up in chintz. Still, maybe Prince William will surprise.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Episode 3, Season 2, was so-so. But things did improve in episode 4 which was centered around Princess Margaret, as played interestingly by Vanessa Kirby.

    Princess Margaret meets the future Lord Snowdon who is, at this point, a British photographer. Margaret warms to him and his “normal people” friends as a dinner party. He’s unconventional and it’s a breath of fresh air for Margaret to get away from the confines of the court.

    The general shtick is that royalty is a cage. Contrasted with Margaret on the back of Antony’s motorcycle are the bored Queen and Prince Philip ascending the stairs after an overly long state visit with the head of Malaysia.

    Any normal American should role his eyes at the idea of wealth, privilege, fame, and an extremely easy life being such a burden that it brings about near self-destruction for those who pass too close to this fame. Me thinks there is/was something wrong about that royal family.

    But you can see how bow Elizabeth and Philip, in stages, surrender their entire life and will to The Job. It’s not a feeling a pity you have but one where you ask, “Why the hell didn’t you just take a page out of Frank Sinatra’s book and ‘do it my way’?”

    The answer, as articulate in the the first season, was the disastrous abdication of Elizabeth’s uncle, King Edward VIII. If there is no other trait apparent in Queen Elizabeth II it’s that she has no wish to rock the boat. That her family is a bit of a train wreck is either good or bad for the monarchy, depending upon what the purpose of it is.

    Arguably, the fairytale, Disneyesque Royal Family image is what the royals think the public requires if the royals are going to be able to justify the life, money, fame, and privilege handed to them by mere accident of birth. But as I view this series, and think back on the train of non-stop royal scandals, I think it’s a fair bet such scandals have helped the monarchy to survive, if only as a new style of entertainment.

    True, Queen Elizabeth, for the most part, is a staunch buttoned-down traditionalist. And it’s perhaps true that the shenanigans of her family might have brought down the house of any other monarch in these modern times without her appearance of royal normalcy at the top.

    But who the hell knows what the British public want? They are, in my opinion, a most vulgar and dysfunctional public. They will surely drag the royalty down to their level eventually, especially when Queen Elizabeth II is gone.

    For now, and in this series, there is much effort into keeping up the image of a Royal Normalcy. It’s not the normalcy of my life or your life, and is not the kind of life that Princess Margaret wants to be bound by. But there is still an attempt as keeping up appearances. And for a monarchy that has little other function than appearances, it’s a difficult game.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      No telling how long royalty will survive in Britain, as it has in Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. One history I read a number of years ago suggested that the British monarchy ultimately survived, and the French didn’t, because Louis XVI accepted the legitimacy of his trial, but Charles I mocked his on the stand. He even pointed out that the Bible that the rebellious Calvinist Roundheads claimed to worship forbade their revolt. He died, but encouraged the rejection of the legitimacy of the commonwealth.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I’m through the first five episodes of season two.

        Philip is in better humor having been made a prince as part of a deal with Elizabeth. Philip was tired of the disrespect, even ranking behind his son.

        After the Princess Margaret-centered “Beryl” comes the fifth episode, “Marionettes,” aptly titled. There are some great lines from the queen mother bemoaning the monarchy’s erosion of power through the years. Something like…”First we ruled, then we reigned, and then…”. Her daughter asks, “What then?” The queen mother then says, “And then we all become marionettes.”

        Lord Altrincham writes critically of the monarchy after a rather tone-deaf speech given by the queen at an auto factory. The public reacts negatively as well. Long story short, she meets with Altrincham in secret and receives a list of “three things to start, three things to stop.” One of the “starters” that was immediately accepted was to televise the queen’s Christmas greeting. The episode ends with a note that all of Lord Altrincham’s suggestions were taken and the monarchy eventually credits him for helping them in the long run.

        Lord Altrincham later renounced his title. It’s very doubtful this radical had any notion of helping the monarchy. He seemed to be doing his best to wash it with reductionist/atheist acid. But then I don’t know his entire story. But, really, given that he renounced his title, he was surely a fraud.

        Still, the monarchy felt the pressure after that bad speech at the auto plant. Favorability polls were down. Elizabeth noted when preparing for giving her first televised Christmas address how she felt she was little more than an actor: memorizing lines, putting on makeup, worrying about camera angles. She was right, of course.

        Can the British monarchy last if it turns into just a well-jeweled version of Oprah or The View? Should not there be some sense that the monarch is different and special? Is she (or he) becomes but one of the rabble, why bother? It was the same thing when they lost the Latin mass. Why bother?

