"Of all deceivers...
Jeremy Beer on Technocracy, Liberalism, etc.

The Crown Series Four

This has been out for some months now, and although I enjoyed the first three series a good deal, I was dreading this one a bit. The previous season had taken the Queen and her story up to the late '70s, so this one was inevitably going to deal with Charles, Diana, and Thatcher. And that was, also inevitably, going to be painful at best. Apart from the pain intrinsic to the Charles and Diana story, I know that the hatred of Margaret Thatcher among the sorts of people who run the BBC was and is at least on the level of the hatred of Ronald Reagan among the same sorts of people here. 

So I can't say I was disappointed by the treatment of those two stories. They were no worse than I expected. Well, not much, anyway: Charles is treated as more or less a monster crushing the gentle dove Diana, with a fair degree of assistance from the rest of the royal family, and I wonder how much justification there was for that. I certainly hope it was not as bad as portrayed.

The Thatcher story could have been worse. There was some attempt to treat her as a human being. But that aspect of the series was severely handicapped by the strange and unpleasant manner in which Gillian Anderson portrayed her. I admit that I doubt Anderson's ability to act on the level of those superb English actors. But even if that's not the case and these were conscious artistic choices, this particular portrayal struck me as pretty awful. She's utterly stiff, cold, and just plain weird. For some reason--and I assume there must be some real-life reason--whenever she's in conversation she tilts her head oddly, almost unnaturally, in a way that finally began to make my neck hurt. By the last couple of episodes I was actually looking away. 

I couldn't imagine that Anderson's version of Thatcher could ever have won an election. Wondering if she was really that off-putting, I watched several videos of Thatcher speaking, and while she was certainly no one's idea of easygoing, she was in those clips far more relaxed and normal in her speech and general manner than this series portrays her.

I suppose anyone reading this who's interested at all in the series has already seen it. But in case you haven't and are on the fence: I don't especially recommend it. It's extremely well produced and acted, apart from Thatcher. And Olivia Colman as Elizabeth is great again. What an actress she is!--as convincing when playing a middle-class policewoman (Broadchurch) as when playing  Queen Elizabeth. But in addition to the unpleasant aspects I've mentioned there is the frustration of never knowing how much, apart from public events, is history, how much is reasonable filling in of blanks, and how much is pure invention, with an agenda. And apart from the question of accuracy there's a certain cruelty in treating in raw detail the agonies of real people, most of whom are very much alive. I would not want to be William or Harry watching it. 


Addendum: here, for the moment, is the trailer. I say "for the moment" because I noticed that my link to the series 3 trailer (in this post) is no longer valid:



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It just makes me very uneasy watching it. And I hate forming harsh opinions about people for entertainment.


"watching it'--do you mean that you're watching the series or that trailer? I certainly wouldn't positively recommend it to anyone.

As far as harsh opinions are concerned, I think it actually had the opposite effect on me. Partly sympathy for the real people being helplessly bashed, partly thinking they (Charles and Thatcher) are/were almost certainly not as bad as portrayed.

Oh, by the way: I wondered why Gillian Anderson was chosen for this role. Surely there are British actresses who could have done a better job. She's married to the director.

I've yet to see any of 'The Crown'. Like you, I'm wary of revisionist history creeping in where I am too ignorant to notice. Also, the time commitment!

It would be a huge understatement to say that the demands on your time are greater than those on mine.

As far as some very superficial research has informed me, the series sticks to the known facts about public events. But nothing portrayed that happens outside the public eye should be assumed to be anything but a writer's speculation. In the first episode, for instance, Charles receives an admonishing letter from Lord Mountbatten. There is apparently no evidence whatsoever for that, and the royal family denies that it happened.

I have seen the whole thing.


I read this post quite a while ago. Everyone was talking about "The Crown" and I hadn't seen it. Boycotting Netflix. Until I had a chance with a free account. (Hypocritical of me.) I have one particular friend I share a love of history with who made the recommendation many times. I should add she also recommended Wolf Hall that made an idiot out of Thomas More, but she didn't see it that way. Urged me. I was tempted to send her your post. At any rate I finally took a look. The first, maybe second episode. I realised I don't like re-enactments, historical fiction, 'based on a true story'...particularly anything made in the current political/cultural environment is overlaid with biases so obvious to me it spoils everything. This was the case with what I saw of "The Crown". Based on only an episode or 2, maybe not a fair shot, but they portrayed Prince Phillip as a spoiled, uncaring frat boy. The very poster boy for Privilege. His Navy adventures were relished especially those away from the eyes of the press, and the frat boy image comes to mind again- like frat house parties. They even managed to cast a sense of debauchery over the Navy that undermined any virtue or valor usually afforded to uniformed military service.
He was philandering, even after marrying Elizabeth, and a scandal was making its it way to his office. Elizabeth they made into a gooey eyed innocent. I got the feeling he didn't care much more than a wit for her with his flippant performance in the wedding scenes. It made Elizabeth look almost pathetic and set for a heartbreak. I couldn't take anymore. Furthermore, this was just after Prince Phillip passed away, and he is by now an almost heroic and faithful character in his marriage to QE.
I saw some documentaries with real footage of the royals. More my cup of tea.
Sorry to forego the artistry of the series. Like the artistry of Wolf Hall! Hard to resist.

I remember the Thatcher movie from about 10 years showing her with deteriorating mental faculties. As a fool almost. Meryl Streep must have relished playing her that way. what a hit piece.

I've stayed away from Wolf Hall, book and tv. An enthusiastic and snide review of the book by Christopher Hitchens was enough to keep me from giving it a try.

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