Series Review: The Crown

I recently began watching the lavish Netflix original series, The Crown. I’m three quarters of the way through the first season, which premiered in November of 2016. Season two just released last month. The series has a projected run of six years. I’m glad. Being a history enthusiast, and one with a long time interest in the royalty of Europe, I am enchanted by this well done show.

The Crown stars Claire Foy, Matt Smith, John Lithgow, Victoria Hamilton, Vanessa Kirby, Jared Harris and Jeremy Northam. The historical drama, directed by Philip Martin and several others, is based upon the award winning play “The Audience” by showrunner Peter Morgan. It carries a Mature Audience rating, and has a weekly run time of 58 minutes.

The Crown chronicles the ascent to the throne of Elizabeth II (Foy) at age 25, after the death of her father, King George VI (Harris), and her life from the 1940s to current times. The king, who was more ill than his family realized, died unexpectedly, deeply affecting his wife, Queen Elizabeth I (Hamilton) and his daughters, the future queen and his younger child, Margaret (Kirby).

Elizabeth II has a young family with her husband, Philip Mountbatten (Smith), the Duke of Edinburgh, a naval officer whose career is on the rise. She expected to have years living a somewhat normal life with her growing family before she would be required to wear the crown. The first season covers the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s reign and the intrigues and challenges of the monarchy, along with the political rivalries between an aging Winston Churchill (Lithgow) and prime minister hopeful Anthony Eden (Northam).

The focus of the series is on the relationship between the young Queen and her husband, the Prince. They must learn to live in this new world they find themselves in. Philip gives up his naval career, his last name and the home he shares with Elizabeth and their children, to become the Queen’s consort.

Elizabeth is in the important role of queen, which must take precedent over that of wife. She must adapt, and quickly, as the needs of the monarchy never cease.

I am not only enjoying this beautiful production, my perspectives about England’s royal family is shifting. The casting is excellent. Matt Smith embodies Prince Philip. I read he was given one piece of advice from Prince William, about playing the role. William described his father as “legendary “.

I feel strong sympathy toward Prince Philip. He knew he was marrying the future Queen of England. However, the ascension to the throne happened earlier than they dreamed possible. Philip finds himself in a role he doesn’t quite yet know how to play. He will never be king, and yet he is a pillar of quiet strength beside his wife.

Matt Smith and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Claire Foy and Queen Elizabeth II.

The newly crowned Queen draws my earnest respect. She was so young when she took the throne. And yet she shouldered the heavy and demanding responsibilities well, learning quickly, making decisions that oft times were contrary to tradition or against the wishes of the Queen Mother or her husband. I find her life fascinating, and I am already seeing the royal family as so much more than figureheads with a celebrity type status.

There were, and still are, many political decisions to sort through and masses of people to care for and a country to represent, all while living in one of the most elaborate glass houses in the world. This family is under constant scrutiny, and I can’t imagine living day to day under that kind of pressure.

John Lithgow as Winston Churchill.

I look forward to furthering my education about this powerful woman, and her stalwart Prince, who have, in reality, been married for 70 years. That is a lifetime together. I appreciate The Crown, and the peek I am getting into that extraordinary life.

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