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The Crown: Lisbon

“There is no room for mistakes. There is no room for scandal. There is no room for humanity.”

In this episode of The Crown we finally finish the conversation begun in the very first episode of this season. Philip and Elizabeth meet in Lisbon to discuss their marriage and come up with an interesting solution.

This episode has much more meat to it than the last!

Let’s start with what was the B plot of the hour, politics. Eden returns after three weeks in Jamaica to an England that is very unhappy with him. The war to retake the Suez Canal was a complete disaster, and right afterwards he left the country for his health. He actually does need rest and sunshine, but the trip looks like desertion of his duties at England’s time of need. His ill-health provides him with the perfect excuse to resign – and although he’s not willing, he does. Of course if the war had gone well, then he would have been the man of the hour. Politics is full of outcome-based morality, and several men in government (including MacMillan, Eden’s successor) seem to forget that they supported Eden heartily during the previous months.

Elizabeth has matured. She now rather expects her prime ministers to lie to her and does not let them get away with it. The way she treats MacMillan is very different than how she treated Churchill in the first years of her reign.

Now onto the main story of the episode. Elizabeth and Philip are not especially happy, and the fissures in their marriage are made more obvious by the bright lights raised by the divorce proceedings of the Parkers. Elizabeth goes so far as to call on Eileen Parker – strange to see the queen drinking tea in an ordinary kitchen, but I suppose it happens sometimes – but though the women were friends back on Malta, Eileen refuses to postpone the proceedings. She’s tired of doing things for the royals, and I don’t blame her.

Philip, for all his railing against the situation, does not hesitate when the scandal breaks. He demands Parker’s resignation immediately, and tells Parker to leave the ship as soon as possible (it turns out to be Gibraltar). Philip, a royal of sorts from birth, knows what has to be done, and although he complains, he does what is necessary, down to wearing a silly tie. But he uses the situation to his advantage as well. He demands a higher rank within the realm and he also demands that the fellows in charge of protocol shave their mustaches. At first I thought this was rather silly, but then it struck me as an astute power move. They were forcing him to do everything in a particular manner to satisfy protocol; the shaving of the mustaches (the order given through his wife) reminds them that he has power as well.

Despite break-ups happening – the resignation of Eden, the resignation of Parker – one senses the affection that Elizabeth and Philip have for these people even as they leave their employ. In a way it is only after they resign that everyone can relax and finally people can say what they truly think.

Title musings: “Lisbon” obviously refers to the place where Elizabeth and Philip meet and have their staged “reconciliation” – and then their conversation, on the royal yacht. We should remember, too, that Portugal managed to remain neutral during World War II and so its capital would be perceived as a space for negotiations.

Bits and pieces

I like how Eileen Parker frequently wears slacks, which are generally so much more comfortable and practical than skirts, but at the time was still a bold fashion choice.

Penguins are adorable.

Some very nice photography in this episode. Lovely scenes of the trains.


Tommy Lascelles: Not that we give a fig about the Parkers and their happiness, you understand.

Harold MacMillan: But we’re not a united government, are we, Anthony? The war you insisted on has left us as divided as Caesar and Pompey and the country in chaos. There is no petrol in the pumps. There are no tins on the shelves.

Harold MacMillan: Come now, Anthony. You know as well as I, there is no justice in politics.

Elizabeth: I was sorry to see you lie to the House, when you told them you had no prior knowledge of the Israelis’ intentions. We both know that to be untrue.

Elizabeth: To do nothing is often the best course of action, but I know from personal experience how frustrating it can be.

Elizabeth: But it wasn’t just Eden’s war, was it?

Eileen Parker: I’ve had enough of favors to you people. My entire adult life has been favors to you. You people aren’t even remotely aware of the cost of the damage to families and marriages in your service.

Overall Rating

This episode moved and was both interesting and entertaining. I would have liked more about the political situation – what are the Brits doing about petrol? – but it was good to finish this three-part story about the royal marriage. Three and half out of four mustaches.

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


  1. I quite agree, Victoria, that this one was more interesting than the previous episode. The bit that stood out for me was Philip, after complaining so much about the tie and hat he had to wear for his reunion with Elizabeth, all decked out in regalia, including that enormous crown, when he acquired his new title. Not being into the royals, I really had no idea how or why he became a Prince.

    And I also liked the bit with the mustache. As well as how absurd much of the earlier bits of drama on the ship played out with all the men in huge and somewhat silly beards. All in all, an episode strongly featuring facial hair. :)

  2. It's funny. I actually preferred the previous episode as I found it so illuminating of Philip's character, whereas the marital problems of the Royals bore me.

    The thing that most struck me about the Suez crisis was how differently we frame history in different countries. As a Canadian, it's mostly familiar for Lester Pearson's role in forming the UN peacekeeping force that brought it to a close. It would never have occurred to me to think of it as the biggest crisis since the 2nd world war. There are so many other candidates: The Korean War, the First Arab-Israeli and Indo-Pakistan wars, the Berlin Blockade, France's wars in Indochina and Algeria. It was a very turbulent time.

  3. It had not occurred to me until I watched this that Philip was not a prince until Elizabeth specifically made him one. As he was a Prince of Greece, I was confused as to when he had stopped being a prince. Then, I remember the opening scene of the entire series when he is giving up all of his former titles. Interesting that he didn't insist on maintaining "Prince" at that time.

    I liked the end of the episode when Philip realizes that life is about to get very different. His wife has held up her end of the bargain; now he must his. And, his best friend is off to the other side of the world. Be careful what you wish for...


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