I want you to take a long hard look at that poster and tell me what you see. Do you see a woman fighting to come out of the shadows? Do you see a woman whose face has been wiped of all emotion, but with her bowed head as the only indication of the weight of her station? Do you see a woman lit by the glow of the future but still plagued by the darkness of past tradition from which she is trying to break free? Do you see a woman who is so completely isolated that she is not even graced with the company of a background?
Do you see a woman who has been stripped of her identity to be replaced by only The Crown?
I finished watching The Crown this morning and I am currently feeling a little desolate. This show follows the early years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign as monarch. And I just want to touch on something that has been weighing on me since I started watching.
When Elizabeth is just a princess, when her father, King George, is still alive, Elizabeth is shown as happy. She is shown as being surrounded by people in most scenes. In particular, she is shown as being a newly married wife with her newly minted husband with everything that entails; affection, silliness, love, warmth. Elizabeth is never wanting for company or support.
But the second that the crown is placed on her head; the second that she has to become queen, all of that support is stripped away. Claire Foy, who brilliantly plays HRH Queen Elizabeth the Second, is often shown alone. Or, if there are people around her in the shot, they are often at a distance. This is in contrast with the rest of the cast who are always surrounded by people. I think the worst comparison, or best depending on how you view it, is that Philip is often shown not only with friends, but with his and Elizabeth’s children, while Elizabeth often watches from a window, only to turn back into an empty room to fulfil her duty.
The Crown shows, time and again, when Elizabeth had to choose between duty and family, whether that be Elizabeth taking the name of Windsor rather than Philip’s last name of Mountbatten, or having to forbid the marriage of her younger sister Princess Margaret to Group Captain Peter Townsend. We, as viewers, see the emotional ramifications of all of these choices of Elizabeth’s personal relationships. However, as I watched Elizabeth’s husband, sister, mother all condemn Elizabeth for her actions, I can’t help but feel that all of these people let Elizabeth down.
Elizabeth is consistently told throughout the series that she is no longer herself. That she, is purely, tragically, The Crown. She does not represent herself, but her entire nation and their interests. Which is probably why Elizabeth is well known for her stoic poker face and never revealing emotion in public; for it was seen that even the slightest hint of emotion could show bias. And the Head of Church and State must always be neutral.
So how is it that the people in Elizabeth’s life always take her decisions so personally? Philip is always affronted and insulted by Elizabeth’s actions, and Margaret is constantly taking Elizabeth’s decisions as personal attacks. But how do these people, the people who know her best, not see that Elizabeth isn’t acting as Elizabeth, but she is acting as The Crown? Every decision that Elizabeth makes is to keep the peace between the royal family and the government. The viewers see everything that Elizabeth tries to do in order to help those closest to her and yet it is her station that keeps blocking the path. I don’t understand how Margaret can tell Peter that she will “never forgive” Elizabeth for forbidding their marriage, when it wasn’t Elizabeth who forbade it but The Crown?
How do these people forget that Elizabeth is sovereign directly after the tumult and sadness and absolute dystopia of the Second World War? Everything that she does is to keep unity and safety, to the best of her ability, in her kingdom (queendom?). We see Elizabeth take a facial injection to stop the spasming in her cheek from smiling as all of her subjects on an insane royal tour in Australia that left her exhausted? This was instead of skipping a few appointments to get some rest purely so she wouldn’t let anyone down. We see Elizabeth hire a tutor to fill gaps in her unique education so that she can hold her own when speaking to the various experts to which she inevitability has to speak.
We see a woman constantly trying to wage war within herself to gain control of her life. And yet when she fails, because the needs of the country outweigh the needs of Elizabeth herself, she is berated.
I think this is why, upon finishing The Crown, I feel desolate. Because repeatedly we are shown Elizabeth’s desolation and how not one person in her life seems to want to help her through it.
This was obviously an opinion piece. I am more than willing to have a respectful debate in the comments regarding anything with which anyone may disagree. But please, keep it civil.