I’ve always had an infatuation with kings and queens and the scandals that often surrounded their courts. My favorite rulers to study and just plain obsess over has always been the sovereigns who ruled over what is now called the United Kingdom, though I admit I don’t know nearly as much as I should about the House of Windsor. With the premiere (and following binge) if the new Netflix show, The Crown, that’s begun to change.
The Crown tells the story of Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne after the death of George VI while she and the Duke of Edinburgh were on a goodwill tour of the commonwealth. From there, we’re seen her thrust into a role she was barely qualified for (her father died before he could properly prepare her) and witnessing her go from meek young woman to taking the first steps toward the monarch she is now is intriguing and inspiring.
To see the queen today, it’s difficult to imagine her ever not being the stern and strong woman she is yet her beginnings are rooted in a much different time when she was a much different person. Unsure of what to do when Philip proved unhappy (more on that later) or when she discovered Prime Minister Winston Churchill had been hiding severe medical issues or learning she’d been ill-advised on how to deal with Princess Margaret’s desire to wed a divorced man gives a intrigue insight into not only her but also into what creates a true monarch.
When many of us imagine life as the ruler of a kingdom, images of fancy balls, brave knights and lavish affairs probably fill our wild dreams but the truth of ruling is far from the fairytales we’re raised on. A monarch must contend with a split existence; the person and the Crown are constantly at war and, as Elizabeth learns early on, the Crown must win.
Aside from the newly crowned queen’s journey we also get a peek at what it’s like for her consort, the Duke of Edinburgh. In a time when men ruled the home and women bowed to their husbands’ will, Philip was forced into a reversal of roles. Unlike the typical British family, the Duke found himself his wife’s subordinate and was not very good at hiding his resentment.
The man we know today as Prince Consort is portrayed as a sexist jerk that envies his wife’s position. When he married the future queen, Philip lost his country and titles; when she became queen, he lost his name as the Royal house did not become Mountbatten but stayed Windsor, contrary to what history would’ve predicted. I can understand his feelings over it all but he’s still a rather unsympathetic character.
Not that anyone is, honestly; even the queen herself has less-than-shining moments, such as in her treatment of her own sister. The queen mother (both of them) can be cold and calculating and the former king Edward VII was a total scumbag. Only George VI, seen mostly in sweet flashbacks, seems above the palace intrigue.
The story is moving as it glides along at a nice pace as it covers the queen's early years. Production spared no expense as everything looks breathtakingly authentic, right down the smallest gem in Saint Edward's crown. And the ensemble, led by the brilliant Claire Foy as Her Royal Majesty and John Lithgow as Churchill, are each extraordinary in their roles. The writing and direction are top notch. Everything's so well done, I didn't even miss Helen Mirren (the only actress to play both Queens Elizabeth) and easily accepted Foy in the challenging role of Britain's longet reinging monarch.
Like The Tudors without the soft-core porn scenes and Reign without the weird pseudo-supernatural elements, The Crown is a fun, yet serious, exploration of one person’s struggle to not be crushed under the immense weight of their position as they balance who they are against what they represent. While there may have been liberties taken – I don’t know enough to tell yet – this show is one not to be missed. And Netflix already knows as season two was green lit immediately with sixty episodes over six seasons planned, there’s a lot more to come.
5/5 MUST SEE