A review by Dr. Lloyd Sederer
The family life of Royals is no different from yours and mine. Except that their housing is castles, their planes private, their schools Eton, and, whether they like it or not, they stand as public facing symbols for the millions upon millions of people who continue to believe in the sovereignty of Royals.
After six mesmerizing Seasons, The Crown has stepped down from streaming (Netflix) royalty.
The Crown, Elizabeth II, was the longest reigning monarch in British history, for seventy years until her death at the age of 96. There is a bottomless trove of material to mine.
The Six Seasons began in 2016 and concluded as 2023 drew to its end. Three actors (Claire Foy, Olivia Colman, and Imelda Staunton) sequentially and steadfastly portray the role of Queen Elizabeth. The Series opens with her marriage at the age of 21, anteceding her being crowned at 27, to Phillip, Prince of Greece and Denmark (Matt Smith, Tobias Menzies, Jonathan Price), and the great-grandson of Queen Victoria. Those were considerable bona fides for a Royal marriage, which turned out to be emotionally sustaining for them both.
Season Six concludes with the foreshadowing of her demise as she and her husband make elaborate, yet personally stamped plans for their funerals. In the planning, he was for the hearse to be a Land Rover amid the pomp and circumstance and she for modesty and simplicity, including the bagpiper whose music she awoke daily to and was to be there when she was laid to rest, playing a solo bagpipe rendition of an ancient Gaelic tune, Sleep, Dearie, Sleep.
The counterpoint between Elizabeth and Phillip was a fine trope to spotlight the Queen’s reserved, pensive, yet absolute monarchy, as she dutifully served as The Crown from when Britain’s Empire never saw the sun set to its station as no longer an Empire.
Among the featured historical and dramatic moments of the first five seasons include the death of Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, and her ascension to the throne; Princess Margaret’s marriage and unruly, destructive descendance; the tragic smog of London (1952) and its effect on the Queen’s appreciation for the suffering of her subjects; the Suez Canal crisis (1956) leading to Prime Minister (PM) Anthony Eden’s resignation; PM Winston Churchill’s tutelage of the Queen and his demise (1965); the beginning of the love affair of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles as well as Charles’ marriage to Diana Spencer, and their divorce (1996); the sons of Charles and Diana, Princes William and Harry; the Windsors as Nazi sympathizers; Margaret Thatcher, The Iron Lady‘s ‘have it her way’, lack of obeisance to the Crown and resignation as Prime Minister (1990); the mishmash of the Falkland War (1982); the births of the Queen’s four children; the infamous, billionaire Egyptian businessman, Mohamed Al-Fayed, owner of Harrod’s, The Ritz, even a football (soccer) team and schemer to wed (on his own behalf) his son to Diana, with its ironically fatal and grievous results; and so much more.
The canvas is huge.*
The Sixth Season comes in two tranches:** four episodes and then a month later 6 more. The grouping works in that the first four bring us up close and personal with Princess Diana, her extraordinary public and media presence, her marriage and her divorce, the mother of her sons, William and Harry, and her affair with Dodi (the oldest son of Mohamed Al-Sayed) and their tragic death in a car accident in Paris.
The second tranche of six episodes is the tale of the Royal Family after the death of Diana. Prince William meets Kate Middleton at St. Andrews University; the “Beatlemania” of young women for Prince William, an unwilling object of their eyes; the heartbreaking strokes and death of Princess Margaret; the passing of the Queen Mother; and Prince Charles’ and Camilla's wedding.
But the emotional tone of the Sixth Season, especially as it approaches the finish line, is different. About all the Royal leads, except Prince Harry, make their peace with themselves and the others. No one is a different person - only more forgiving and generous, transformed by their journey in time and experience.
Prince Phillip shepherds his grandson, William, to a realization about his anger and disdain for his father, who had been trying all along, with Camilla’s help, to be a good, accessible, and caring father rather than his own, the tough and distant Prince Phillip. Yet, Phillip also is portrayed bringing needed support to the Queen and serving as wise counsel to The Crown. The Queen becomes PM Tony Blair’s consiglieri, when the role and responsibilities of the PM become more than about any human can bear. Blair, himself, swallows some of his excessive pride and is humbled by the crazy geopolitics then, and still to this day. The Queen finds it in herself to do two things she did not imagine: to give her blessing to the marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla, the CoE (Church of England) brought along by her gracious attention to the Bishops. Camilla is portrayed as the good wife, motherly, to Charles who knew little of that in Windsor Castle. Prince William sheds his rage about who “killed his mother”, becomes a good son fit to be a King in Waiting, and a smitten romantic partner to the drop-dead gorgeous Kate Middleton. Queen Elizabeth does not step down as monarch, putting her love of country first, even before that of her family.
Harry, sadly, is left behind, foretelling his troubles ahead.
You see, the family life of Royals is no different from yours and mine. Except that their housing is castles, their planes private, their schools Eton, and, whether they like it or not, standing as public facing symbols for the millions upon millions of people who continue to believe in the sovereignty of Royals.
*There is so much more to report on the tumultuous history rendered in Seasons 1-6 and the deserved actor credits, both lacking here due to word count limitations.
** By the way, I am not for breaking up a streaming series into two or more releases. Doing so must have commercial value but is not attuned to viewers who like to take their dollops of a show at their own pace.
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