THE CROWN is a historically faithful, superbly acted 10-part series from Netflix exploring the early years of the current Queen of England’s reign, starting in the 1950s.
The series opens as Prince Philip of Greece (Matt Smith) gives up his nationality to marry Elizabeth Windsor (Claire Foy), the shy young princess next in line to the Throne of England. Flash forward several years, and Elizabeth is a happy stay-at-home wife and mother supporting her husband’s career in the British Navy on the island of Malta, where Philip’s stationed. However, the King (Jared Harris), Elizabeth’s beloved father, is secretly failing in health, and the couple are soon called to London to take up official duties. Meanwhile, Winston Churchill (a magnificent performance by John Lithgow) is determined to hold onto his job as Prime Minister despite his own precarious health, convinced he’s the only one who can lead the country.
As the country struggles to recover from World War II and the global British Empire threatens to disintegrate, Elizabeth has to learn how to reconcile her personal and public roles and navigate the treacherous world of court politics.
The defining theme in Season One is the conflict between individualism and duty, which the writers and directors have powerfully and subtly depicted through the Queen’s competing loyalties. Elizabeth is portrayed as utterly committed to duty at great personal cost. Contrasting her behavior is that of her uncle, the selfish and deceitful Duke of Windsor (Alex Jennings), who gave up the throne of England to marry his twice-divorced mistress.
A subplot in the series is the dilemma Queen Elizabeth II faced when her willful younger sister, Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby), asked for permission to marry a divorced man. Margaret is shown as an emotionally unstable young woman who attaches herself to an older man who worked for her father. Their relationship is portrayed as beginning before his wife left him (though it’s unclear whether they’re sleeping together at that point).
Since the Church of England did not at that time recognize divorce, church leaders are key obstacles to Margaret’s romance. In Episode 10, some may see parallels with today’s ‘marriage equality’ movement. However, in a pivotal scene, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Ronald Pickup) reminds Elizabeth of her oath to “defend the faith,” and Elizabeth realizes this is more important than her sister’s love affair.
Also, Elizabeth and Philip’s marriage develops serious problems due to her replacing him as head of the family after her coronation, even though she insisted on including the line “obey” in her wedding vows. As their relationship becomes more difficult, their continued commitment to each other is shown as praiseworthy.
With impeccable historical detail, this surprisingly restrained, respectful series is a welcome departure from sleazy, pseudo-historical television like VIKINGS and THE TUDORS. THE CROWN encourages admiration for institutions like a constitutional monarchy and limited government, the traditional family, and the Christian virtues of self-control and self-sacrifice. However, in the modern, mechanistic Deistic world which lacks the guidance and comfort of a personal God, Elizabeth’s choice to put her country and duty ahead of her loved ones means she can’t achieve domestic happiness or inner peace. Happily, in reality God has shown us in the Bible how we can love Him and our neighbor and find joy in fulfilling His purpose for our lives.
(C, BB, FR, Ro, LL, V, S, N, AA, DD, M) Light Christian and moral but slightly Deist worldview where the blessings of the God of the Bible are invoked sometimes invoked (mostly for ceremonial occasions, however), and the Archbishop of Canterbury reminds Elizabeth of her oath to be the “Defender of the Faith,” but people aren’t expected to have a personal relationship with Jesus or seek guidance from God, the Church or the Bible on personal matters, and marital fidelity and loyalty to family are praised, and a selfless commitment to God-given duty is seen as most important, plus some light Romantic/relativist elements with a repeated line “morality is changing”, when adulterous lovers want the Queen to approve their marriage; many profanities and one “f” used in a sexual context, the King recites an obscene limerick which includes the an obscenity to help his stage-fright, and Prince Philip uses some crass language about horse-breeding; suspenseful scene as a wild elephant threatens to charge, dramatic hospital scenes as London is hit with a poisonous fog that’s fatal to some, bus hits woman in London, one graphic scene of lung surgery, daughter visits her father’s body during the embalming process, wife throws things at her husband during an argument; sexual content contains obscene limericks in Episode 1, a young woman mentions bringing young men to her apartment, one married couple shown talking in bed together, an unmarried couple kiss frequently and may be sleeping together while the man is still married to another woman, but it’s unclear, woman visits the man in his bedroom after his divorce and hugs him in bed fully clothed, a scene with horses mating, and a bystander makes crass jokes about it, eccentric old man handles his (clothed) private area as he leaves the room presumably to use the restroom, engaged couple are seen together in a hotel room before going to bed; rear male nudity (Episodes 1 and 2) on two occasions as man is seen sleeping in bed without clothes, slides of scantily clad foreign dancers at a gentleman’s club, Churchill is seen from the waist up in his bathtub; frequent alcohol consumption, Philip comes home drunk several times; constant smoking of cigarettes and cigars, and sick man injects what seems to be morphine for pain relief; and, Queen Elizabeth and Philip’s marriage suffers from the strain of her job, much deceitful intrigue as courtiers and politicians seek to manipulate Queen Elizabeth, and Churchill orders subordinates to lie about his health condition, but he’s strongly reproved, the Duke of Windsor is insulting and vengeful to both his family and the people who made him choose between his mistress and the crown, Princess Margaret is jealous of Queen Elizabeth and tells her she will never forgive her for standing in the way of her love affair, Prince Philip struggles with his passive role as Prince Consort and starts to party and drink too much, leading to conflict with Elizabeth, but he apologizes.
THE CROWN is a historically faithful, superbly acted 10-part series exploring the early years of the current Queen of England’s reign, starting in the 1950s. Princess Elizabeth is a happy stay-at-home wife and mother supporting her husband’s career in the British Navy on the island of Malta, where Prince Philip’s stationed. However, the King, Elizabeth’s beloved father, is failing in health, and the couple are soon called to London to take up official duties. As the country struggles to recover from World War II and the British Empire disintegrates, Elizabeth learns to reconcile her personal and public roles and navigate the treacherous world of politics.
With impeccable historical detail, this respectful series is a welcome departure from pseudo-historical television like THE TUDORS. THE CROWN encourages admiration for institutions like constitutional monarchy, limited government, the traditional family, and Christian virtues of self-control and self-sacrifice. However, in the modern Deistic world which lacks the guidance and comfort of a personal God, Queen Elizabeth’s choice in THE CROWN to put her duty ahead of her loved ones means she can’t achieve domestic happiness or inner peace.