Netflix’s The Crown is a biographical series about the life and early years of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) as the monarch of United Kingdom. Season I of The Crown features Queen Elizabeth as she is groomed as the heir presumptive of her father, King George VI (Jared Harris), her sudden rise to as queen and her struggles as she juggles family life with husband Prince Philip (Matt Smith) and her role as the leader of a host of nations.
Contrary to my initial fear, The Crown is wholly entertaining. The script is solid, well-researched and offers new intimate details about the Windsors. Some lines are lifted straight from the annals of royal history books but are presented in a manner that does not make them stuffy or outdated.
The choice of important events that each episode focuses on is thematically varied but does not stray from making the life story of Queen Elizabeth II more nuanced. These events include her and Prince Philip’s visit to Treetops, the Great Smog that killed at least 3500 people, her televised coronation and her love for horses and hounds give the crown a more personal touch. Queen Elizabeth II’s 30-minute one-on-one encounters with Prime Minister Winston Churchill (John Lithgow), where the Prime Minister stands up the entire time and the Queen cannot offer him refreshment, both are done in an effort to use their half an hour judiciously, reflect her growth as a confident leader and as a mature individual.
The cast is superb. Foy carefully balances the “carefree” Lilibet and the by-the-book Queen Elizabeth II. She is the epitome of a modern woman, but shows vulnerability where her family is concerned. Her admittance to her intellectual shortcomings and the need for a private tutor after she is crowned queen is a display of true courage. Foy has the luxury of a brilliant supporting cast. Harris as King George VI is resplendent. I cried when he died because I thought I would not see him act again! Queen Mary (Eileen Atkins) is the old crow who does not mince words. She dishes out zingy statements with aplomb, complete with raised eyebrows and upturned nose. I love her! Of course, there is Tommy Lascelles (Pip Torrens) and his outstanding intellectually-challenging put-downs that char the bones of the receiver to the core. He also does them with poker face and deadly glare (which remind me of Tywin Lannister). On the receiving end of some of those zingy statements is abdicated King Edward VIII (Alex Jennings) who himself has a razor sharp tongue that he wags like a common gossip when he talks about the royal family. The vitriol in his words is only highlighted by his unflinching face and voice. He has choice nicknames for the royals, “Cookie” for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (Victoria Hamilton) for her commoner looks and “Shirley Temple” for Queen Elizabeth II and “sartorial tips” for the young men.
The love story of Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) and the much older Peter Townsend (Ben Miles) is the soap opera within the series. It is intriguing (and the most titillating, perhaps) but in no way detracts from the story of the crown wearer. It is interesting to note the treatment of the royals in this tabloid fodder affair is in contrast with the deference the media showed Lilibet in Africa after the passing of King George VI.
Everything and everyone in The Crown look fabulous. The men look dapper in their suits and the women are gorgeous in their gowns and multiple strands of pearl necklaces. The locations are breathtaking, from the Treetops to the aerial views from Prince Philip’s flying lessons.
The parallelism between several scenes in a number of episodes is noteworthy, the fitting of the crowd of father and daughter comes to mind, and this makes the series a little poetic.
Season I of Netflix’s The Crown is ten hours of whirlwind romance with the Windsors at the dawn of the new Elizabethan age. It has an insightful script with long but stimulating conversations, acting worthy of the royal jewels and verbal assaults that cause third degree burns. It is a peek at the lives of the royals and learning that despite their tiaras, they are not infallible.
- I learned at least a new dozen words from watching The Crown. One of them is “equerry”.
- Thank goodness, Prince Philip, at the prodding of uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten (Greg Wise), did not succeed in replacing “Windsor” with “Mountbatten”. “Windsor” just rolls off the lips while “Mountbatten” is does not do so mellifluously.
- How many members of the royal family smoke? Cigarettes are as much part of the series as Queen Elizabeth II’s crown.
- How great was Winston Churchill in writing and delivering speeches?
- I am curious, do Princes William and Harry ask the Cabinet permission to do rolls and spins midair?
- And “queening” is a word according to Prince Philip. He even used it in at least two instances: “Sit around and wait while you’re queening” and “Fussing about curtain fabrics and paint charts. Honestly, it’s just queening of another sort.”