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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.
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.
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