The Crown: Matrimonium

Queen Elizabeth: “But you’re not breaking away. Because you won’t give up your title, your rank, your privileges, for one simple reason. You enjoy it all too much. The palaces, the privileges, the deference.”

The episode in which Princess Margaret decides to get married.

This episode was difficult for me to like, mostly because I didn’t like the characters much. What do you do when you have no one to root for or to admire?

Princess Margaret’s decision to marry is spurred by jealousy, the fact that her former beloved, Peter Townsend, is planning to marry himself. Tony Armstrong-Jones’s decision seems to be completely driven by his desire to impress his mother, whose second husband and younger son far outrank him. Margaret appears to find Tony deep and mysterious, and certainly Tony does have an artistic bent, but to me he’s as shallow as a fallen soufflĂ©.

Queen Elizabeth promises that she will support her sister in her decision no matter what, but she supplies a snag anyway. When the sovereign is expecting, no royal alliances can be announced/made apparently. (What on earth did they do in the time of Queen Victoria, who had 9 children, and probably a number of miscarriages?)

But to show support for Margaret, Queen Elizabeth hosts a party for the pair. The celebration is rather odd, with people in formal gowns jumping about to music that is closer to our period. It looks/sounds wrong, but it’s supposed to look/sound wrong. Philip comments with understandable resentment on how much times have changed: how he, the son of a prince and the grandson of a king, a descendant of Queen Victoria herself, was deemed not good enough, and now people are thrilled that Princess Margaret is marrying a commoner with the last name of Jones. Philip, however, keeps this mostly to himself, and when he escorts Margaret in the carriage on her wedding day, is very sweet.

But Philip has provoked some curiosity in his wife, and she asks Tommy Lascelles to find out what they need to know about Tony Armstrong-Jones. The investigation proceeds, and they learn about three or four current lovers (besides Margaret), one who is male and another who is pregnant. This information is then given to the queen.

The queen then gives birth to Prince Andrew, in a room with gigantic portraits and in which she is put into a twilight sleep. After the birth of the prince, Elizabeth tries to have a serious conversation with her sister. Princess Margaret spews some utter nonsense about how Tony makes her a free woman. Queen Elizabeth points out that she’s speaking poppycock, and that palaces and privileges mean a lot to her (as they do to Tony), much more than they do to Elizabeth. I don’t actually think this is fair; Elizabeth has fought for her crown as much as anyone, including demanding sacrifices from her sister, husband, mother and uncle; she does not seem especially self-aware. The sisters say cutting things, and Elizabeth does not tell Margaret what she learned about Tony’s lovers.

So I am left wondering: does Queen Elizabeth assume that Margaret already knows this information? Or that Margaret will simply ignore her or resent her even more? Or do peccadilloes not matter when they were committed by males? Or does Elizabeth simply feel sorry for her sister and hope she will never learn the truth?

One thing that has changed in the last sixty years is that there is so much less pressure on women to be married, so much so that younger people may not appreciate it now. (Think about Disney movies – even in the late 1990s and early 2000s everything was about love at first or second sight, and in the movies from before the princesses were cartoon Stepford wives. Only in Frozen did we get a movie where they all agreed that it’s stupid to agree to marry someone you just met.) Marriage was the definition for women; not to be married was to be an old maid, with no status, only scorn. How much pressure must have been on Princess Margaret, pursued as we saw by paparazzi? And, as Dr. Johnson observed, “Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures.” Perhaps Elizabeth thought it better to let Margaret take her chances.

Title musings: Matrimonium was used by the Romans to mean marriage. “-onium” is also used to signify a positive ion, but I don’t think the writers were thinking about that. I’m not particularly impressed by the title.

Bits and pieces

In case you don’t recognize her, Lady Rosse (the mother of Tony Armstrong-Jones) is played by Anna Chancellor, who was Miss Bingley in my favorite adaptation of Pride & Prejudice.

I appreciated it when the Prime Minister, upon learning that Elizabeth was in labor, led the men in the government in a prayer for her safety. So many people these days dismiss the dangers of childbirth, and although I don’t think Macmillan could have had any real appreciation for the pains of labor, I liked the fact that he treated it with deference.

Camilla Fry was pregnant with Tony’s child, according to current information.

Quotes

Tony Armstrong-Jones: He hasn’t found happiness. He’s found marriage, the very opposite of happiness.

Tony Armstrong-Jones: You know, Mummy, for most parents, there’s never anyone good enough for their children.

Princess Margaret: And let’s make it bigger than my sister’s. Let’s eclipse her.

Philip: There’s no such thing as a bad compliment.
Queen Elizabeth: I suppose that’s true. Beggars can’t be choosers.

Overall Rating

Assigning a score is not easy. I prefer characters for whom I can cheer, and in this episode I could not find anyone (a few positive thoughts towards Philip). But The Crown has to work with actual events. I admit that although I was wondering at people’s bad choices and characters, I was intrigued. Three out of four secret lovers.

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

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

What a sad episode. I keep wondering if Margaret would have been happier if she'd had to work for a living. We know she won't be happy with Tony, because how could she be, once she has any idea what he's like?

I thought it was interesting that Tony prefers to hide the fact that he limps. I also loved all of the shots of everyone putting on their expensive shoes right before the wedding, which segued into a shot of the horse shit under the carriage. :)