Caila went to Meremac-STL for journalism and has been writing for most of her life.
As in most countries I'm sure, we are not afforded in school the luxury of learning much about other countries in schools. We are not fully aware of the way that other lands are upheld in government and how it affects the people that it governs. I'm sure we have all heard of Queen Elizabeth and the Crown on the other side of the pond, here in America, but how much do we know? This Netflix original show dissects what the establishment of the Crown is and how it rules over England and has for ages! The show dives into the lives of the Royal Family and the next generation's as well.
The Royal Family has always been a bit elusive and evasive when it came to the public eye. Scandals and problems are not unheard of for them but they are not searching for attention in the public eye, as their duties restrain them from being completely attainable public figures. The Crown also denies the Royal Family any sense of normalcy in their lives, socially or romantically, out of duty to the throne. The show really takes a look into their personal lives, triumphs and despairs and focuses on showing them as human as possible.
The Royal Family
Meet the Family
From the beginning, we are introduced to Queen Elizabeth at a young age under the rule of her father, King George VI. He is dying from clear cancer of sorts as he is coughing up blood the first time we see him. So you kind of know he's on his way out of the door. He seems to be a very grounded man focused on keeping his children, family, the land, and the commonwealth lands, that the Throne holds, all grounded as well. We meet most of the older members of the Royal family, who all come across as snobbish in their own ways. When the King passes away, Elizabeth is automatically first in line for the throne, something she was not prepared for really, although she had to know it would come at some point, as she was the oldest child.
This starts the descent into sadness and empathy for the characters. Elizabeth is thrust into the spotlight and higher responsibility than she has ever had to deal with in her life. She must contort and frame her personality and responses upon what is good for the establishment of the Crown, which is mostly just doing nothing, saying nothing and making speeches for crowds. While she lacks the emotional connection with the people she rules and the education of a King or Queen, she is very determined to make things work and to learn about her work, which is extremely admirable to not remain ignorant when you could be. Taking up the Crown, she becomes Queen Elizabeth and her problems are only just beginning.
Elizabeth is married to Prince Philip. You really get the chance to praise their relationship throughout the series. They are very dedicated to one another and making things work for themselves and for the Crown. It's nice to see a couple stick it out no matter what happens to them. Phillip is a spirited and equally as determined as Elizabeth is. He was a lieutenant in the naval army and always wanted to have a role in the royal family, so much so that it has brought him and Elizabeth to bickering. Moments like these show the viewer how boring being a part of the establishment of the Throne and royalty is. No one serves a purpose unless you give them one, they must just follow the rules. He and Elizabeth even had fights about whether or not he would bow to her as his Queen during her coronation. I felt for his character because a man HAS to be a man. He can't feel second in line to his woman at all times and be given nothing to do in their relationship. So she creates and bestows the title of Duke of Edinburgh upon him to give him a sense of self and responsibility.
We also know this to be true as the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret, also has the same troubles of being bored and serving no purpose in a family filled with nothing but duty. Looked at as almost the wild child of the older family and a black sheep, she is very outgoing, outspoken, social and has a way with people. Margaret also feels that she would have made a better Queen than her sister, deep down, and even has spats with her about it over the years. Margaret has an amazing presence in the room among the other Royals and relates to other people and common people very well. For the establishment, she would not make a good Queen, but for the people, you get the sense that she would. (Another Princess Diana before her time, in a way to be able to connect with others.) She comes across as being torn between having no role to play in royalty, but can't live a normal life because she is royalty.
Her bigger issues (heavy smoking, drinking and mental breakdowns) begin when the establishment and her Queen sister tell her she cannot marry the man she is in love with and is lied to by her sister, unintentionally. She and her love are separated for years in hopes that the love with dissipate and they will find other people who are more suitable for the establishment's liking. The tensions between Margaret and her sister couldn't be more heavy than it is in this moment. You honestly feel terrible for Margaret and feel like she might have missed out on her one true love, potentially. The tensions are so high actually that you do not know if Margaret and Elizabeth's relationships will ever be the same afterward. This same thing happens to her a few times in the show where her lovers and relationships are denied. It is very easy to see how slighted you can feel in a family where everything has to be approved by someone higher than yourself, including your love life.
The Royal Kids
The Next Generation
Problems only get worse down the line for the Royal Family as they are the center of scandals, attempts at making themselves look more human and more available for the public, and members of the family going through their own issues that all extend from the duties they hold. These people have no lives, they aren't truly allowed to love, and they have rules to follow like they're all babies. It's quite sad to see. The original family members (siblings and people of the Queen's age) are all used to their duties by now, years down the road, but they also have a newer generation to teach that same sense of responsibility to.
