Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ – thoughts on the first two episodes

Thought to be one of the greatest Royal dramas to grace our screens, Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ has proved to be popular, gripping and enjoyable. Here are some comments on the first two episodes – spoiler alert!

Elizabeth and Philip, Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, tour the Commonwealth in 'The Crown' before George VI dies (Netflix)

Elizabeth and Philip, Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, tour the Commonwealth in ‘The Crown’ before George VI dies (Netflix)

Jennie Bond, former BBC Royal Correspondent said that this look behind palace doors is ‘so believable, that I had to keep reminding myself that this is a drama, not a documentary’ – a sentiment I certainly agree with.

Beginning with blood stained tissues and toilet bowls from George VI’s advancing lung cancer, to Elizabeth and Philip’s wedding, the first two episodes give Royal and history fans alike a real treat – it really does feel like peeking into the private life of the Royal Family.

While of course, much of the content is dramatised – we can’t know for sure if Elizabeth returned to Sandringham to gaze upon the embalmed body of her father, nor if Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend’s fling hadn’t gone beyond a few sneaky kisses in 1952 – it is the fact it is all plausible, likely even, which makes it so good. Nothing (yet) seems out of the realm of possibility, and quite happily keeps to our polished ideas of Royalty.

The ten-part series follows Princess Elizabeth from her marriage to Philip Mountbatten in 1947, to taking the throne in 1952, to the resignation of her first Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, in 1955.

Matt Smith works well as a proud Prince Philip, who is a strict but dedicated father to Prince Charles and Princess Anne, even with his cheeky quips about ‘funny hats’ to indigenous peoples.

Prince Philip (matt Smith) is the doting father in the first few episodes of The Crown

Prince Philip (Matt Smith) is the doting father in the first few episodes of The Crown

However, from the trailer and press releases, we are to expect a much more forceful presence in later episodes, trying to rule his wife, The Queen, and some bad behaviour including drunkenness, and even sulking broods as the Prince Consort struggles to find his place.

Claire Foy (who also portrayed another famous Queen, Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall) as the oh-so-familiar character of Elizabeth II seems to capture the essence of our Monarch in her younger years. The mannerisms, the hair, the jewellery and the outfits are much moulded on photos from actual events, and Foy admits she watched newsreels.

“As an Englishwoman you pick up a lot through osmosis,” Foy said to the Radio Times. “I’ve been watching The Queen all my life. But, yes, I did watch news footage and was able to pick a couple of little tics. For instance, she plays with her hands a lot and has a certain way of holding them on her lap when she’s in public.”

I would not be surprised if the crew and some of the actors have tried to speak with those who know/knew these figures well to pick up some tips – there are rumours of Matt Smith going to Prince William…

Princess Elizabeth and George VI at the Royal Wedding of 1947 to Philip Mountbatten (Netflix)

Princess Elizabeth and George VI at the Royal Wedding of 1947  (Netflix)

This mimicry includes the large flower brooch seen on The Queen as she arrives back in London following George VI’s death: this is the Rhodesian Flame Lily brooch, a great replica (if not a little oversized).

A nice added touch was the letter from Queen Mary, Elizabeth’s grandmother, given to her on the plane, shortly before stepping out to greet her Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and the press.

Quite the dramatic device, it gives a physical manifestation of how stepping into her father’s shoes would have been difficult, given that Elizabeth was not much let into State business, despite having ‘Queen training’ from the age of 10. It would have been a shock to the system, and it is no surprise if it rocked the marriage boat a little…

“Dearest Lilibet,

I know how you loved your papa, my son.. I know you will be as devastated as I am by this loss. But you must put those sentiments to one side for now, for duty calls.

Your people will need your strength and leadership. I have seen three great monarchies brought down by their failure to sep personal indulgences from duty. You must not allow yourself to make similar mistakes.

While you mourn your father, you must also mourn someone else: Elizabeth Mountbatten, for she has now been replaced by another person – Elizabeth Regina. The two Elizabeths will frequently be in conflict with one another. But the fact is the crown must win, must always win.”

Writer of the show, Peter Morgan has said it would have been ‘like inviting another person into their marriage’ when Elizabeth became Queen, because of this dual-personality she had to inhabit.

The second episode also suggests that the code word for George VI’s death was ‘Hyde Park Corner’ – we think that The Queen and Philip’s are ‘London Bridge’ and ‘Forth Bridge’ respectively.


The Queen Mother, Queen Mary, Duke of Windsor, Prince Philip, The Queen, Princess Margaret, Peter Townsend, Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden in The Crown (Netflix)

Churchill’s character, played by John Lithgow, is an excellent casting, giving a great rendition of the formidable war-time leader. The Crown is supposed to feature both the workings of Buckingham Palace during The Queen’s early reign, as well as that of Number 10, so we see much of him, and his successor, Anthony Eden.

A note on the locations used – Sandringham is very convincing, with is sandstone brick and porticos, while any differences at 10 Downing Street would be hard to find.

Overall, well worth a watch and the £9.99 p/m subscription for Netflix itself, as there is to be a second series. We will post another review of the ‘middle episodes’ in due course.

What did you think of the first two episodes? Leave a comment (but no spoilers for episodes ahead) below!

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