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The Crown: Smoke and Mirrors

“I have seen first-hand what it is like for a royal family to be overthrown because they were out of step with the people. I left Greece in an orange crate.”


Episode description: "Elizabeth rejects protocol by appointing Philip to coordinate her coronation, but his ideas create conflict. The Duke of Windsor returns to London."


This episode was excellent. I was both charmed and touched by the scene where King George VI, in the process of preparing for his own coronation, walks young Princess Elizabeth through the promises to be made during the ceremony. The flashback was lovely, so appropriate, making the preparation for the ceremony so human, especially as the father involved his daughter by having her play the part of the archbishop.

I love the little touches when the Duke and Duchess of Windsor are being interviewed at their new home in Paris in the Bois de Boulogne. I’m sure the French were happy to give England a slap.

I have some sympathy towards the Duke of Windsor. Naturally the powers in England are severe about protocol – and a coronation is the epitome of protocol – but he has a point in that he has been married for seventeen years and shouldn’t his wife be accepted now? (On the other hand I had just become resigned to Brad and Angelina when that blew up.)

If Philip was really the one who insisted on the TV cameras, good on him. I never thought about what a revolution those cameras would be the first time – and of course most cathedrals, although designed to showcase spectacles, built to awe everyone near and far, were not designed for TV crews.

In this episode I finally appreciated Philip’s point of view, as he recounted his own experience with a discontented nation and his discomfort at the idea of kneeling to his own wife. What he did at end was good, kneeling as he took the oath of loyalty expected of all dukes present, but then kissing Elizabeth on the cheek and not the hand (I hope other dukes’ kisses, if any, were on the hand).

The commentary from the Duke of Windsor as he hosted a coronation-watching party was interesting – as was his understandable wistfulness at being excluded. Glad, that despite being mortals, we were allowed to see the anointing (and what a lovely echo of her moment with her father as she prompted the archbishop with the word “inviolably”). The phrase “anointed with oil” is something I have read many times without bothering to research the details, so what a treat to finally discover what it entails!

Title musings: We have several examples of actual smoke and mirrors. Queen Elizabeth looks into a mirror as she tries on the crown for the first time, and the lenses of the TV cameras are almost mirrors. With respect to real smoke, plenty of smoking is going on - flashbacks with George VI, and the Duke of Windsor – the latter with both his duchess and his dying mother. As for the more metaphorical smoke and mirrors, we have the Duke of Windsor trying to pretend he didn’t mind being excluded from the coronation while he so obviously does. And finally we have the ceremony of the anointing itself. As George VI and the Duke of Windsor explain, anointing is the process of transforming an ordinary human being into a sovereign. Some could see this as “smoke and mirrors,” as the sovereign, so often, is just as human after the coronation as before, and the ceremony, like so many examples of smoke and mirrors, is meant to awe the populace. In future episodes we shall see how much Queen Elizabeth has been transformed.

Bits and Pieces

The actual crown in the series seems to fit Queen Elizabeth better than it did King George VI; it seems almost about to slide off the latter’s head. Perhaps that was symbolic. Or perhaps they decided the crown needed to fit Claire Foy better than Jared Harris, as she will probably have to sport it more than he during The Crown.

I had never heard the word matronize before! My computer does not like it. But I do!

The young Princess Elizabeth, Verity Russell, was excellent in this episode.

The detail of others putting on their own lesser crowns during the ceremony was interesting. And of course they had to remove them to bow.


King George VI: Good heavens. That’s very heavy indeed.
Man with crown: Five pounds, sir.

Philip: There’s no need to matronize me.

Duke of Windsor: That’s the final box I received as King. It contained my abdication papers.

The Queen Mother: Which battles to fight and which to leave.

Tommy Lascelles: That invitation does not extend to the Duchess of Windsor.

Churchill: But this isn’t a business. This is the Crown.

Overall Rating

An excellent episode, full of meaning. Perhaps a little weary of the Duke of Windsor’s bitter witticisms about his family; we’ve heard them before. Three and a half kneeling dukes out of four.

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


  1. I thought this one was excellent, too. Claire Foy is doing such a marvelous job, and I also thought that scene at the beginning where little Elizabeth and her father were rehearsing the coronation was beautifully done. And like before, it showed David's caustic tongue and his bitterness toward his family, but it also showed how difficult it must have been for him to give it all up when he had to watch and comment on Elizabeth's coronation. I particularly liked how David had his last red box with "The King" on it in that little private room of his.

    Since I'm not British or into the royals at all, the things I'm learning about them are mostly new to me. I didn't know anything about what happened at a coronation, or that televising this one was Philip's idea. BTW, I just saw a documentary about Philip on Netflix that filled in a lot of the blanks I had. It's called Prince Philip: The Plot to Make a King. The title is a lot more lurid than the content. It's only 47 minutes long and I thought it well worth watching, especially for a royals neophyte like me.

  2. What this series is doing beautifully -- and especially in this episode -- is showing the disconnect between where David's head is and where the rest of England is. Particularly that part of England that is in power.

    For David, seventeen years has passed and he was once a king (as he points out not just in this episode). He just wants everyone to get over it. The abdication, however, was an incredibly serious thing that shook the monarchy to its very core. For those who lived through it, and for those who helped George VI rescue the institution, it was not so easily forgotten. I am not particularly a fan of Tommy's, but when he tells David that he will not be scolded by him on his patriotism, I cheered.

    Loved the intercutting between this version of the coronation and the TV reels. Very effective.


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