The newer generation of children and family members brings in entirely new issues for the Queen and her family. Not only has she had to work on her rulership as a Queen, but she has had to switch over to a new Prime Minister and learn from a new person. The original Prime Minister Winston Churchill is played marvelously by John Lithgow and his character was very intriguing. Winston is in his old age at the start of the show, doesn't want to accept that he is no longer a good fit for his role and has been manipulating situations so that the Queen would not know his inability to do his role due to his declining health and mental state. When he passes away, you do feel sorry for him because he just wanted to do the best he could at his job and didn't want to accept that Father Time is more powerful than he is. He was dutiful until his end and Churchill and Queen Elizabeth's relationship with one another came across as special.
Enter Margaret Thatcher! The first woman Prime Minister of England! She is a great counterpart to Queen Elizabeth, who by this time is a bit older and has settled into her role as the Queen. She knows how to throw her weight and title around strategically to get what she wants now and is not shy about doing so either. Margaret is an extremely hard worker, finds little to no time that she cannot get work done in, and is very devoted to her role as Prime Minister, while also secretly competing in her own mind to be the best in the land at governing. I found that The Queen and Thatcher's feud were much more played up for the trailers of the show than it actually was in the show itself. Both women are headstrong but opposites of one another, but so alike in many ways as well. Although they are not clashing with one another all the time, they do have different views and goals about policies and people. The show even does well to dive into the differences in their personalities and even their parenting styles. Seeing them in a room together is always a highlight of the later seasons for me.
When the children of Royalty (Princes Charles, Andrew, Edward and Princess Anne) come of age and are given their own titles and duties, the same set of problems arise for the next generation. No one feels appreciated, noticed, or loved. They're all just set in stone, obligated to their titles and lost in the world. We see the seeds that are sown for Charles to hurry and find a wife so that he can be a proper heir to the throne one day. Anne has marriage troubles and seems to hate her life. She is a very strong character and has a very stern, yet sarcastically funny personality, but is so broken down in her young years by loneliness, lack of love, and obligation. Andrew and Edward are hardly noticeable and come across as side characters even in the show, one even being bullied into lonesomeness at school. They are 10 years plus younger than their older siblings, so that does explain why they both come across as an afterthought in the show. You literally feel like they just pop up out of nowhere when they finally do get screen time. You still feel for them and their issues all in their own way, Prince Charles most of all, as even his family seems to know that he has always been sensitive and a lost cause, not fit for a future King.
The Couple that Changed the Royal Family
Charles and Diana
The story behind Prince Charles, Lady Diana, and Camilla Parker-Bowles was always going to be one of the most talked about and anticipated parts of the show. I think anybody who has watched this show can say that this was probably what they came to the show for. At this time, Charles is older, still a playboy of sorts, but has found someone who he is truly interested in: Camilla Shand, later Camilla Parker-Bowles. They seem to have a true affinity and understanding of one another! They're great friends, foremost, which is great. Charles is absolutely infatuated with her and she likes him as well, but of course, the throne has to come in between the two.
Camilla is not marriage material for the throne according to the establishment, because she is looked at as a "fun girl" and can be traced back to other men, while the establishment wants someone more wholesome with no controversial baggage attached to them. A clean slate, if you will. The same thing that happened to his aunt before him, happens to Charles. He and Camilla are separated the moment he makes his true love for her known to the family. She is married off to another man (the other man she was involved with), but the love doesn't go away however, as even through his search for other women and time spent apart, it almost makes him love her even more! They really care for one another and you can tell. She fully supports him, honors him and makes him feel like something in the world, where no one else can. He can't go most days without speaking with or seeing her. You can't help but like their relationship with one another, because they truly were in love.
When he is forced to continue his search for a wife, he is reintroduced to a 20-year old Lady Diana Spencer. The show portrays Diana as exactly what she was at the time, a young and naïve teenaged girl. She is aware of Camilla but did not realize how much of a presence she held in Charles' life. He was so tortured between duty and love that he made the wrong decision (to not disappoint his family) and proposed to Diana two weeks after they began dating and married her soon after. The show tells the downhill spiral of their relationship almost immediately. Charles and Diana were so ill-fated and ill-timed that they were honestly doomed before they began the relationship or marriage. As soon as they're married, we get highlights of how lonely she was. No one is available to her to talk to when she needs them, she has no one to hang out or do anything with, no one understands her problems with being thrown into royalty and what that means for her life, and everyone knows of the adultery going on in their marriage but isn't doing anything about it.
