Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Crown Recap - Episode 5 'Smoke and Mirrors'

Finally we get to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. But first we have the obligatory flashback to 1937. George VI is rehearsing in his office when Princess Elizabeth comes for a visit. He immediately ropes her into playing The Archbishop of Canterbury. It is a lovely scene, not only between father and daughter but also between monarch and future monarch. Jared Harris is so lovely as he explains the word inviolate to her. I don’t know who the young actress who plays the 10 year old Princess but she certainly resembles the real Princess at that age. You can just feel the love between father and daughter. I love the flashbacks because we get to have a glimpse of what the Queen was like as a child and more of her relationships with others like her father. George tries on St. Edward’s crown and we cut to the Queen trying it on.  She asks if she can borrow it for a few days to practice and the man from the Tower looks flabbergasted that she would even ask. He points out that she has more right to it than anyone.  With the children trailing behind her, she goes to show off the crown to Philip who is off doing god knows what.


This scene is contrasted later with The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in the present day, welcoming a reporter into their home outside of Paris. The article is clearly a puff piece as the reporter asks for their tips on entertaining and what makes a well-dressed man. There is a montage of the couple wearing one fabulous outfit after another. Someone on another blog pointed out that the Duchess seems to stick to a 1930’s silhouette in these scenes.  In reality, she did wear more current fashions. The point seemed to be that they were a couple stuck in the past while the Queen represents the future. The scene takes a turn when the Duke takes the reporter to his inner sanctum where he keeps one of the government red boxes, the one that held his abdication papers. The reporter shows her ignorance by asking why are there no photos of the Duke wearing the crown. He has to point out to her that he never had a coronation, hence no photos with the crown. It is a terribly awkward moment followed by another awkward moment when the Duke mentions that he plays the bagpipes when he’s melancholy for England. That night he tells Wallis, as they are lying in bed, that he has to go back to dreary England because his mother is dying. He then asks Wallis if she wants to have sex! That’s not the word he actually used but it was quite a leap to go from his mother to wanting sex, particularly since in real life at this point Wallis was hanging out with Jimmy Donahue.


Philip and Elizabeth are dressing to go to some charity premiere or something that requires a tiara. Apparently he was out all afternoon flying, trying to get his pilot’s license in the shortest amount of time ever. Yes, that is basically all Phil has going for him right now while Elizabeth is out ‘Queening’ as he puts it.  She tells him that she’s decided to make him head of her Coronation committee despite the fact that the Duke of Norfolk is normally in charge. Phil tells her not to ‘matronize’ him which had me rolling on the floor. He will only agree to the plan as long as he has full autonomy. Elizabeth tells him not to go mad.  She then has to inform everyone of this change in plan which does not go down well, particularly with Tommy Lascelles and his mustache of doom.

The Duke shows up to spend time with Queen Mary.  There is a somewhat poignant scene of him sitting on the bed with her, she asks him not to leave and he tells her he won’t, calling her ‘Mummy.’  Of course, it’s ruined by a voice over of his letter to Wallis where he is awful about his relatives yet again.  The Archbishop of Canterbury calls to set up a meeting. The Duke realizes that since he is no longer King, he has to go to the Archbishop, not the other way around.  Yet another reminder of what he has given up since he abdicated. The meeting, which includes Jock Colville and Tommy Lascelles, is basically to tell the Duke that he is persona non grata at the coronation and under no circumstances is Wallis invited.  Instead of acting like an adult, the Duke proceeds to insult the Archbishop by repeating a rather horrid poem that he wrote about his predecessor. He really doesn't know how to read a room. It has been 17 years since he abdicated, as the Duke points out, one would think that he would have gotten used to the attitude of the establishment. 

The meeting is called to a halt by the death of Queen Mary.  So we are treated to yet another similar funeral scene where Philip spends his time criticizing that fact and how Elizabeth’s coronation has to be modern and up-to-date and not stuffy and traditional. His timing is awful.  I know that Prince Philip was considered reckless and a bit coarse by the powers that be, but I sincerely doubt that he would spend his time critiquing his wife’s grandmother’s funeral.


Of course, the Queen gets a call from Churchill that Philip has gone made with the coronation, wanting it to be televised, and trying to do away with some of the pageantry.  The royal couple has a huge showdown in the vestry of Westminster Abbey. Philip manages to get his point across about televising the coronation but blows it by suggesting that instead of kneeling to take the oath, he stand beside her. Elizabeth is not having it. She is a traditionalist above all. The coronation means something to her and she is not willing to budge on this point. Philip pouts.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor are having a viewing party at their chateau (in real life they watched the coronation at a party thrown by a rich American acquaintance.) The Duke can’t resist revealing his inside knowledge to the crowd. Although he abdicated, he still respects the awe and majesty of the crown and what it means. The title 'Smoke and Mirrors' I'm assuming refers to the magic of the coronation, that the monarch enters the coronation an ordinary person but leaves anointed by God. When a guest asks him why he turned down the chance to ’be a god,’ the Duke turns to the Duchess and replies it was for love. Later, Wallis finds Edward on the veranda playing the bagpipes, tears streaming down his face.


I watched a documentary about the coronation after watching this episode and they managed to recreate it very well. Philip manages to kneel to his wife, although the look on Elizabeth’s face indicated that she wasn’t sure what he was going to do on the day. There is no indication of the lapse of time between their argument and the coronation, so the viewer has no idea if they made up later, if they have spent the past few days glaring at each other over their tea and toast. I would also have liked to have seen some behind the scenes from the day of the coronation such as the moment the Queen is about to walk into the Abbey and she tells her Maids of Honor 'Ready Girls?'. More intimate moments and not just the pageantry, although it is magnificent don't get me wrong. 


I know this series is called The Crown, not The Queen, but I think it is a mistake to focus so much on the institution. I would love to have seen more happy moments between the Queen and Prince Philip before she became Queen. Perhaps if the series had given us a glimpse of their honeymoon at Broadlands or more of their life on Malta before she became Queen, it would make the scenes of the distance in the marriage more poignant. I was hoping that perhaps the writers would treat us to some flashbacks of Philip and Elizabeth's courtship but alas it seems that all the flashbacks we are getting are simply regarding The Crown. 

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