Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

The Crown: Vergangenheit

Philip: “You protected your country and you protected the reputation of your family, not to mention successfully banishing Satan from entering the Garden of Eden.”

An incredibly powerful episode, mixing the threads of forgiveness and dealing with major sins of the past.

The teaser is especially teasing. We learn that it’s 1945, but exactly when in 1945? Because the European WWII stopped in May of 1945, and it matters seriously whether or not we are before or after. We have a man in an obviously German uniform being driven around by men in fairly nondescript uniforms. Only when I heard a very American accent was I certain that we were looking at a postwar scene. They dig up a metal box containing secret documents; we see the name Windsor on them.

The episode follows two different stories that tie together in an unexpected manner. The first story has to do with the Duke of Windsor, who is bored in the Bois de Boulogne. (Lesson for nearly everyone: many people wish for a life of ease, but with a life with no function you end up celebrating your dogs’ birthdays.) The Duke of Windsor wants some sort of job serving his country, and begins a secret campaign for it. And, given what we know, his wish seems rather reasonable. After all, in the last episode we heard the recommendation to become more tolerant of divorced persons. The Duke of Windsor’s most vaunted fault is not that he is divorced, but that he married an American who had been married twice before.

The other storyline has to do with the evangelist Billy Graham and his movement in England. Elizabeth is intrigued by what he has to say, and despite Philip’s objections, invites Graham to the palace for a conversation.

I think it must be even more uncomfortable to be the hereditary head of the Church of England than it is to be a constitutional monarch. The latter is more like a job, but the former requires faith, and that’s not possible or palatable for everyone. On the other hand, Queen Elizabeth does seem a devout Christian, as this season we have seen her regularly kneeling beside her bed to pray.

Elizabeth has been wondering if she should forgive her uncle – forgiveness being something recommended by Christianity – and permit him a role serving the government. However, the papers that were discovered back in 1945 are being processed by historians. They show that the Duke of Windsor was very sympathetic to the Nazi cause, and that his wife was literally in bed with at least one of them. The UK historians consider quashing the information, but it turns out that the Americans have copies of everything (that’s why we heard that American accent in the teaser) and the Brits can’t make the story go away. Elizabeth then consults with Tommy Lascelles, who was the Duke of Windsor’s private secretary and who can add to the background. The Duke of Windsor gave information to the Nazis, information that helped the Nazis conquer Belgium. He was also plotting to get back his throne, abetted by the bombing of England by the Nazis.

Elizabeth discovers there are some things that cannot be forgiven. Her anger seems to be mostly personal, the treasonous intentions towards her family and her country, but there are political reasons as well. Imagine her appointing her uncle as the ambassador to France, and then that information coming out!

Philip had little to do in this episode, but at least the advice he gave was mostly sound. He wasn’t eager to meet with Billy Graham or to let the Duke of Windsor back into England, choices I can respect, but he lets his wife have her way without making an undue fuss. Then, when it becomes important, he tells her to talk to Tommy Lascelles. I especially enjoyed the end, when Philip said he’d been drinking with her mother and with Lascelles. An unlikely trio, but a welcome one, and perhaps a sign that Philip is finally more comfortable with his position.

Title musings: Vergangenheit means “past” in German, a suitable title for an episode in which a German past haunts the present.

Bits and pieces

How petty the Duke and Duchess of Windsor seem, celebrating the birthday of a dog.

Interesting that the former Prince of Wales would have a motto in German (ich dien, which means I serve). On the other hand, British royals had a lot of German blood in them.

I sometimes miss things in the news, so I looked up Billy Graham to see when he died. But he’s still kicking at the age of 99!

The end of the episode shows photos of the real Duke of Windsor meeting with various Nazis. The photos are blurry, but when you study the noses, you realize that the man is not the actor Alex Jennings.


Elizabeth the Queen Mother: What’s happening to this country? The people of Great Britain never cried during the war. Now they’re weeping like children.

Duke of Windsor: A life of pleasure really has its limits.
Duchess of Windsor: Try a life of living with you.

Queen Elizabeth: Which is why it’s lovely, as Queen, to be able to just disappear and be--
Billy Graham: --a simple Christian.
Queen Elizabeth: Yes. Above all things, I do think of myself as just a simple Christian. It’s the values of Christian living that root me. Guide me. Define me.

Prime Minister Macmillan: If the Reverend Graham is the crusader, the implication is that we’re heathens.

Billy Graham: The solution to being unable to forgive: one asks for forgiveness oneself, humbly and sincerely, and prays for those that one cannot forgive.

Overall Rating

This was an excellent episode, with two thought-provoking storylines combining in an unexpected manner. Four out of four classified documents.

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


  1. A fascinating episode about a complex subject. I find the Duke of Windsor so repelling. It was lucky for the UK that he gave up his crown. In fact, I kept thinking about the current occupant of our oval office. If he'd been president back then, all Hitler would have had to do is flatter him to win his support. Imagine the world if that had happened.

    Philip was fun in this one, and I wish we could have seen Philip, the Queen Mother and Tommy Lascelles getting drunk together. :) I've also been enjoying the glimpses we've been getting of Tommy's retirement. It's certainly working out a lot better than the retirement of the Duke of Windsor.

  2. That Duke is a childish, self-centered, arrogant, creep! It's clear he only wants to do things whichever way is easiest for him, and he would have been a terrible King. Like Hitler, he just wants power and comfort for himself, not anything good for people who aren't just like him.

    I hope that Phillip finds something to do that makes him feel needed and happy. I love Matt Smith, so it's not much fun seeing him play a character that complains so much about his life. Oh the horror, he doesn't have to do a bloody thing for himself; the servants would probably even wash him if he asked them. To sit around beautiful rooms, eat meals that one didn't have to shop, cook, or clean up for, never do laundry or clean a toilet? What did Phillip think might happen when he married a daughter of a King? I just find it funny when the guy complains about how their lives are so different now. If you don't want to be royalty, big guy, I suggest you don't marry into it. I guess he's some kind of royalty from Greece, but he could have left as a young man and found his own way. I shouldn't be critical of that man's life, since I have no way of knowing what it's really like...I just would be interested to know what it would be like to not have to stop doing what I enjoy, all the time, to go do another endless load of dishes or laundry.

  3. While I knew that the Duke had been involved with the Nazi's and I had seen some of the photos previously, I had no idea of the extent of his involvement. I was shocked and ended up watching the scene with Tommy and Elizabeth three times because I wanted to make sure I knew what all the transgressions were. Pretty difficult man (and woman) to forgive.


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.