Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Well Worth Your While to Watch the Netflix series on “The Crown”

Like perhaps tens of thousands  around the world, I have been watching the fascinating series on the British Royalty in the Netflix film titled “The Crown,” now on its second season, and I have found the series so riveting and entertaining. 

One reason may be because I have been fascinated with the British Royals since my late high-school days, when the romance of Princess Margaret---the  younger of the two daughters of then King George VI and Queen Mother Elizabeth---with Group Capt. Peter Townsend of the Royal Air Force had to be broken up on orders of the Crown.  

The reason was that Capt. Townsend was a divorcee and the Anglican Church, headed by the English Sovereign, did not allow marriage between divorcees. Recall too, that King Edward VIII, uncle of Queen Elizabeth, was forced to abdicate the throne a decade earlier, because of his marriage to the French-American divorcee Wallace Simpson. To help out the former king, who was 
Queen Elizabeth's favorite uncle, she bestowed on him the title of  “Duke of Windsor” so he could at least live in style in Paris. 


 I remember how, like perhaps tens of thousands of young girls in those days, I wept buckets over the sad ending of that royal romance between the pretty Princess Margaret, the socialite younger sister of the Queen, and the dashing RAF captain.

I found that forbidden marriage, however, a paradox of sorts, for precisely, a century earlier, King Henry VIII was refused marriage to his paramour, Ann Boleyn, by the Catholic Church because the sovereign was already married to Queen Catherine at that time. Henry VIII decided to break away from the Catholic Church and found his own church, the Church of England, a.k.a. the Anglican Church, which is the institution behind the Crown until the present.


Queen Elizabeth II, the major figure in the Netflix series and Britain’s longest reigning monarch, was very powerfully portrayed here, and it did justice to her as she faced crisis after crisis with queenly calm. Not the least of these crises was the controversy over her younger sister’s love and proposed marriage to the divorced RAF Capt. Peter Townsend, which Elizabeth, as head of the Church of England, had refused to allow. This led her younger sister to a life of drift and despondency for a while---finally settling down with  a society photographer, Anthony Armstrong-Jones, who became Lord Snowdown, in a loveless relationship.

Through all the vicissitudes of royal life in contemporary English history,  Queen Elizabeth proved to be the epitome of strength and grace, as she ruled over the succession of Prime Ministers---especially in the crisis years of Britain during World War II and  its subsequent post-war economic turmoil. During the war years the two royal princesses would be photographed in army uniforms, driving military jeeps. London saw the fiercest dog-fights in the air between the RAF and German invaders. 


 It was Queen Elizabeth’s luck that she found support most notably during the long incumbency of Prime Minister Winston Churchill at No. 10 Downing St.  Two actresses actually portrayed the Queen:  the lovely Claire Foy as the young Elizabeth in the first series, and the stately Olivia Colman as the more mature Queen, in the second series, whose face had somewhat hardened, due to the numerous pressures on the Crown.

I adored the characterization of Prince Philip as the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen’s consort,  who in real life had belonged to Greek royalty. In the film series, Prince Philip was often just seen and not heard, and yet he was the pillar of strength for the Queen, with his great sense of humor and constant support.  


Unflattering in the beginning was the portrayal of a teen-aged Prince Charles who was enrolled in a school in Wales, preparatory to his assuming of his official title as the “Prince of Wales.” The film series portrays him as the typical teenage boy living in the shadow of an over-powerful mother who was also queen of the realm, and feeling quite lost in his new surroundings.

Charles’ wedding to the beautiful Lady Diana Spencer was no longer covered in the film, but history recalls that that marriage appeared doomed from the start. Princess Diana was later killed in a car crash with her French beau in a little street tunnel in Paris --- the Place de L’Alma---as they tried to escape from the odious paparazzi. At that tragic episode, Queen Elizabeth sought refuge within the Palace walls, but British public opinion demanded that she share her grief over her daughter-in-law's misfortune with her people. She then sauntered out and was seen shopping for flowers and chatting with people from all walks of life.


Watching the series of ”The Crown” amid all the splendors of various palaces and country homes of the Royal Family, the question on my mind, doubtless shared by millions of viewers is:  was the film series actually filmed in Buckingham Palace and the various other residences of the Royals? The answer was provided in the film series’ background literature: various nobles’ homes and palaces were RECREATED to look like the real palaces of the Royals----  among them the Wilton House in Wilton, Salisbury, that was home to the Earls of Pembroke for 450 years.

On the other hand, the weddings of the Royals and Elizabeth’s coronation were recreated inside Ely Cathedral, an 11th century Romanesque church in Cambridgeshire, and passed off as Westminster Abbey.

This long-playing series on “The Crown” did not spare funds to produce, what with each episode costing US$13 M each, and there were perhaps 15 such episodes. I also found it fascinating that so many vintage Rolls Royce cars were still running and featured in this modern-day TV series. One also got a glimpse of  Her Majesty's yacht, the Britannia, during the Duke of Edinburgh’s ocean voyage aboard it. 

Everything in this film series is grand in scale---be it the upside or the downside of history. Well worth your time watching this series on “The Crown.”  

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