If anyone had told me that I would be interested in the American-British Netflix series THE CROWN based on a play by Peter Morgan, I would have shrugged them off with a quip about how I had always found Queen Elizabeth II to be dull and the monarchy just trappings - pomp and splendor. Well, I was wrong on both counts. Lilibet, the nickname Elizabeth was called when she was a child, is shown as a quiet and thoughtful young girl who had a lovely relationship with her father, sharing special father and daughter times that would fortify her when she becomes Queen Elizabeth II (an appealing Claire Foy,) at the age of 25 years old. King George VI ( or Bertie as family members called him,) in a wonderful performance by Jared Harris depicts the King as a gentle, frail man who acceded to the throne with great reluctance at the expense of his own health, after his brother, the cynical Edward VIII’s (Duke of Windsor) abdication in1936.
This series demonstrates the interrelationship between the Crown and Parliament - particularly the reigning Prime Minister, who happened to be Winston Churchill (a future Emmy contender performance by John Lithgow - stooped and imperious) who we meet a few years after his decisive role defeating Nazi Germany in World War II. We witness how everyday acts of government are intertwined with the need for rubber-stamp approval from the Royal House - the “appearance” of endorsement by the Queen who is an integral link to her adoring British subjects.
Court Intrigue penetrates into the everyday activities of Queen Elizabeth and her more outgoing and unconventional sister Margaret (Vanessa Kirby)- who was having an “illicit” affair with a divorced man, Peter Townsend - a no-no at the time. If you are part of the Royal Family, one’s private life can no longer be private - choices are circumscribed by precedence and protocol, often with heartbreaking consequences. The marriage of Prince Philip ( a tall, strikingly handsome, lanky Matt Smith) and Elizabeth is quite fascinating, and had me googling “ Philip-Duke of Edinburgh’s affairs?” There is an unexpected playful eroticism to their genuine affection for one another which becomes inhibited and subdued after the coronation; once she became the Queen her obligations and responsibilities often conflicted with her personal desires and the family dynamic.
I loved John Lithgow as Churchill - gruff, hrummphing away, smoking his cigar, shrewd and always aware of every action's political consequences. Some of the patina of the “great man - the savior of Britain” gets tarnished, but his wisdom and loyalty are never in question. An episode of particular fascination, highlights Winston’s own love of painting and a resultant clash of egos when his “official portrait” is assigned to the contemporary artist Graham Sutherland; discussions between them about paint quality, brushes, colors, etc. shows how Churchill tries to control the way he is portrayed…in this case to no avail.
The production of this series is plush - and has an expansive feel - but at the same time there is a feeling of intimacy about THE CROWN which kept me involved and interested.