I distinctly remember the time in my life when I discovered my preferred genre of reading. I was about to enter middle school and had been reading so much historical fiction that it was ridiculous. I mean, it was almost all I would read. They always say that reading helps us escape into new and different worlds. But I always seemed to prefer escaping into a past I would never know, but longed to be a part of.
However, as intrigued as I always was by the history of European monarchies, I was intimidated by them as well. The stories of these families always seemed so confusing and complicated, so I ended up avoiding them. But as the years have gone on, I have become more and more interested in learning about Queen Elizabeth II, who has now held the throne for 65 years and has lived through so much change and progress. I’m always interested in how people who have lived from the 1940s on, must think about how the world has changed and where it stands today. But I digress.
Therefore, when I heard Netflix was releasing a TV show about the life and times of the queen, I immediately added it to my list and promptly binge watched the whole thing during my down time at work over the course of three days.
The thing about The Crown is how many of the little details about the family members and other various characters that they managed to include in the story. I was pleasantly surprised to see that King George VI’s stammer, Winston Churchill’s uncompromising political staunchness, the treatment of the abdicator Edward VIII, and Phillip’s boyish pettiness. I could continue on and on.
You would think that there was too much going on, but this is exactly why a serial show is the perfect platform for such a story.
Let’s start with the plot line. It seems to run rather linearly, which i did enjoy. You can almost trace each characters life, as it happens throughout the film although they did skip over some moments that I figured they would include, such as Elizabeth having her children, especially because the need to produce heirs has always seemed to be such an important part of a royal family’s duties. But this might reflect the changing of times that occurred around the time she came to power. Nevertheless, we get a sense of the toll that the royal responsibility takes on the family that runs it, both privately and publicly, personally and professionally.
This is a rare case where all of the characters are perfectly cast, which is apparently proven by both Claire Foy’s and John Lithgow’s wins at the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards. Foy is a vision as Elizabeth and does a fantastic job at portraying the inner turmoil of the queen between her duty as a sovereign and as a wife and mother. Watching Lithgow as Churchill is like watching Churchill himself, it seems. Lithgow perfectly shows the strategy of the politician, along with the caring humanity that lay beneath the rough exterior. I also thought Matt Smith did a wonderful job portraying Phillip’s frustrations with at being below his wife in status and his need for power; and Jared Harris was wonderful as King George VI, showing what the full burden of the thrown truly means when his brother abdicates, as well as what that means for his daughter. All of the actors’ performances are so deeply sincere that you feel for them as if they were your own close friends.
The show is wonderfully paced and strikes an appropriate balance of the darkness of politics, punctuated with brief moments of happiness in each person’s life. The show is tantalizing and had me running straight to the library to check out various biographies about the Churchills, Princess Margaret, Wallis Simpson, and others.
I really can’t say enough good things about this show, from its production to its acting and more. The entire tone portrays the royal family as a loving and devoted home, despite the added pressures and problems that come with the heightened stature and responsibility. Seeing King George VI with his daughters made me, as a viewer, feel as if I were wrapped in a warm embrace. You become a part of their lives in such an intimate way that, even if you aren’t familiar with the monarchy, you become the people of their empire — adoring and loving them as your own.
I am excited to see what they have in store for a second season, especially in the relationship between Margaret and Peter Townsend, as well as the King and Queen’s relationship. I am also interested in how far they will take it — will we go all the way to Diana, and even to Kate Middleton? We will just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I will wrap myself up in season one again and again.
What did you think of The Crown? How do you read the actors’ performances of such highly regarded international figures? Do you think the show did their lives justice? What do you think will come in season two and beyond? Let’s talk.