Netflix The Crown, Season 2 enters its final two episodes and once again, it has been a splendid series of superlative quality in every way. Fabulous costumes, outstanding settings, superb acting, impressive production, excellent scriptwriting, brilliant design and direction, truly an award-nominated and winning program.
In Episode 9 the spotlight is on a youthful Prince Charles (Billy Jenkins), who in daily life is struggling, despite having his Uncle Dickie, Lord Mountbatten (Greg Wise) watching out for and mentoring his nephew to live in the world he grew up in, not the modern age.
The Queen has been told by her advisers Prince Charles is uncommonly shy, sensitive and delicate and she is aware he struggles. She agrees he should go to Eton where boys are looked after according to their individual needs.
Prince Charles taking the initiative writes to his Uncle Dickie about going to Eton, which is his favourite relatives old school. He turns up straightaway and takes his charge to Saville Row to be outfitted, showing him how a gentleman should dress.
Prince Phillip (Matt Smith) finds out what is afoot and confronts The Queen (Clare Foy). He is insistent their son will go to Gordonstoun school in Scotland, which is his alma mater, not Eton. They argue… but he reminds her she promised he would guide his son’s education. ‘Then you can break the news to Charles’ she insists.
His father talks to Prince Charles while two servants wait on him, demanding he understand that their daily life and routine is not reality and he needs to be tough if he is to be King one day. The young man is far from impressed with any change in what he wants to do.
Philip reflects on his life during their trip on a small plane he is piloting for them both, as they head to Scotland. He tells his son how his father thought it was important he went to school where a true genius Dr Kurt Hahn (Burghart Klaubner), instructed the boys. He wants his son to have the same experience.
The Gordonstoun focus is on trust and respect, becoming tough both mentally and physically, while developing teamwork and initiative.
Charles is to survive and thrive on a gruelling physical regime, one that starts in the same bed his father had next to a window that won’t close, not even in a Scottish winter.
In a series of flashbacks we visit Phillip’s experience, including standing for a long time under a freezing cold shower, a regular event every day.
Charles resists doing manual labour and on his first day ends up in a fight with the head boy who throws him out the window into the river where the boys are building a boat.
He’s called to the Headmaster’s office and he gives him an inspiring speech about the school’s aims, including the all-important annihilation of both anger and ego.
His Uncle Dickie comes for visit bringing a picnic in a basket from Fortnum and Mason for them to share in the back of his Rolls Royce. He is encouraging Charles to regard him as a friend he can trust and talk to.
The Queen having been spoken to by Mountbatten seeks out Phillip to talk to him about how bullied children become dis-functioning adults. She demands Charles be brought home, but Phillips reminds her that if she wants to keep her husband she will comply with his wishes.
The Headmaster talks to Charles about his father’s time at the school and what he can achieve.
We’re suddenly flashing back to a youthful Phillip who rings his sister every time something goes wrong and begs her to come and to take him away. Cecile is to fly to London with her family and he knows she’s terrified of flying, but puts his own needs first, begging her to come and see him first on the way.
The Headmaster brings him the terrible news her plane crashed and she and many members of his family have been killed, including her newborn baby born on the flight. It is a heavy burden for such a young man to bear.
Phillip can only imagine what they all suffered and images of the crash in his mind, haunt him into adult life.
He has to travel into Nazi Germany to attend his sister’s funeral, walking behind the gun carriage where everyone is giving the Nazi salute.
Lord Mountbatten steps up to his side when he falters, urging him to go on. Walking with him to the end of the procession where he is ‘granted an audience’ and is growled at by the father he has barely seen during his childhood.
Cruelly he blames the boy for the death of his sister and her family, because wouldn’t have been on the flight except for wanting to see that he was safe.
Endeavouring to understand the distant wealthy parents who abdicated their responsibilities to their children at this period in history is more than difficult. On reflection after watching all episodes of Season 2 of The Crown I found this one of the most moving and disturbing of the season.
Back at school Phillip throws himself back into building the sandstone walls that will hold the gates to the school, the headmaster observes, waiting for him to give in and come and ask for help.
