The Crown: Dear Mrs. Kennedy

Queen Elizabeth: “But as head of the Commonwealth cannot I be permitted just once to defend it?”

An entertaining episode, as two of the most formidable women of the twentieth century meet.

I thought this was an extremely interesting episode from a storytelling point of view. Not a dull moment at all! Two iconic figures meet; Queen Elizabeth finds herself intimidated. The reactions of France, her own mother, her husband and every other male make her feel inferior, an unusual and unfamiliar feeling for the queen. In a conversation with Mrs. Kennedy the queen is charmed, only for her to learn later that Mrs. Kennedy has been talking smack about her at another party.

Then, wanting to feel as relevant and important as the American first lady, the Queen defies her government and goes to Ghana. Sometimes we need the spurs of jealousy and ambition to get us moving.

Some parts were especially entertaining. It was fun watching the Americans get all the titles wrong. Americans never feel quite sure how to behave around royalty; the whole idea is an anathema; after all the United States was the first of England’s colonies to revolt. Liberté and égalité may seem more familiar.

The visuals in Ghana were terrific, from the birds at the beginning to the taking down of the queen’s portrait to replace it with Lenin. And I really enjoyed watching Queen Elizabeth dance with President Nkrumah. What a moment! And what a nice foxtrot! This moment was, for me, the most important in the episode, because it was a huge break in relations.

However, The Crown does not exist just to entertain us, but tries to give us insight into what really happened, and I have some doubts. Although Mrs. Kennedy was reportedly not particularly impressed with Buckingham Palace (remember that Philip did not want to live there either) I doubt that she made such negative remarks about the queen. I also find it hard to believe that, after such a terrific showing in France, that the president and the first lady wouldn’t know the correct address for the queen and her husband.

I also find it hard to believe that Queen Elizabeth would insist on going to Ghana against her government’s wishes (and from what I glean she didn’t; Macmillan actually wanted her to go).

However, we do know that the queen did dance with the African president. Was it entirely spontaneous? I doubt it. You have to both know the foxtrot for that to happen without it being really awful. Of course, perhaps everyone did know the foxtrot in 1961. (They sure don't now.)

I think it’s possible that President Kennedy and his first lady engaged in what we would now consider substance abuse to get through their fishbowl lives (and I do not judge them for it). I think it highly unlikely that Mrs. Kennedy would actually tell Queen Elizabeth about it, but who knows? Your Majesty, if you’re reading this review, please let us know in the comments what really happened!

Title musings: “Dear Mrs. Kennedy” are the words we see on the letter that Elizabeth starts to write after JFK was assassinated. Queen Elizabeth probably did have mixed feelings about Mrs. Kennedy, but I can imagine how those would drain away until nothing remained but shock and pity.

Bits and pieces

The two crested cranes in the opening shot let us know immediately that we are probably not in England.

Jodi Balfour did not sound American at all. Why not hire an American actress for that role? And Michael C. Hall did not have a decent Boston accent either.

Ghana is still part of the Commonwealth.

Queen Elizabeth II was actually born more than three years before Jackie Kennedy. They were not the same age.

Quotes

President Nkrumah: Willing to treat us as equals. Not as subordinates! Not as slaves.

Queen Elizabeth: I liked her very much, and I was all set to loathe her. But in the end I was charmed.

Patrick Plunket: She found Buckingham Palace second-rate, dilapidated, and sad. Like a neglected provincial hotel.

Philip: You’re a lamb the lion will have for lunch.

Queen Elizabeth: That’s the thing about unhappiness. All it takes is for something worse to come along, and you realize it was happiness after all.

Overall Rating

I am torn on this. The themes were fascinating, and it’s especially interesting to consider what happened when two such important people met. I have some doubts about the accuracy, but the "American" accents were what knocked it down from a four for me. Three and a half out of four crested cranes.

Victoria Grossack loves math, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

All good points, Victoria. Even with its (admittedly tiny) flaws, I think this was my favorite episode of season two, and I didn't expect it to be.

I thought it was just an exquisitely related little piece of history, and I actually cried at the end. It was new and different to see Jack and Jackie Kennedy from the POV of the Queen. There were so many fascinating little bits I'd never heard of before, especially the foxtrot in Ghana, and Elizabeth having the bell rung as if Kennedy had been a member of the royal family. And the way Elizabeth knew why Jackie didn't change her bloody clothes.

My big disappointment with this episode was Michael C. Hall as President Kennedy. I'd so been looking forward to seeing my favorite funeral director and serial killer playing Kennedy, and he was completely off key. I didn't think Michael C. Hall could give a bad performance, but he did.

Victoria Grossack said...

It was a beautiful episode, both visually and in terms of the story. But there were several things that did not ring true, so I had to bring it down a notch. I'm an audio (I actually find it difficult to watch a screen) and so voices that are off bug me.

The Kennedys were such bright shining stars! And he was so young! Alas, anyone can be murdered. Strange, that both of them have been dead for decades, while Philip and Elizabeth persist.