Once again, I’m fighting the urge to write about politics and COVID-19. I do have a lot on my mind about both topics, but I figure we’re all a little tired of reading about politics and plagues, especially since we’re all affected by them these days. Since I finally got around to watching The Crown on Netflix, I figure now is a good time to write about that, instead of yet another anti-Trump screed or observations about how shitty COVID-19 is on so many levels.
I have mentioned before that it takes me a long time to get into most television series. I used to be addicted to TV, but got out of the habit. Consequently, sometimes it will be years before I watch a very popular show. Sometimes I never get around to seeing them. For instance, I’ve never seen a single episode of Lost. But then, I’ll binge watch shows like Tiny Pretty Things. I did manage to see the end of that series yesterday. Now that I’ve seen the ending, I can state with no hesitation that, in my opinion, it’s not a very good show.
The Crown, on the other hand, is a very good show. Even though I fell asleep during the first episode, the rest of it kept me riveted for a couple of intense weeks. I finally finished season four a couple of days ago and am saddened that I’ll probably have to wait two years for season five. Filming for the next season is projected to start in June of 2021. I guess I’ll live. I’ve been patiently waiting for new episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, too.
Season four of The Crown covers the time period that I, and most other people of a certain age, remember the most. I was nine years old when Prince Charles married Princess Diana. I remember living in England during the Silver Jubilee in 1977, and we had memorabilia from that event in our house, to include a nifty marble lighter that had Queen Elizabeth II’s insignia on it. My parents were smokers in those days. But I don’t really remember that much about the Royal Family when we were in England. It wasn’t until the 1980s when I even knew who Prince Charles was. In fact, I think I remember Margaret Thatcher more from the 70s than the Royal Family.
As fascinating as the earlier seasons were, and as much as I preferred Claire Foy’s version of Queen Elizabeth than Olivia Colman’s (although I think Olivia Colman is a fine actress), I might have been more drawn into season four because I remember Charles and Diana so well. And it’s amazing to me that there are so many young adults out there who were born after Princess Diana died. She was definitely a big part of my childhood.
Emma Corrin plays young Diana, who was regarded as shy and sweet. At twenty years old on her wedding day, she was at the height of her beauty. And yet, Prince Charles just wasn’t into her. He loved the former Camilla Shand, who is now his second wife. Charles and Camilla met in 1971, when they were both young and randy. He had also had another girlfriend, the late Dale, Lady Tryon, whom he’d nicknamed “Kanga”. But Kanga has no role in The Crown, probably because she did not eventually become Charles’s wife, nor was she in the press as much as Camilla was. Lady Tryon is also dead, having suffered many health problems. She died of septicemia in November 1997.
Actors Josh O’Connor (Prince Charles) and Emerald Fennell (Camilla Parker-Bowles) seem to have genuine chemistry as they play two real life lovers. I remember seeing Fennell in Call The Midwife, in which she played a 60s era nurse who is a lesbian. I was impressed by her in that role, but I think she also did a great job being Camilla.
A lot of people dislike Prince Charles. A lot more people dislike Camilla, although the vitriol against her seems to be less these days than it once was. People tend to blame women more, when they get involved a married man. Camilla obviously knew Prince Charles was married. I know nothing at all about this couple, other than what I’ve read and seen on television, but having lived through the Charles and Diana years, I can state that I notice that they’re not in the tabloids. By contrast, Charles and Diana were always in the news. It was very clear that they had nothing in common and did not love each other. But they stayed together for fifteen years… fifteen LONG years. When I think of that wasted time and how miserable it must have been for both of them, I feel nothing but empathy.
The other day, Bill and I were talking about The Crown. In one scene, they showed Charles being kind of mean to Diana. It was often reported in the press that he was mean to her. I remember back then, many people automatically took Diana’s side, perhaps because she was so charming and beautiful and young. But the truth is, Diana wasn’t blameless. She had affairs. She also suffered from mental illnesses. It was widely reported that she had bulimia and borderline personality disorder. Either one of those illnesses would make someone difficult to live with, even if they are much loved. Charles never loved Diana, so my guess is that the stress level must have been stratospheric.
