Monday, November 14, 2016

The Crown Recap Episode 3: ‘Windsor’

This episode was slightly different from the previous two episodes with a focus on the Duke of Windsor.  We get a flashback to Edward VIII signing the act of abdication on December 10, 1936 with Wallis Simpson looking over his shoulder and then giving his radio broadcast to the nation. The Duke is played by Alex Jennings who played Prince Charles in the film The Queen (also written by Peter Morgan), as well as Anthony Eden in Churchill’s Secret. He does an excellent job of portraying a man who still acts like a small child even in middle-age, but it also shows some sympathy towards him, cut off from his family. He strikes a rather sad and pathetic figure. Historically, Wallis was not with the Duke when he made his radio broadcast, she’d decamped to the south of France to keep out of the line of fire. There are some lovely moments between the Wallis and Edward in this episode, and the actress playing the role is dressed divinely. 


Meanwhile the young Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret are freely playing with their parents, not aware yet of how their young lives are about to change. Flash-forward to 1952 and the Duke is heading to Britain for his brother’s funeral. This episode peels back even more layers of the onion by letting the audience in on exactly how the Royal Family felt about David’s decision to eschew his duty for love. It’s a nice bit of foreshadowing since later on in the series we will see Princess Margaret grappling with the same decision and making an altogether different choice. Things are still frosty between the Duke of Windsor and his family.  The Queen Mother blames the Duke for George VI’s early death.  Queen Mary is not feeling to warm towards her elder son either, she too blames him for George’s death and for shirking his duty.

They move on to the revelation of the Duke of Windsor’s secret nicknames for his royal relatives. The Queen Mother is ‘Cookie’ (ostensibly because of the rumors that Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was the daughter of the family cook. Lady Colin Campbell goes into these rumors in more detail in her rather nasty biography of the Queen Mother. Also for being fat and common which is rich given that he married a twice- divorced woman!) and the new Queen is “Shirley Temple.’ When confronted by Queen, the Duke tries to save face by telling her that it was because she was so sweet, and cute and good just like Shirley Temple. Nice save HRH! When the Duke finally meets up with his mother, she spends most of their time together praising his younger, brother. “So wonderfully thoughtful and caring, an angel to his mother, his wife, and children.  I honestly believe he never thought of himself at all. He really was the perfect son.” The implication being that Bertie was everything that David was not. His meeting with the Queen Mother, Elizabeth and Princess Margaret is just as cold. The Queen Mother can barely stand to look at him, let alone let him touch her.  Afterwards, he writes a letter to Wallis, calling his family “a bunch of ice-flamed monsters,” and that’s one of the kinder things that he says about them! Still the Duke has an ulterior motive, he needs to try and keep communication open, because of his allowance, which the Queen Mother was just as soon end.

He tells his mother, Queen Mary, a sob story about hard it is for them to make ends meet. Living at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York and in a mansion just outside of Paris is expensive! He and Wallis need to be kept in the style to which they have become accustomed. It’s rather sickening to see the Duke pleading poverty when England was still going through rationing in 1952. While the Duke is trying to mend fences with his relations, Elizabeth is about to have her first meeting with Churchill. Before the meeting, Philip reminds her of two things: 1) The children will have his surname and 2) They will continue living at Clarence House.  After all, he spent so much time renovating it.
Of course neither of those two things get discussed.  Instead, Churchill and Elizabeth disagree about her coronation.  Elizabeth would like to have it sooner rather than later and Churchill thinks that 16 months from now is a grand idea.  “A long period between accession and coronation was of great value to your father.”  Elizabeth reminds Churchill that actually her father had 5 months since the date of Edward VIII’s coronation had already been set.  Later in the episode, Elizabeth brings up the two matters with Churchill who is aghast at both of them.


