‘The Crown’: From Queen Elizabeth II to Princess Margaret, how women deal with infidelity even in royal families
Peter Morgan's historical drama ‘The Crown’ paints a picture of the royal family wherein each character grapples with the burden of complex emotions and interpersonal relations.
Open the doors to a palace and you'll be bewitched by the sight of golden chandeliers and walls hung with old tapestries. But one glimpse inside, and you'll see the human side of every royal member. “Who we are is not what we wear or what glitters. It’s the spirit that defines us,” as a line goes in ‘The Crown’.
Peter Morgan's historical drama paints a picture of the royal family so real that you can feel each character grappling with the burden of complex emotions and interpersonal relations. Love, intimacy, and betrayal are integral themes of the show and with every new matrimonial dynamic, Oscar Wilde's line tugs at your heartstrings: “Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.”
Season one begins on a happy note, with Lilibet (Claire Foy) having chosen her partner in Prince Philip (Matt Smith). In hushed tones, murmurs of their clashing personalities fly in the air, but unaware of it, the two look lovingly into each other's eyes. Dashing and debonair, Philip is quite a brash and brazen choice for the future sovereign as he revels in shooting parties every weekend. On the other hand, Elizabeth is subtle and soft in her demeanor. A tragic twist in the tale brings their marriage on the rocks. Merely days after their wedding, at 25, she is given the title of Queen Elizabeth II after her coronation. “She is the job,” Elizabeth's father, King George VI, puts it plainly to Philip. “She is the essence of your duty. Loving her, protecting her. Of course, you’ll miss your career, but doing this for me, doing this for her, I know no greater act of patriotism or love.” But, does Philip take it well? Hardly. It is pretty evident how his male-ego is hurt while kneeling down to his wife or obeying her commands.
Trouble in paradise ensues and during one bitter fight, paparazzi actually capture Elizabeth hurling objects at her husband. Pangs of jealousy too play its part, especially when the Queen gives Lord “Porchey” Porchester a direct line to her at Buckingham Palace and when Prince Philip continues his late-night drinking fests. The two do need to come to a compromise, and it is met when Elizabeth asks Philip to open the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.
Queen Mother tries to help Elizabeth with her wise words: “The first 10 years of marriage are just an overture. That there’s often a crisis at 10 years, but then you work it out and settle in and it’s only then that it really gets into its stride.” But, it only rubs salt to her wounds as Prince Philip sets off on a five-month tour of the Commonwealth. Just as she is about to bid him goodbye, she sneaks a present into his briefcase only to find a picture of another woman in one of the pockets. With nothing left to say, she quietly slides a note that reads: “Always remember you have a family...” The words do make his heart twitch but there's little the two can do.
Distance makes your heart grow fonder, they say. While it may be debatable, it does work for the two. While away, their speeches touch each other's hearts and for the first time, Philip misses home as he stares out over the endless ocean. Nevertheless, the royal marriage is nowhere even close to an ideal one. Will Elizabeth address the rumors of his infidelity? The last episode, 'Missing Man', finally brings the cat out of the bag as she asks him point-blank: what does he know about Stephen Ward? As he distances himself, she pulls out another trump card: the picture of the ballerina she found in episode one.
A deafening silence growls in the room. Elizabeth is not a fool and she even offers to “look the other way.” “Look, I’m strong. You know that. And I can cope with the truth. I just demand to know the truth. It’s when people don’t tell me the truth that I can’t bear it,” she boldly tells him. But, Philip musters the right words and tells her: “I’m yours… because I want to be. Because I love you.” Nevertheless, there's a lot that remains unsaid. Are all successful marriages the outcome of one looking the other way?
Princess Margaret's love life, too, brings doom and misery. She falls in love with Group Captain Peter Townsend. Determined to marry a divorced man, she puts the Queen in an awkward position to give the green light. But, when she is asked to opt between marriage and all her titles and royal privileges, Margaret backs out. She ends her relationship and surrounds her life with martinis and cocktail parties. Her rebellious streak leads her to Antony Armstrong-Jones (Tony), a photographer and socialite. A chance meeting at a gathering provokes her to ask him if he would photograph her. And the affair begins.
A letter from Townsend sends Margaret into a fit. He tells her that he has found a 19-year-old girl who accompanied him on his trips and is all set to marry her, breaking their vow. In the desperation to take an eye for an eye, she asks Tony to marry her. While he declines first, Tony accepts the proposal after looking at his future prospects. When Queen Elizabeth gets the news, she is out of words but doesn't want to see her sister's heart break again. There's also bad news: he is involved in several relationships, including one with a dancer named Jacqi and with his friends Jeremy Fry and Camilla Fry, with whom he regularly engages in group sex. Queen Elizabeth even tries to warn Margaret: “In a rush to heal wounds, you end up committing yourself to something, someone that isn’t quite right.”
In the end, Margaret gets her way and walks down the aisle with Antony. “In the first flush of romantic love, we’re all blind. We see only what we want to see,” Elizabeth says. It is crystal clear that Tony simply marries her for the privilege.
Not just Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, but Jacqueline Kennedy, who is admired by every man, is shown to be going through the same turmoil behind closed doors of her marriage. Sadly, the truth of the matter is, one can be a princess or even a queen, men still have a million reasons to be disloyal if they want to be. And yes, it works the other way round too.