Diana goes from happy girl in love to a Prince, to a depressed young woman with an eating disorder, who is focused on her husband and his cheating. I do think they could have done better to show more of how that depression began and worsened for her. When she finally does confront the Queen with everything she knows, you still feel terrible for Diana. The Queen is so detached from life and her family, due to her duty to the Institution and how she HAS to be, that she is not able to relate to or know anything about her kids or their day to day lives. When she tries to, she still can't and it is found to be awkward for whoever she is talking to. It is astonishing how much she does not know about her kids. However, when The Queen is made aware of this detachment issue, she does try to go out of her way to be a better parent and closer to her children. It is inspirational, yet does nothing for their relationships. Elizabeth is very teachable and always wants to do and be better and that is a very admirable quality to have as a person. This side of her does not get across to Diana at all. It comes off like she has no sympathy whatsoever for Diana and her situation.
As season 4 progresses, Diana has Princes William and Harry and becomes a complete Mama Bear! While she comes across as weak when it comes to herself, she is a fierce person when it comes to her children and what she wants for them both. I think in another lifetime she and Charles could have possibly worked and helped to pull each other together because they had similar issues in life. The only difference was that Charles had someone to depend on for his issues, whereas Diana had no one. The moments of joy and love that they do share are very beautiful and romantic, but are fleeting and you know a fight is going to happen shortly afterwards. I went into the show almost ignorant of what really happened between the 3 of them, but I couldn't hate Camilla or Charles at the end of the day like I thought I would. I just felt bad for all parties involved more than anything. As their marriage goes on, it is very hot and cold, as Diana described in real life interviews before, and Charles becomes more jealous and entitled as her fame as the Princess of Wales and the Princess of the People continues to grow. It is very sad to see them in this state, where if they could just work together, they could have been a power couple!
We all know how their story ends, but I can't help but feel happy for Charles now that he does have what he wants. He married Camilla years later and seems very happy now, as he wouldn't let anything come between their love, which makes me think that they REALLY TRULY did love one another even after all of these years. It makes me happy that he and Camilla both found happiness toward his later years in life and that their relationship was finally accepted by the monarchy, because Charles finally stood up for what he wanted for himself. I still feel terrible for Diana at the end of the day and what she had to go through because of The Crown.
My Final Thoughts
Everyone in the Royal Institution and the family knows that everyone is miserable and has problems but everyone refuses to do anything about it and the ones who do are shunned for not following protocol and not honoring traditions and duty. They aren't even compassionate to one another as the Crown will not allow them to show emotion or even be human for that matter. It comes off as if it has warped all of their personalities into detachment, depression, or vices that are not good for them. They are denied love interests, normalcies of life, privacy and no one can help each other in it, as they are ALL trapped in it. The show does well to show how unhappy everyone is, while not placing the blame on anyone in particular, but rather The Crown and the Institution of the Throne itself and what it does to them, as the villain of the series.
Every person has a redeeming quality about them that makes them endearing as a character to follow in the show, especially the Queen herself! I honestly thought I would leave the show hating it, but all I feel is sorrow for everyone who was ever born into that family or anyone who has ever been involved with them before. Their problems can all be traced back to the Throne and the pressures of duty. They all live their lives for something bigger than themselves and forget that they are also human and need love, compassion and understanding, along with duty and purpose. It really is heartbreaking to know that these people COULD be happy but aren't and cannot do anything about it. They are literally trapped in a system! They're all basically children underneath a big parent called The Crown and it is not a cookie baker parent. Very sad. However, I cannot wait until the next season so I can see what else they do with the story of Charles and Diana or how they handle her death in the show and the events that led up to it.
This is a compelling story that I would suggest any American watch just to be aware of how the Queen and her family are not the enemies, but the Institution itself is. Although it is partially fictionalized for theatrical purposes, most of the story points were real and true. Especially in today's climate with William and Harry both being grown and married men now and the controversy that surrounded Harry's marriage and children with Meghan Markle. You can tell just how terrible the restrictions and duties of the Throne are with how badly the Institution and the press from England treated Meghan during her time spent in London before and after her marriage to Harry. Their beautiful son was even attacked by racists in the tabloids and the Institution did and said almost nothing about it. This says a lot about The Crown and the Institution.
The racism and systematic issues are really put on the spot right now for this family in today's world, especially here in America. Harry left the entire country, The Crown, and his place in line for the Throne just to get away from it for the sake of his wife and kids, which is beautiful to see. No matter how bad of a light they try to make dropping your duties for love seem in the show, I am happy that he made the decision for his family. There isn't much the Royal Family can do to become the heroes of the story again for now, especially in the eyes of Americans or African Americans, however this show does paint them in a better and more sympathetic light than they have been seen in for a while.