Meanwhile Lord Mountbatten is having a party where he exhorts his guests to raise a toast to the House of Mountbatten which is fairly cheeky and might smack of treason. Prince Ernst of Hanover (who is either the father or grandfather of the current Prince Ernst, husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco) scurries over to Queen Mary to tell her the news.  This scene is done partly in German as the Duke of Windsor listens in.  It was a nice reminder that not only Queen Mary but also the Duke were fluent in German. Queen Mary is also aghast that they should be drinking champagne when her son has just recently died! Tommy Lascelles tells Peter Townsend that the Queen Mother has asked for him to comptroller of her household.  He suggests not so subtly that Townsend should think about going back to the RAF. Apparently there are rumors that Townsend is a little too close to a certain brunette member of the household. Townsend basically tells him to stuff it. Later he informs Margaret that his wife is leaving him.

He tells her that it would be a grave mistake to change the name of the Royal House to Mountbatten. He reminds her that Prince Philip’s real last name was Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg of the Royal House of Greece and Denmark. Elizabeth is not one to be swayed, she may be a Queen but she is also a wife and a mother. Remember that she did promise to obey Philip at their wedding. Elizabeth is not dumb either, she knows that there are people who think that Churchill is past his prime and would like to see him resign, giving way to a young man like his nephew-in-law Anthony Eden. She tries to bargain with him, she will agree to the delay in her coronation, if he will support her in the matter regarding her husband’s name, and staying at Clarence House.  Good luck with that! The cabinet is totally not on board with either of those decisions.  Instead of telling the Queen himself, Churchill pawns off breaking the bad news to the Duke of Windsor.  In exchange, Churchill will push for Elizabeth to reinstate the Duke’s allowance.  Sneaky! Of course, the Duke has to ruin everything by trying to get Wallis the HRH.  He complains that it has been 17 years since the abdication, why are they still being so cruel to his wife? Edward really has no concept of what he did by abdicating, the lives he damaged. All he cares about his money and Wallis.

When the Duke meets with his niece, on the surface she is all smiles, but there is steel underneath. She gets her own digs in during their idle chatter, dissing his love of pugs and their gassiness and confronting him about the cruel nicknames like Shirley Temple.  The Duke realizes he has underestimated his niece, especially when she points out that he has never apologized to her for changing her life irrevocably. For the first time in the entire episode, The Duke is actually ashamed regarding his behavior.  He apologizes to her and then gently tells her that the two things that she wants (or really her husband wants) can’t be.  The House of Windsor will remain the house of Windsor and the whole clan must debunk to Buckingham Palace. The episode ends with the Duke heading back to his wife as crowds cheer him at the dock.  While his family may not love, the people still have some affection for him.

Philip is not please and acts like a whiny baby about the whole thing. “What kind of marriage is this? What kind of family? You’ve taken my career from me, you’ve taken my home, you’ve taken my name.” In real life, Philip remarked that he felt like a bloody amoeba. Upset by the whole drama, Philip convinces Peter Townsend to teach him how to fly.  See he really wanted to be in the RAF, but his uncle Mountbatten convinced him to join the Navy instead like his uncle and grandfather. Peter and Margaret had been having a rendezvous in his office when Philip arrives. Margaret hides but Philip notices a woman’s purse and teases Peter Townsend about it, not realizing that the woman in question is his sister-in-law.

This episode had pace and moved the story along nicely, as well as revealing more about the participants behind the scenes.  I still quibble with the portrayal of the Queen Mother, so far the portrait that we are given is of a very dour woman.  She has none of the joie de vivre that Helena Bonham Carter brought to the role in the Queen’s speech. Claire Foy is growing in the part as she assumes more of the mantel of responsibility.  The other big disappointment in this series thus far is also the portrayal of Prince Philip. Yes, Philip could stick his foot in his mouth, and yes being a Prince Consort had to suck at times, but I wish we could see more of him trying to find his footing in the role.  I mentioned this is my previous recap but Lord Mountbatten needs to be used for more than just a plot point. It’s real waste of Greg Wise, who thus far, has had little more to do than just show up and be handsome, which he does very well.

Other recaps: Tom and Lorenzo

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