        There is arguably nothing enhanced by “democratizing” it. It will be interesting to see what comes next. Of course, long live the queen.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          A peerage can be dropped for practical reasons. Tony Benn was a viscount, but was more interested in politics in the House of Commons, so he renounced his title. Of course, he was also a far-left Laborite, so he no doubt had more than one reason for his action. (One reason Churchill was made Prime Minister in May 1940 instead of Halifax is that the later was a peer.)

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            I supposed that’s the politics of titles as opposed to the social aspects of titles. Sometimes they are useful for one thing and not another.

            One thing of interest in the series: Boy, does it point out what a piece of work the Duke of Windsor was. They were so lucky he abdicated. He was quite literally a Nazi sympathizer and a traitor to his country. Episode 6 of season 2 dealt with this. And the guy who plays him, Alex Jennings, is one of the real stand-outs in this cast.

            I remember Edward Fox playing the Duke of Windsor in 1978’s TV series, “Edward & Mrs. Simpson.” As I recall, this was a much more dignified portrayal of Edward VIII. But from his portrayal in “The Crown,” the guy was a real poison pill.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Well, he was certainly a Nazi sympathizer (note that the royal family was heavily intermarried with German nobility), and the idea that he was at heart a traitor is hardly new (Winslow used it in The Windsor Plot, which I mentioned above), but I don’t know if it’s been proven. Shirer seemed to be skeptical of it.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                The information presented in this episode made him unequivocally a traitor. But then, I don’t know how historically accurate this was. But they certainly were friendly toward Hitler.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                I don’t recall anyone calling Edward a traitor, but he did try to influence British foreign policy to the good of Germany before the war broke out.

                As a result of his fairly open and close ties to some of the Nazi big-wigs, Churchill got him out of the way when the war broke out, by sending him to Bermuda, as I recall. It could have been the British Virgin Islands.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                the royal family was heavily intermarried with German nobility

                The royal family were/are German nobility.

                The Georges were from Hanover and when the male line died out, Victoria married Albert whose was a German from the family Saxe-Coburg und Gotha.

                Along with the Battenburgs, they Anglicized their names during WWI to Windsor and Mountbatten, respectively.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I think it may have been the Bahamas. They made him the governor, I think. There was a Nazi attempt to kidnap Edward and his wife on the way, which is the starting point for Winslow’s The Windsor Plot.

                I think Elizabeth II was the first monarch since William and Mary not to be married to German nobility (I’m not sure whether Queen Anne married a German or a Dane — who, like Prince Philip today, was only a consort).

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Regarding the Duke of Windsor, one should watched this episode first. If the information presented is correct, there’s little doubt that the Duke of Windsor was a traitor. Whether they embellished it, I don’t know.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                I have long believed that a large part of the reason Edward was forced to abdicate, was his very real sympathies fort he Nazis.

                Can you imagine how it would have looked had he been king when war broke out?

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    In retrospect, and with Tony Blair and “The People’s Princess” in mind, it was likely inevitable that the monarchy would have to project a more touchy-feely egalitarian persona, if only to try to justify its existence as some kind of unifying force above politics (but not, now it seems, above pop culture).

    Two things come to mind when talking about the British monarchy: “All is vanity” and “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” If it is silly to talk about a Heinz-like 57 varieties of genders, is it any less sill to speak of the human-created categories of kings, dukes, queens, princes, princesses, knights, barons, viscounts, earls, marquesses, and the almost countless numbers of honors that raise one’s status, if only on paper?

    It’s interesting, for instance, that Philip was made a prince, but not just any prince. The article was allowed to be capitalized thus he is “His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh”.

    This is not me sneering at royalty, for hierarchy is normal to life. And that’s not to say that some of the knights, and such, have not done something important and useful to gain their titles.

    But at the end of the day, this is mostly vanity, a shared system that we agree has importance only because we say it does…because it provides some useful psychic or social function. And when the idiots of the French Revolution and their useful idiots pined for egalitarianism, they (at least the leaders) still couldn’t help holding themselves up above “the rabble” and to even deadlier effect. The leaders of the Revolution lifted themselves so high above the rest that they could, and did, kill “the people” by the bushel basket — all while raising the idea of “The People” to a mystical quality not unlike that of your average king or queen.

    We Americans will never get it perfect. But it’s arguable we have gotten the balance right between groveling to the conceits of titles and groveling to some utopian ideal of a disembodied “The People” who can never be wrong and are referred to for justification of any action, no matter how brutal.

