It was 1991 in the UK. At Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II, now 65, settles into her 39th year on the throne. 10 Downing St., Margaret Thatcher is gone, having been brutally humiliated a year earlier by treacherous members of her own party. His replacement as prime minister, the downright ineffective John Major, has failed to repair the sclerotic economy, which has slipped into recession. These are uncertain, tumultuous times.
This is where we find ourselves ‘The Crown’ has entered its fifth season. As is often the case with this much-talked-about, and often ridiculed, series, the new episodes have already prompted angry complaints from critics who say they distort the historical record by inventing dialogue, motivation, and behavior. The main objection so far is that it is wrong to suggest, as in the first episode, that Prince Charles (played by Dominic West) has ever tried to force the Prime Minister (Johnny Lee Miller) to abdicate his mother. Tried so that he could take the place here.
Stirring into rare public outcry, Major, who left the premiere in 1997 and is now 79, issued a statement condemning the suggestion that any such conversations were meant to be a “barrel load of crap”. In The Times of London, actor Judi Dench lashed out, saying that the series was at times “brutally unjust to individuals and harmful to the institution they represent.” She urged Netflix to attach this not true disclaimer to each episode. (Netflix marketing describes the show as a “fictional dramatization,” but the episode itself does not contain any disclaimers.)
More recently, another former prime minister, Tony Blair, who succeeded Major in 1997, denounced a later scene in which he (played by Bertie Carvel) was now forced to address his parents’ objections. Asked to help ease the way for the divorced Charles. and married his girlfriend, Camilla Parker Bowles.
A spokesperson for Blair told The Daily Telegraph, “It should come as no surprise that this is utter nonsense.”
The season begins streaming Wednesday, when viewers can judge for themselves what’s true, what sounds ridiculous and how much they’re prepared to suspend disbelief. (For example: Although Elizabeth Debicki is surprisingly persuasive as Princess Diana, does it matter that, at 6ft 2in, she dominates almost everyone onscreen? Discuss.)
But there’s no arguing with the underlying premise that the early 1990s in Britain was an uncertain time for monarchy. The era of honor was over. Windsor could no longer depend on the goodwill of the tabloid press, which began to treat them – often with Diana’s covert aid, as she promoted her own narrative – as players in a royal soap opera. . The royal family found themselves in the awkward position of making a case for its relevance.
As her reign plunged into the 21st century, Elizabeth became a huge, much-loved figure, wildly popular, providing a link to a bygone era of duty and conservatism and reflecting Britain’s best view of itself. But in 1991, the same values that would later honor him so much, seemed old-fashioned and brash. In a Gallup poll three years ago, 59% of respondents said they thought Elizabeth should abdicate the throne in favor of Charles.
In a funny montage as in the first episode of Season 5, being queen was boring in a way that most of Elizabeth’s subjects couldn’t appreciate, as she never saw the hard work behind the finery. Most of his time was spent in worthy but exhausting paint-drying activities. (“The Crown” addressed the Milk Marketing Board on the subject of its new “state-of-the-art dairy complex”.)
Her presence, which would later comfort her familiarity, was as much of the national furniture as the pound notes on which her image appeared, then screamed “irrelevant”. His youthful style had given way to matronly suits, sensitive shoes, quirky hats, and an irreverent, immutable gray dress.
Accused in “The Crown” of suffering from “Queen Victoria Syndrome” – clinging to the throne before its sale date – Elizabeth (Imelda Staunton) announces that she compares her great-grandmother as a compliment.
“The qualities that people use to describe him — constancy, stability, calm, duty — I would be proud to describe myself,” she says.
But as viewers are about to watch this season, the surface calm hides underlying turbulence. The seeds of discord and trouble had been sown; They were about to get out of control.
At the time, Elizabeth was married to Prince Philip for 44 years, a steadfast union that would last until his death in 2021. It survived vague rumors that Philip was sometimes unfaithful in the way of upper-class men of his generation – his affair was believed to have been driven by a sense of impotence by his wife being constitutionally inferior. (The new series has provoked criticism by making their “friendship” too much, as they describe it, with Countess Mountbatten of Burma, a handsome young aristocrat played by Natasha McElhone, who seduces her from the spicy sport of carriage racing. introduces.)
Windsor’s eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales, carried with him a perpetual wind of Hamlet-like sadness. His greatest asset was his glamorous wife Diana, whose superstar presence fueled the monarchy with enthusiasm, sex appeal, and a sense of connectedness with regular people thanks to his hands-on charity work.
Too bad Charles couldn’t stand Diana. Or that his longtime relationship with Camilla, then married to her longtime husband, was about to burst open in a series of embarrassing ways, such as the leaks, in 1993, of the infamous tape in which he told her about being had enthusiastically conceived tampons (after Diana’s death, of course, Charles and Camilla would eventually marry; they are now King and Queen consorts.)
It was too bad that Diana was wildly unhappy, an unstable character in a doomed marriage who used the tabloids to promote the case that her husband’s infidelity and general contempt caused her more than she to sin. sinned (despite his many affairs). She, too, was set to collaborate secretly with Andrew Morton, a tabloid reporter determined to blow the lid on Wells’s horrific marriage.
Her book, “Diana: Her True Story,” which featured shocking stories of mental illness, suicide attempts, and adultery, was published in 1992. This caused an uproar in the palace and anger in the Parliament. This also prompted the couple to formally announce their separation. Charles soon collaborated with a biographer of his own, Jonathan Dimbleby, to gain public support.
Meanwhile, the Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, a skilled equestrian who competed in the Olympics and became a tireless patron of many charities, was also having an affair. In 1992, she divorced her longtime husband; Several months later, she married Cmdr. Timothy Lawrence, her lover and a former equestrian to the Queen.
Prince Andrew, the spirited third child—his nickname was “Randy Andy”—had served with distinction in the Falklands War and made some obvious additions to his stable family by marrying Sarah Ferguson, a full-on fun redhead known as Fergie. brought enthusiasm. Like Diana, Fergie followed the restrictions of being a royal wife; Like Diana, she had a series of affairs. (Was any of them loyal to their spouses?) After a tabloid published photos of her with a boyfriend, she and Andrew also announced their separation in 1992. (There will be a second set of photos with a different boyfriend, later in the same year.)
As it happened, 1992 was the year that Windsor Castle, which dates back to the 11th century and is the oldest occupied castle in the world, went up in flames. The fire eventually destroyed 115 rooms, including nine staterooms, and cost more than £35 million – much of it raised by the crown, including charging for admission to Buckingham Palace – to repair.
Queen Elizabeth was rarely one to complain or fuss. So it was shocking when he opened a small window into his gloomy royal mood in a famous speech on the occasion of his 40th year on the throne at London’s Guildhall in 1992.
By now that year, one of her homes had burned down, three of her four children had separated or divorced from their spouses, her own popularity was staggering and her family was abusing themselves into irrelevance.
It is indicative of the Queen’s disquiet with emotional self-disclosure that she used a kind of double negative and then a Latin phrase to summarize her state of mind.
In her speech, she said, “1992 is not the year I will look back with full joy.” “In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it turns out to be an ‘anus horribilis’.”
She spoke with some sadness about the unkind comments she made on her family and the monarchy, and begged the audience not to jump into the opprobrium immediately.
“I sometimes wonder how future generations will judge the events of this turbulent year,” she said.
It is fair to assume that he could hardly have “The Crown” on his mind when he said: “I dare say that history will take a slightly more liberal view than some contemporary commentators.”