We're going to rave about Claire Foy again. If there's a reason 'The Crown' should get a season two, it's so Foy can sweep the Golden Globes.
The bubbling tension and fire between Elizabeth and Philip is excellently portrayed by Claire Foy and Matt Smith.
John Lithgow's Winston Churchill is as stubborn as a bulldog and played to absolute perfection. The scene in which he and his then-successor argue is top-notch.
The inaccuracy of the Duke of Windsor's portrayal—and that's more a writing choice than an acting choice. Jennings was lovely.
I was a little disappointed not to see President Eisenhower, but that's history, aye?
This astonishing drama tells us the history of Queen Elizabeth II—and you won’t be able to take your eyes off it.
Queen Elizabeth II is quite the mighty woman—so portraying her is quite the mighty task. It’s lucky the television world has grappled onto Claire Foy, who gives potentially one of the best performances of the year as the Queen. Rather justifiably, she was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her performance as the young Queen. And boy, did she deserve it.
We’ve already raved about Foy in our four-episode challenge, but we’re going to do it again and we have no regrets at all. Over the season, we watch Elizabeth develop from a Princess to a reluctant Queen to a dominant presence. She’s not just a sitting monarch. She’s clever, self-aware and independent, as well as fiercely loving of her husband, Prince Philip (Matt Smith).
Churchill: And…if I may—Let them never see Elizabeth Windsor. The cameras. The television. Let them never see that carrying the crown is often a burden.
There’s always a journey in everyone’s lives, and the journey Queen Elizabeth II undertakes is no exception, even in this dramatisation. Foy gets everything absolutely right. Just hearing her voice as the young Queen is like hearing an old audio-tape of her. Foy’s exceptional ability to slip into the skin of every character she plays isn’t new; she’s experienced at this. And she’s darn good at it.
It’s what makes the show. It is, after all, about the Queen. The Crown. And Claire Foy makes sure that she shatters gloriously into the limelight.
The struggle between the government and the Crown is rising, and we get a private eye into it.
We come to England in a place of post-disarray. The war is not long gone, Winston Churchill is of ill health and the monarchy is no longer the spearhead it was in the medieval ages. However, it does not stop Elizabeth from using her gut instinct and true grit to make a room full of grown men seem like children. Though she dislikes public speech, there is no doubt she can deliver a darn good smackdown.
Elizabeth [to Lord Salisbury]: It is not my job to govern, but it is my job to ensure proper governance. But how can I do that? If my ministers lie and plot the truth from me? You have prevented me from my duty. You have hampered and bamboozled the proper functioning of the Crown! How could you?
That is about Winston Churchill’s two strokes, and Lord Salisbury’s decision to keep the information from her. The Queen remembers her lessons of youth: that the monarch is dignified, and the government is efficient. Yet how can a government be efficient with an ailing Prime Minister and a hospitalised deputy?
That’s all it takes for Churchill to back up and take the woman in front of him in wonderment. Queen Elizabeth II is not someone to be messed around with. She hires a tutor (Alan Williams) to teach her ‘general education’—that is, not needlework, the weather and so on.
It becomes apparent times are a-changing. Foy’s Elizabeth is rising to independence, and her relationship with Philip remains fiery. There is a weight of charisma between them that results in something rather magical. As they sizzle on-screen, a huge scene is when Philip kneels before her at the Coronation. It’s tense, beautiful; it’s love.
It’s the stuff behind-the-scenes we know we want to see from ‘The Crown’. The Royal Family are quite the mystery, and ‘The Crown’ whips the curtain away.
Everything is rather spectacularly done on ‘The Crown’ and that means no detail is missed off. Elizabeth’s education with Professor Fogg is particularly interesting, as we learn she went to Eton but never studied regular subjects. Indeed, her study of the Constitution does prove to be put to good use, but does not prevent her from wanting to learn more of the world. The Queen Mother (Victoria Hamilton) doesn’t see the point. She ponders: what more does a Queen need to know? But Elizabeth is insistent.
There are other tiny details we don’t get from our regular history and insight into the Royal Family of the past. Things like the pass-over of the role of Private Secretary to the monarch. Tommy Lascelles (Pip Torrens) has been the dutiful servant to the Queen and has presided over four monarchs. Upon his retirement, the rightful heir, Michael Adeane (Will Keen) is set to inherit his role. However, sentiment wrestles with Elizabeth’s heart and she pushes for the role to go to her long-time aide Martin Charteris (Harry Hadden-Paton).