That doesn’t excuse the terrible way he treated Diana, of course, nor does it excuse his cheating on her. But having read about Diana’s problems, realizing that she was much younger than Charles is, and had completely different interests, and knowing how I, myself, behave when I am forced to interact with someone I can’t stand, or someone who can’t stand me, I do have some empathy for Charles. It really is a shame that he wasn’t allowed to marry the woman he clearly loved. Hindsight is 20/20, of course. At least it appears that the Palace has learned from the Charles and Diana nightmare fairytale.
And while I can see why people don’t like Camilla, and why Diana especially didn’t like her, as the second wife of a man who married the wrong person first, I have some empathy for Camilla. Bill and I did not have an affair. He didn’t even take off his wedding ring before he divorced his ex wife. But their marriage was also one involving two people who were completely incompatible and mismatched. I imagine enduring it must have been like wearing high heeled shoes on the wrong feet. And they weren’t under a microscope the way Charles and Diana were. I don’t think Charles and Diana ever had a hope in hell of staying together. It was obvious they were miserable. As Charles’s second wife, Camilla has proven to be much more suitable and stable. Personally, I like Camilla and have empathy for her and their situation, even if I don’t condone the cheating.
My mom and I were talking on Skype last night. I asked her if she’d been watching The Crown. She said she had, and didn’t enjoy the latest season, because she remembers watching it unfold in real life. I think the actors did a good job portraying their characters. Josh O’Connor is especially adept at making some of the pained facial expressions Charles made so often in those days. Emma Corrin doesn’t look that much like Diana, but she has a shy, pretty quality about her that makes it easy to suspend disbelief. And again, I genuinely enjoyed watching Josh O’Connor and Emerald Fennell portray Charles and Camilla. They really seem to have a genuine connection. O’Connor and Corrin, by contrast, were not as easy to watch. I got the sense that it was difficult for O’Connor to be genuinely nasty to Corrin.
I also enjoyed Helena Bonham Carter’s take on Princess Margaret, who seemed to have been quite the character. I now feel like learning more about her. She seems like she was a trip.
I suppose I ought to mention Margaret Thatcher, too, played by Gillian Anderson. I never saw Gillian Anderson in the X Files. I remember when she was very famous for her role as Dana Scully. I will say that listening to her speak like Margaret Thatcher, with that super hoarse sounding voice, made me cringe a bit. Like, it was painful to my ears to listen to that, although I understand Margaret Thatcher did have a distinctive speaking voice. I was impressed by how Gillian Anderson was able to channel her character in such a realistic way. She managed to bring Margaret Thatcher back to life, even if that voice made me cringe… not just because it was unpleasant to listen to, but also because I imagined that speaking that way was probably exhausting for her and perhaps even potentially dangerous to her natural voice.
And finally, I want to say that my favorite character in seasons 3 and 4 is Princess Anne, played by Erin Doherty. I loved her facial expressions and no nonsense delivery. As someone who loves horses myself, I loved seeing her in her breeches and riding boots, and I enjoyed the witty one liners. I have heard Princess Anne is actually kind of like that in real life, and she does so much resemble her mother. But I think Princess Anne, at least as played by Erin Doherty, should have her own show. I think she’s awesome. I might have to find Erin Doherty’s other works.
Well… that about does it for my take on season four of The Crown. I am officially hooked, and yes I realize it’s a dramatization, so the British culture secretary has nothing to fear about my getting “the wrong ideas”. I find the show visually stunning, which is such a treat during these lockdown days. I love the quirky stories they’ve found, all of which are based at least partially in truth, even if the interpretations are dramatized. And having watched the dreadful Tiny Pretty Things, I now feel like I need to find something higher quality to knock the images out of my head… Hell, I think even the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team might do it. And I happen to have a fresh episode to watch as I type this, so I think I’ll close and go give myself a mental enema.