Having got a free trial of Netflix I’ve binge-watched The Crown, the story of the Queen and her reign. The series has had rave reviews and the second ten instalments are currently being filmed. As series 1 takes us up to the mid-1950s I imagine Netflix are rubbing their hands at having lots more decades to work on.
It’s really, really good, as long as you don’t mind the occasional cavalier fiddling with historical facts and you can go along with the necessarily imagined private conversations between the Royals. Imagined, of course, because the Queen is famously reticent as are most of her family. I was brought up in a staunchly monarchist household and I remain convinced that a constitutional monarchy is the best form of democracy – recent election results elsewhere tend to agree. However, this isn’t a political blog so I’ll shut up.
As the Queen Claire Foy has come a long way from Little Dorrit and Adorabelle Dearheart of the Discworld’s ‘Going Postal’ and from her pouty Anne Boleyn in ‘Wolf Hall’. In fact, she’s excellent, remote but human, qualities which aren’t easy to combine. Watching several episodes at a stretch I’ve found myself enunciating far more clearly and being rather queenly with my vowels, not to mention trying to sit up straight!
Matt Smith is also good as Prince Philip although he’s nowhere near as good-looking. For anyone who only knows the prince as a very, very elderly man, it’s a shock to see photographs of him in his youth – described by someone as a ‘Viking god’ – and not far off the mark if you look at this:My squabble with the programme is that the writers have made Prince Philip petulant and pouting which seems very unlike what is actually known about him. Angry and frustrated yes, but not whining and sulking. It’s interesting to remember that Prince Philip had an appalling upbringing – abandoned by his father and with his mother committed to a mental hospital, passed round the family and encountering tragedy at the age of 15 when his sister was killed with her family in an air crash. No wonder he once signed a visitor’s book as ‘Of no fixed abode’, and no surprise he grew up tough and self-sufficient. The photo below shows a wary, watchful little boy.
John Lithgow who, to me, will always be Dick from Third Rock from the Sun, is terrific as Churchill; not an impersonation but the essence of the character, and his scenes with the young Queen are very well done. The scene where he confronts the truth of Graham Sutherland’s portrait of him – which he loathed and which Lady Churchill destroyed – is both painful and touching.
If you get the chance, do watch it – I’ve read reports by younger people who say they’d never imagined the Queen and Prince Philip as young people!
(The photos are all from public sites so I hope nobody objects!)