There’s also further insight into the Queen Mother. Dearly beloved by the country, her death in 2002 stunned a mourning nation. Here, she is wonderfully played by Victoria Hamilton. Upon the revelation of King George VI’s statue, the Queen Mother cannot bear the pain of the loss of her husband and seeks refuge in Scotland. It’s truly heartbreaking to see a woman we knew of such strength—and love—break at that very point. And astonishingly well done by Hamilton.
An aspect that concerned us was the portrayal of the Duke of Windsor, and its historical accuracy—perhaps important in a historical drama.
There is a slight niggle we have with ‘The Crown’. Nobody at TV After Dark expects a 100% historical interpretation of any period piece—that would be both boring and near impossible. Especially with the relatively secret Royal Family.
However, Peter Morgan’s interpretation of the Duke of Windsor is somewhat rabidly different to what the Duke of Windsor actually was. Previously known as King Edward VIII, he was the king who abdicated the throne to King George VI in order to marry his American lover, Wallis Simpson.
In our four episode challenge, we couldn’t find much charm nor much purpose in Alex Jennings’ Duke. Jennings is not at fault—but rather, the script lacks any kind of oomph when it comes to his scenes. Jennings plays the somewhat brattish should-be King with fervour, but it’s hard to do with limited material.
The Duke of Windsor was—and there’s no gentle way of saying it—a Nazi sympathiser. We’d go as far as to say he was a bit of an Adolf Hitler fanatic. During World War II, there had been plans from the Nazis to even take the then-King and use him as a puppet for Nazi purposes. None of that is portrayed in ‘The Crown’—only that the Duke is immature and somewhat of an insensitive, spiteful man. We ponder if ‘The Crown’ is given the green light for season two, if this storyline will be explored. Or at least, if they dare reveal this side to the Duke.
Final Verdict: ‘The Crown’ is perhaps one of the most underrated series this year, and luckily it’s coming back for season two. Lavish, exquisite and otherworldly, Claire Foy shines as the Queen and bathes her in a light of interest and adoration.
‘The Crown’ isn’t without its faults. No show is. We always say this. The dramatisation of the young Queen’s life is lavish and perhaps—more lavish than it had been. It’s part of the charm, to be honest. To portray the young Queen’s life in drab England would make not for entertainment, but perhaps a documentary. The anachronisms at time are easily criticised, but ‘The Crown’ couldn’t be what it is without its bending of historical detail. Almost like ‘Downton Abbey‘ (though a little less soap-opera-ish) its pull lays with its copious amounts of glamour.
Perhaps the best example is when Elizabeth is appearing for President Eisenhower’s appearance at the Palace. The servants all prepare for the most powerful man in the world. It includes a glorious sequence of cleaning champagne flutes, meticulous brushing of chairs and tables—it’s so over-the-top. But it makes for an absolutely fantastic feast for the eyes, and huge applause has to go to the set department for its generous, scrupulous detail.
But the charm has to lie with its leading woman in Claire Foy. Its supporting cast is just fantastic. Hats off to the casting director for finding the perfect Queen, the perfect Prince Philip, the perfect Churchill. Hats off because this could’ve been seriously boring—and damn, did they hit the jackpot.
Questions and Comments:
- I think this is one of the few shows where I always watch the credits. The score’s beautiful. (Psst: it’s Hans Zimmer. Really.)
- I cannot stop ranting about Claire Foy. I can’t believe it’s taken this long for her to be a revelation, at long last. Bravo!
- Matt Smith has proved that he’s far beyond his hopping, child-like Eleven days and his depiction of Prince Philip is bang-on.
- If we get a season two, what would you like to see? How far ahead would you like ‘The Crown’ to jump in a season?
- Is this the end for Ben Miles’ Peter Townsend?
- It really has been overshadowed by monster-shows such as ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Westworld’ — and they both deserve huge accolades. But ‘The Crown’ cannot be something people forget. It’s absolutely beautiful.
Season One Verdict: ‘The Crown’ [Netflix]