I have no idea why the creators felt it necessary to make caricatures out of the personalities, more in line with the television show Spitting Image than what we expect from writer Peter Morgan after his 2006 award-winning film The Queen.
As Head of State, the Queen extends every courtesy to her Prime Minister, especially when she is hostess. When Margaret and Dennis Thatcher visit Balmoral for the first time, Mrs Thatcher is made to feel uncomfortable and humiliated as she is allowed to trot out onto the moors in her trademark blue suit and court shoes. The Queen would never let anyone feel out of place in one of her homes. She would consider it not only rude but in contradiction of her duty as Queen. It would simply never happen. Nor would the scene where Lady Diana Spencer was made to look a fool when she formally joined the royal family and did not know when to curtsey or to whom. Diana’s father Johnny was a friend of the royals as well as a former equerry to the Queen and her late father King George VI. He would have told Diana exactly what to do and if she ignored his advice and got it wrong, even Princess Margaret in her worst mood would never have been so unpleasant.
Emma Corrin as young Diana is brilliant and captures that mix of shy Di later to be replaced by a Diana fighting for her emotional life and becoming cunning, flirtatious Di. No actress before her has captured the essence of Lady Diana Spencer and especially poignant is her transition from her giggly girly flatmates to her royal life. She leaves her Colherne Court girlfriends for the lofty red carpeted gloom of the old Buckingham Palace nursery quarters where she was housed while waiting for her fiancé Prince Charles. The 19 year-old Diana is left to her own devices in the net curtained apartment, amidst trolly loads of letters and endless bunches of beautiful flowers – especially on her 20th birthday, but no one to enjoy them with. She was so lonely she befriended anyone of the Queen’s staff who would give her the time of day and The Crown conveys her desperation perfectly albeit with a little poetic licence.
The Crown is a masterpiece of television drama. The sets are beautiful, the costumes well-researched and the misty interiors of the various royal houses and castles convincing, even if the characters are not.
Prince Charles did indeed propose to Diana in the nursery of Windsor Castle and they did indeed go their separate ways afterwards, so much so that she hardly knew the man she was to marry. He certainly did not know or understand her. But the difference was that he wanted to. He quickly realised this fragile and vulnerable child-woman needed looking after, not undermining, but the version depicted in The Crown shows none of this. The scene where Camilla Parker Bowles and Diana are seen having lunch together is depicted particularly cruelly as Camilla delights in scoring points over the insecure Diana, ensuring the younger woman would realise just how well she knew Charles.
The Crown is a masterpiece of television drama. The sets are beautiful, the costumes well-researched and the misty interiors of the various royal houses and castles convincing, even if the characters are not. Olivia Colman as the Queen is a splendid portrayal, but more of a frustrated headmistress than the Queen, who in reality is blessed with a sassy wit. Princess Anne played convincingly by Erin Doherty is spiteful and jealous with only the occasional flash of her father’s famous dry humour, which she has in bucketloads. The Queen Mother, played by Marion Bailey, fails to get a feel of the shrewd thoroughly influential matriarch she was. Helen Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret is transfixing as an odious, rude and disappointed woman. Her nostrils flare at the appropriate moments and despite her desire for more of a role, she never feels sorry for herself – or anyone else for that matter.
Emma Corrin as young Diana is brilliant and captures that mix of shy Di later to be replaced by a Diana fighting for her emotional life and becoming cunning, flirtatious Di.
The relationship between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher is a large part of series 4 and Gillian Anderson gives a convincing if over-the-top portrayal of Thatcher. The Queen admired her first female Prime Minister far more than depicted and there is no sign of Thatcher’s sense of humour or for that matter the Queen’s, only their well-publicised differences over sanctions for South Africa.
Josh O’Connor’s hunched portrayal of Charles ignores the quick witted and warm parts of his character and instead concentrates on his Eeyore like misery, which becomes increasingly irritating. Prince Philip spends most of the series wandering about in a cardigan and plonking himself on the nearest sofa without a flash of warmth towards his beleaguered wife, even after she had to cope with intruder Michael Fagan breaking into her Buckingham Palace bedroom when he was out of town.
There are some light hearted moments between the Prince and Princess of Wales, notably them whirling expertly around the dance floor in Australia and Diana playing with her boys in the Highgrove swimming pool, but they are too few and far too much of Charles whinging to Camilla on the telephone. What we see is the Diana version of events rather than the rounded picture. Instead of trying to recreate history, The Crown has re-written history. It is not half as good as the real thing.
Ingrid Seward is Editor in Chief of Majesty magazine and author of Prince Philip Revealed, A Man of his Century published by Simon & Schuster.
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