Our insatiable thirst for stories about British aristocracy (post Downton Abbey) will finally be quenched in this lush, magnificent period drama recounting the epic life and times of Queen Elizabeth II.
The 10-part original series on Netflix, The Crown, is every bit worth the buzz about this formidable achievement which has breathed new life into the historical record of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. Beautifully filmed with the utmost attention to production value, there are moments in this series that feel so ‘inside the court’ and fly-on-the-wall that you forget it’s a scripted vehicle rather than a documentary, although it is based on tons of factual research. And what provides an even wider narrative perspective is the series’ immersion in the political machinations swirling around the royal family, from pre-WWII straight through to modern times.
At the center of The Crown, of course, is Elizabeth, in an embracing and career-making performance by British actress, Claire Foy. More so than any of the numerous Elizabeth portrayals in recent years, her finely tuned take on the character captures the humanity behind Elizabeth’s placid demeanor. In one wary or tremulous look, Foy evokes the bewilderment and naiveté of a young woman whose role in history is tragically thrust upon her and who, bit by bit, realizes who and what she must become, which is an utter disconnect with the wife and mother she had previously envisioned herself. It is the central relationship between Elizabeth and her husband, Philip Mountbatten that beats at the heart of the entire show, revealing the seemingly impossible bargain which had to be reconciled between them, with the entire country – indeed the world – as witness.
The secondary yet critical relationship in the story is that of Elizabeth and (then) Prime Minister, Winston Churchill (played to delicious perfection by John Lithgow). It’s a fascinating and surprisingly human game of chess as the young queen is at times being ‘taught the ropes’ by Churchill and at other times testing and asserting her royal dominance over him to get what she wants. The members of the royal family, in particular Princess Margaret (vibrantly portrayed by Vanessa Kirby) are also meticulously presented in this impeccable series. With the tantalizing sub-plot of Margaret’s scandalous affair with Capt. Peter Townsend (household employee and extra equerry to her father, King George VI) The Crown doesn’t shy away from exploring the human dramas (torrid they may be at times) which befall us all, titled or not.
Based on an award-winning play (“The Audience”) by show-runner Peter Morgan, The Crown is more than an entertaining and educational period drama with lavish production credentials. Perhaps it’s coincidental but the November 4th release of the series (four days before the U.S. Presidential election) seems apropos for a discussion on the deeper themes resonating throughout the story which are relevant now, half a world away. Specifically, they have to do with leadership, with the meaning of power (both familial and populist), with the question of loyalties and where they should be applied, with the art of governing, with the sacrifice of one’s own will for the common good, and (perhaps most emblematic of all) with the understanding that a true leader speaks on behalf of country and that the entire world is listening.
The Crown is Presently Streaming on Netflix.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at making of The Crown:
And finally, go to Vanity Fair for a short, revealing article on the doomed romance between Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend.
YouTube Trailer Courtesy of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=He7-0rT5t78
Featurette on the Series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjNZO1sHNyI
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