My mum just came to stay, which meant I had 4 days to fill with mumsy-appropriate viewing.
She is pretty tame in her viewing habits; Midsomer Murders, Morse, Bake-Off – that kind of thing. British, predictable, everything a bit Sunday.
Scrolling through Netflix, I was finding it almost impossible to find anything that wasn’t “hard-hitting”, “drug-fueled”, “sex-infested”, “hardcore-hilarious” or “deep-fried”.
Then, like a vision of tweedy patriotism, up-popped The Crown.
I had avoided this series, pretty sure it was going to be Rule Britannia this, and Downton Abbey that, “aren’t we Brits the absolute tip-top, best?”. I had watched an episode before with a pal, but it kinda swept passed us on gin-tinged chat (though I do remember we went off to bed, making sure to inspect our respective “spitals” in honour of the king-ly health check from a scene we’d actually managed to watch).
But, as I sat down with mumsie, cake and tea established, I was utterly captivated and entertained!
We meet Elizabeth – young, wide-and-watery-eyed, slightly dazed among the planning of her wedding to Philip from Greece. Claire Foy, as Elizabeth, is just dream casting, I could not stop looking at her. You can almost hear the Queen turning to stone over the ten episodes, as the horror and reality of her role envelopes her.
Philip, played by Matt Smith, is bored, emasculated and wound up. He finds himself in a position lowly to his wife, taking her name and reduced to a official potterer and hobbyist – a role many women through time have struggled and kicked against. Smith plays him tight as a peg, threatening to break at any minute.
There’s Churchill, played by the magnificent John Lithgow, a man crumbling under burdened shoulders, wringing the last drops from a self-image he is too stubborn to let go of, even when it’s fading meaning is presented to him in the starkest way possible.
Margaret, the spare to Elizabeth’s heir, like Philip, spends her hours in frivolity – only finding meaning where she can’t have it – in her relationship with Peter Townsend (oh, my heart). Vanessa Kirby is a joy, fleshing out “the evil sister” into a flamboyant, free wheeler, who is just effing cool and so utterly shat on by Elizabeth, who she threatens to outshine at every turn.
This is the Royals, and those that circle them, at their back-stabbing, “ice-veined” best – a deck of characters, jostling for position, in a situation none of them seem happy to be in. Not a series for Royalists, who wish to view their monarchy as god-like, much more for us urchin who want to peek around the curtain at all the warts and tears and betrayals.
Mum loved it too, btw, so definitely a go-to should you have any prudish, 60-something relatives over.