The Crown: The Best Possible Blend of Fairy Tales and History on TV

On the new Netflix streaming series, The Crown, the young Queen Elizabeth II called her uncle, Edward the VIII, and asked for some crucial advice. As seen on the drama, she asked him what he thought she should do about her sister, Princess Margaret, who wanted to marry a divorced man. Even though her uncle had been ousted from the royal family sixteen years earlier because he married a divorced woman, the Queen thought that he was the only one she could trust to give her an honest opinion about her dilemma. The reason she felt compelled to turn to him was that he was the only surviving person who had also been a ruling monarch. Just as Elizabeth’s father unexpectedly became the King of the British Isles and its independent territories after his brother’s abdication in 1936, she suddenly became the Queen and head of the British Monarchy in 1952 after her father, King George VI, abruptly died. Even though she was just at the tender age of 26, she never had any hesitation about accepting her royal position. However, she was woefully and unaware of and unprepared for the enormous duties and responsibilities of being the Queen. Rather than having received the comprehensive schooling that a modern leader would need to interact with and make proper decisions with world leaders, the young princess was only provided with tutoring in the English Constitution.

The Crownc respectfully weaves history, drama, and huge doses of imagination to allow viewers to be present during some of the most significant interactions that could have taken place among the members of the royal family, and between the Queen and some of the most important figures of the twentieth century. The first season focuses on the delicate communication protocols and negotiations that took place between Elizabeth (Royally played by Claire Foy) and an aging Winston Churchill (diplomatically played by John Lithgow), near the end of his career. Even though she was raw in her new role, it was apparent from the start, that she had a knack for cool and stoic diplomacy. As per the docudrama, Churchill only agreed to stay on as Prime Minister because he pledged to the Queen’s father, King George VI, that he would try to help Elizabeth in her adjustment in becoming the reigning Monarch. Although the new Queen had plenty of tutors and consultants, there were few who she could truly count on as she learned to walk the delicate tightrope of trying to be a woman, a wife, a mother, and one of the most influential people in the world. As she quickly learns, she has both absolute power and absolutely no power about many of the most important issues which concern her: who may become her closest advisor; where she may live; whether she can take on her husband’s family name, and whether her sister (played naughtily by Vanessa Kirby) can marry a divorced woman and still remain part of the royal family.

The interactions between the young Queen and Prime Minister Churchill are the most compelling and believable scenes in the series. She is portrayed as being both cold and vulnerable. However, viewers will still likely be cheering for her to succeed. No other televised historical drama has shown Winston Churchill as being both solidly confident and arrogant in his opinions while, at the same time, totally in need of the approval of virtually everyone he interacted with, including his young staff; assistant the Queen; the British Parliament; the public, the press; and the young contemporary artist (Graham Sutherland) who tried to paint Churchill’s portrait when he was too old to accept the realistic image he saw of himself.  Lithgow successfully navigates the meandering nuances of Churchill’s personality to a “T” and should be considered for prestigious awards for the role of his lifetime.

In recreating this mythic-like period of twentieth-century history, the backdrop of the entire lifetime of many of the surviving baby-boomers, the streaming television series vividly brings out one of Elizabeth’s most difficult to solve dilemmas. Should the Queen forbid her sister to marry and it could potentially further break apart the royal family. But to allow her to marry and then she would certainly lose the support of the British Parliament and the powerful Church of England, which were both emphatically opposed to the divorce of royals but turned a blind eye to the act with important political figures. Her uncle reminds her that when he abdicated the throne, he became “half a king, but without a kingdom.” He advises her that she is only half a woman, and half-a-Queen, but she still has a kingdom. He forecasts that she will spend her entire life struggling to decide how to act properly in such peculiar circumstances.

The Crown is unusual for dramatic presentations of historical events since the star of the series, Queen Elizabeth II is, at age 90, is still very much alive. See a photo of her below in 2015, at age 89.

 

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If Netflix intends to continue producing this series based on the exciting and unprecedented life of Queen Elizabeth II, they are just getting warmed up. Elizabeth II is the longest living monarch of the last two centuries. When Season I ends, the young Queen is still in the earliest years of an almost 65-year reign and counting. We haven’t even gotten close to the period of how she addresses the issues of living with her restless and bored husband, Phillip (well-played by Matt Smith), who has nothing but a ceremonial role in her court. I can’t imagine how the script writers will write the dialogue concerning when she deals with the scandals of the marriage involving her son, Prince Charles’ and Princess Diana.

If you are intrigued by the clever writing, superb acting, and a series that seem like the fairy tales you heard as a child, but are based on history, you should like The Crown. Though there is no accompanying book, it offers a literary view of history on film. Sign me up for season II. If you haven’t watched it yet through the streaming experience, you can catch up slowly or binge-watch the entire ten-episode first season (about an hour for each episode) in a single day. This show should attract the same type of viewers who were glued for six seasons to Downton Abbey, but its characters truly  matter. I saw every episode of Abbey and loved each of them. But, I say, if you still haven’t gotten over the fact that there won’t be any new Downton Abbey shows, Why not try watching the Crown?”

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Murray Ellison received a Master’s in Education at Temple University (1973), a Master’s of Arts in English Literature at VCU (2015), and a Doctorate in Education at Virginia Tech in 1988. He is married and has three adult employed daughters. He retired as the Virginia Director of Community Corrections for the Department of Correctional Education in 2009. He is the founder and chief editor of the literary blog, www.LitChatte.com. He is an editor for the “Correctional Education Magazine,” and Co-Editor of the 2016 book of poetry, Mystic Verses, by Shambhushivananda. He also serves as a board member, volunteer tour guide, poetry judge, and all-around helper at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond Virginia. He will be teaching literature classes in OSHER Program at the University of Richmond and offering book club discussions at the Midlothian Library (Virginia) beginning in January  2017.

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Murray Ellison received a Master’s in Education at Temple University (1973), a Master’s of Arts in English Literature at VCU (2015), and a Doctorate in Education at Virginia Tech in 1988. He is married and has three adult employed daughters. He retired as the Virginia Director of Community Corrections for the Department of Correctional Education in 2009. He is the founder and chief editor of the literary blog, www.LitChatte.com. He is an editor for the “Correctional Education Magazine,” and Co-Editor of the 2016 book of poetry, Mystic Verses, by Shambhushivananda. He also serves as a board member, volunteer tour guide, poetry judge, and all-around helper at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond Virginia. He will be teaching literature classes in OSHER Program at the University of Richmond and offering book club discussions at the Midlothian Library (Virginia) beginning in January  2017.

 

 

 

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