It’s a long time in coming and when he does ask all his classmates saying he needs help, they instantly step up to the plate and mount the iron gates for him.
There is strength in unity is the very hard and valuable lesson he learns, and he’s hoping as an adult that his own son Charles will have his own epiphany moment at Gordonstoun.
Charles takes part in the school’s ‘annual challenge’, an arduous course all the boys are meant to compete in and complete. When he doesn’t arrive the security guard goes in search of the young Prince who has been missing since early in the race.
The school and Prince Phillip as guest are all waiting for him to turn up. Embarrassingly he is found hiding and his father upset at his son’s failure flies them home for the holidays. If Charles thought shaming would give him a reprieve he was wrong, for it’s back to Gordonstoun for another five years.
In Episode 10 the finale for the Season, it is 1962 and we come across Prince Phillip still starting his day with an exercise regime. His neck is worrying him but still he persists.
He is forced to consult an osteopath, a Dr. Stephen Ward who it turns out, knows his friend Michael Parker and enjoys ‘putting people back together again’.
One year later, Christine Keeler (Gala Gordon) is being interviewed by police. She was at a party hosted by Stephen Ward (Stephen Lintern) and they point out the back of a man in a photograph and ask her who he is.
Prime Minister Macmillan (Anton Lessier) is in the highlands shooting when his Minister John Profumo (Tim Steed) arrives to see him. I have nothing to hide or answer for, and McMillan’s wife calls him an incredulous trusting fool.
The Queen gets the news she is expecting a baby again… she tries to find Phillip to tell him the good news but he is away at a ‘house party’!
Stephen Ward is picked up by police and confesses to introducing John Profumo to Christine Keeler and others, in the sex scandal that rocked the sixties.
The Queen arrives at Kensington Palace to see her sister Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) about the noise and disruption being inflicted on members of the family who also live in that place with her, while she goes about renovations.
Princess Margaret points out the photograph in the newspaper with the ‘mystery man’, who she suspects maybe Phillip.
McMillan is not well and on advice of his doctors visits the Queen to resign. She resists, ordering him to go back to Downing Street and to pick up the reigns. She tells him she won’t accept it because she needs him to hold the fort while she is in Scotland at Balmoral on Dr’s orders during her pregnancy.
Harold MacMillan goes to see the latest theatre hit Beyond the Fringe on his wife’s advice, so he’ll know what is happening in his country. He is lampooned by the cast when they see him. Decency respect and trust for him now seem to be only relics of the past.
Stephen Ward is on trial when he commits suicide rather than face a guilty verdict. The police find a hand drawn portrait of the Duke of Edinburgh in his possession. They now have evidence Prince Phillip knew him and that he was also a member of his lunch club.
The ruling class has given up on its responsibility… shrunken says the Queen’s secretary Michael Adeane (Will Keen) who has to inform The Queen about it all. It is a terrible blow and she is inwardly devestated. Claire Foy gives her all in this episode, her final for the series.
The Prime Minister is very ill and the Queen is finally forced to accept his resignation, especially when he is wheeled before her in a hospital bed. She tells him its disappointing he’s committed to resigning.
They exchange words and she stonily tells him she has had a confederacy of elected quitters as Prime Ministers to contend with during her first ten years as monarch.
Phillip arrives home to a crisis with the Queen having fled to Scotland after the candidate she endorsed to succeed the PM proved to be a failure. He finds her cutting roses and she is dismissive.
She feels hard done by and after giving her some time, Phillip comes from the big house to see her where she is camped out on her own in one of the estate cottages.
They discuss his relationship with Stephen Ward. In the aftermath of his demise they found images of you… he denies being the ‘mystery man’. She also asks him about his liaisons going back years, showing him the image of the ballerina she found in his briefcase so long ago now.
He declares to her ‘You are my job, the essence of my duty. A liege man of life and limb. He goes down on one knee… I am yours… and he pledges his fidelity because he loves her and explains ‘what he wants is for her to turn to him for help’.
She gives him another son, and the series ends happily with Prince Edward’s christening.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018