    Kyle Smith is correct when he writes, “Morgan’s [the writer] approach is neither to grovel before the throne nor to sneer at it but simply to imagine what it might be like to sit on it.” Kyle also writes that “Morgan frames what they do as an endurance test, an involuntary performance-art piece.”

    And Morgan may have gotten to the heart of it when he wrote, “In fact their powerlessness is the torch. We torment these people. But we’re the villains, because we don’t know what we want from them.”

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I believe Churchill became Sir Winston, and he was a descendant of the Duke of Marlborough, co-winner (with Prince Eugene of Savoy) at Blenheim and rival of the Duke of Wellington as Britain’s greatest general. (Wellington started out as Sir Arthur Wellesley but rose higher as he accumulated victories in India and Iberia.)

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        If anyone earned his title, Sir Winston did.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Churchill refused apeerage because he wished to continue serving in the Commons. Had be become Duke, Earl or Vicount Churchill, his political career would have been over.

        Churchill was bestowed a Knighthood of the Garter, which is the top of the ladder as far as British chivalry awards go.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Can you imagine how it would have looked had he been king when war broke out?

    According to this series, Mr. Kung, Wallace Simpson was having an affair with a German ambassador and passing secrets to him. The King himself was supposedly so leaky that they quit putting sensitive information in his royal inbox.

    But who knows? Later we know that objections against marrying a divorcee were slackened. But I can’t help thinking in the case of Wallace Simpson that she was objectionable in her own right. I think she was the Yoko Ono of the British monarchy. John couldn’t by himself break from the Beatles. But by using the poison-pill of Yoko Ono, this was made easier.

    I think the same for Wallace Simpson. I don’t actually believe that Edward abdicated for love. I think he wanted out of the job and Wallace Simpson was his way to get out with some measure of sympathy and dignity. I think he thoroughly enjoyed sticking it to the rest of the royals, making them look old-fashioned and like uncaring bullies. And once out, he seemed to continue his utter contempt for the rest of the royals. His personal slander for the Queen was to refer to her as “Shirley Temple.”

    I think it was a good-riddance situation. The man simply was a putz. Yeah, I know that Winston Churchill had great respect for him and did his utmost to get the king back on track. But it’s not hard to see Edward as an arrogant, petty, dislikable person.

    But then I suppose you always get into the aspect of “Those who win write the history.”

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I’ve read at least one book (it may have been The Windsor Plot, in which the Duke and Duchess of Windsor are major characters) which suggests that Edward and his wife didn’t really get along all that well — no storybook romance.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        There are a few nasty exchanges between Edward and Mrs. Simpson in season two. Edward clearly misses his status and gives an insulting remark to Wallace about their unsatisfactory marriage. One of the subplots of one of the episodes is Edward asking the Queen to be allowed to enter the country in order to work on a book. Elizabeth — in a forgiving mood, particularly after having met Billy Graham who is on tour in England — relents.

        But this is just Edward’s cover story. He’s looking for a job. His life in exile in France bores him. (I think he’s in France. I could be wrong about that.) He says he wants to do meaningful work, that his aim has always been to serve his country. It’s hard not to take him at face value, but you do wonder what his ulterior motive is.

        He meets with a group of sympathetic supporters and is eventually given several options of confirmed jobs. Firm job offers in hand, he goes to the Queen to ask permission. Philip meanwhile is dead set against it. He tells the Queen to get in touch with Tommy Lascelles (now retired). Tommy then bluntly tells the Queen all that is supposedly known of Edward’s and Mrs. Simpson’s dalliances with the Nazis, including quite traitorous remarks that supposedly exist in letters or telegrams.

        That puts the Queen off any thought of forgiveness and she bluntly confronts Edward with what she has found out. Edward is as slithery as a snake. (The Queen later meets with Billy Graham again and asks what one does if one cannot forgive.)

        This episode has one of the more charming endings when Philip returns home three sheets to the wind. Elizabeth asks him if he’d been drinking. He says something like, “Yes. I was enjoying a splendid celebration with the Queen Mother and Tommy over your booting Edward out of the country.” It’s smiles all-around for the royal couple. It is the one subject most of them agree on.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    If you’re the Queen of England, I’m not sure you watch these sorts of series. But if the Queen watches “Dear Mrs. Kennedy,” she’ll realize this series isn’t a hit piece. The Queen is shown in a very flattering light. An article here kinda-sorta helps sift fact from embellishment (as well as offering a splendid color photo). The Kennedys take their show on the road to Buckingham Palace.

    Serial murderer, Dexter, plays JFK. He doesn’t remind you in the least of JFK. Steven Weber (of Wings), on the other hand, did a very nice job as JFK in the miniseries The Kennedys of Massachusetts. Jodi Balfour as Jackie Kennedy is a little bit better.

    The central aspect of this episode is that Jackie utters some disparaging comments about the Queen and Buckingham Palace. Apparently in real life some words were said. But they have been inflated into very insulting words in this retelling. It plays out like this: First they have apparently a warm dinner at Buckingham Palace with the Kennedys. Then Jackie insults at a function a few days later. Then Jackie comes back in June the next year for a one-on-one with the Queen where she humbly apologizes and explains that she was simply hyped up on drugs at the time, creating a loose tongue. She even curtsies for the Queen upon this second meeting. To me that seems unlikely, by you never know.

    Anyway, who cares about what really happened? The monarchy itself is now all about telling a story. And this particular story is a good one and one that is particularly flattering to Elizabeth.

    England at this time is debasing itself quickly. Others would call it “modernizing.” But clearly society is changing fast and there is no stopping it.

    Margaret is somewhat on the cutting edge of this change. As her sister pointed out, despite her egalitarian verbal leanings, she most of all loves the luxury and privilege of being a royal. After the fiasco of being forbidden to marry Group Captain Townsend (“forbidden” in the sense that she would lose some royal goodies if she married him, but marrying him was always a choice she could have made…if only for love) has left the Queen in the position of basically green-lighting any marriage plans that Margaret may have.

    This time Margaret falls for a libertine (Tony…later Lord Snowdon…who is, at this point, a British photographer but did go to Eton) who, even in the midst of the acceptance of his marriage proposal, is still dithering around with at least three women and one man…all unknown to Margaret. But this information was dug up by the reliable Tommy Lascelles, retired Private Secretary to the Queen who is still often the go-to guy when you need good information. Played by Pip Torrens, he is one of the stand-out characters in the cast. Still, the Queen does not put the kibosh on the marriage and keeps this information from Margaret.

    That marriage led to sixteen years of bitter conflict between the two. Interestingly, from what I’ve read online, the royal family sided with Tony. Margaret became apparently quite a handful. Tony, presumably, skated by on his apparently respectability and likable demeanor. No doubt Season 3 will delve into this further if there is a season 3.

    Season two is a drop-off from season one, if only because the events and personalities (WWII, Winston Churchill) in and around season one took us far beyond the mere serial scandals or would-be scandals of season two. Granted, there were a couple excellent episodes not dealing specifically with scandal or conflict including the Margaret-centered “Beryl,” the Kenndy-centric “Dear Mrs. Kennedy,” and the forced modernizing of the monarchy in “Marionettes.”

    Also notable was the next-to-last episode in season two, “Paterfamilias.” We recount some of the history of Philip’s youth, particularly as centered around his attendance at a hard-core disciplinarian school in Scotland which he forces Charles to attend as well. Charles later calls it “Five years of hell.” The actor (Finn Elliot) who plays young Philip is outstanding, and it’s hard to imagine this episode won’t provide a major jumpstart to his career. He is that good.

    But I still haven’t quite warmed to Matt Smith as Prince Philip. Oh, well. Claire Foy is good if only because she stays within the rather restrained palette of (apparently…it’s not like I know her personally) the real Queen Elizabeth. But she ekes out quite a bit of subtlety within that small palette. Victoria Hamilton as the Queen Mother doesn’t remind me at all of that pleasant, sweet, white-haired lady waving from the balcony which is the entirety of our impression of her. This could be a good portrayal of her, for all I know. But something seems off.

    Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret is probably the one most deserving of acting accolades. She is just terrific, in all senses of that word. And (assuming season 3) as Margaret gets even more volatile, she will be the one to watch.

    Still, as this series encroaches on more modern times (especially “the People’s Princess” times), I’ll look forward less to reliving those times. Been there, done that. But maybe this series’ treatment of these events will not come across as yet more boring royal trauma and scandal that most of us have tired of by now. We’ll perhaps see.

    Overall, I found season two to lose track a bit of setting the stage and weaving a good story rather than just ticking off historical points. We had far too many scenes of the royals sitting around discussing things. We ought to be moving more through their surroundings, engaging more in day-to-day experiences. I’d love to see more of the castles. I’d love to see what the servants say to each other when they are outside royal ears. By all means, view season one. Lower your expectations a bit for season two and you’ll be fine.

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