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The Crown: Olding

Queen Elizabeth: “Age is rarely kind to anyone. Nothing one can do about it. One just has to get on with it.”

The Crown has now progressed to 1964, and the queen is compelled to accept a Labour prime minister – and other things – despite her misgivings.

We have, for the most important roles, a new cast. They do an absolutely lovely transition to the new (older) actress of the queen (now Olivia Colman), first starting just from behind, and then showing how her face is being updated for stamps and currency.

In a nice domestic moment, Prince Philip (now played by Tobias Menzies), watches the telly while the Queen does correspondence. They comment on the fact that Labour is likely to win. The Prince remarks that Harold Wilson, the likely prime minister, may actually be a Russian mole. Queen Elizabeth dismisses this, as she says MI5 would certainly know this information. However, the possibility comes up several times during the episode, including at a dinner party honoring her uncle, the Duke of Gloucester (Henry).

The Queen also meets with the fellow in charge of paintings (the Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures), Sir Anthony Blunt, in what seems to be an attempt to show the regular duties of the queen – being forced to preside at art events even though she has no talent nor much inclination for portraits. By the way, Blunt was a distant relative of the queen through her mother.

Princess Margaret (now played by Helena Bonham Carter) is having trouble with her husband, what a surprise! Lord Snowdon simply keeps avoiding his wife. A conversation with the Queen Mother lets us know that the unhappily married pair is about to take a trip to America (apparently the focus of the next episode).

Sir Winston Churchill dies during this episode. We have one last scene with John Lithgow in the role, where the Queen calls on the former prime minister, confined to his bed, and then kisses him on the forehead when he falls asleep during their conversation. That was extremely touching.

It turns out that the Queen’s faith in MI5 is not completely justified. The head of MI5 receives a phone call (on the “Juliet” line; that must have been a thing) from the Director of the CIA. The CIA has intelligence to share about a Russian mole; MI5 goes to inform Her Majesty. For a few minutes they talk at cross-purposes as the queen assumes the head of MI5 is referring to the new prime minister. However, the actual mole turns out to be Sir Anthony Blunt. Moreover, MI5 asks the Queen and Prince Philip not to do anything about it, because they’re so embarrassed about it. I must say that the reaction of MI5 doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. How does it impress the Americans by not acting on information given?

Despite the plea from MI5, Queen Elizabeth talks about deception during her “praise” of Blunt. Prince Philip has a conversation with Blunt, telling the man he ought to resign. Blunt, however, replies with the implication that he has information on Prince Philip (referring to an earlier episode). Blunt remains until his normal time for retirement, 1972, and reminds us that the monarchy has to keep a stiff upper lip while surrounded by treacherous snakes.

I don’t know how accurate some of the implications are; I’ve done a wee bit of research and it seems as if the MI5 allowed Sir Anthony Blunt to remain in his position because he made a full confession. His treachery remained unknown by the public until Margaret Thatcher exposed him in 1979, after which he was stripped of his knighthood and other honors.

Title musings. The title of the episode, “Olding,” is based on the code name given by MI5 to Harold Wilson, on whom they kept tabs because of his visits to the Soviet Union. Certainly the changing of the guard in switching from Conservative to Labour is significant. However, I liked the title because olding implies ageing as well, and we have gone from the more youthful to the young middle-aged. The only other reference I could find to Olding is a city in Pakistan, which seems irrelevant; if anyone has more to add, please put it in the comments.

Bits and pieces

Tobias Menzies – now Duke of Edinburgh – played Brutus in Rome. Which I also reviewed for Doux Reviews.

The Russia connection sure seems pertinent today!

I loved how people are instructed in how to approach the Queen, and how they struggle to remember all the etiquette. Bow from the neck. First call her, Her Majesty, and after that, Ma’am.

It seems strange that the Queen and Prince Philip never even mentioned their children, especially as the youngest, Prince Edward, would have still been an infant.


Churchill: I am afraid we must face the cold wind of socialism blowing through the land once more.

Queen: I can’t imagine what that would be like – having a prime minister one didn’t trust.

Queen: You were my guardian angel. The roof over my head. The spine in my back. The iron in my heart.

Queen: The country has spoken. Your party has won the election. The duty befalls me as sovereign to ask you to form a government in my name.

Queen: Wilson is neither old nor young, tall nor short, loud nor quiet, warm nor cold. He seems to have come from nowhere and is entirely unremarkable.

Queen: We don’t have a Russian spy in Downing Street.
Head of MI-5: No. But it seems we do have one in Buckingham Palace.

Sir Anthony Blunt: Deceit is two-faced. She has a monstrous, second visage. Truth may lie beneath the surface, forgotten, but time has a way of uncovering it.

Prince Philip: What are they suggesting? That we turn a blind eye and allow a traitor, an enemy of this country, to remain free, with his career and reputation intact, just to spare MI5’s blushes?

Harold Wilson: You can trust numbers. They’re honest. There’s no mystery or deception or allegory. … What you see is what you get.

Overall Rating

Coming up with a rating for an episode based on real events – when so many of the characters are still alive – is always difficult. The creators do not have the same liberty as the creators of other shows. The pace was a little slow at times and the explanations seemed off. On the other hand, some parts were beautifully done, especially the postage stamp transition at the beginning and the last scene with Sir Winston Churchill. Three out of four postage stamps.

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


  1. What a clever transition episode. I loved how they did it with the new stamps. And Olivia Colman is always so good. I have to mention that Tobias Menzies played not one but two important characters in the first three seasons of Outlander -- he's a freaking chameleon. I almost didn't recognize him as Prince Philip.

  2. I enjoy watching the show and then reading the history to see what's been fictionalized / filled in and what's historically accurate. I am enjoying all the new actors in their roles. And yes, Tobias M - is there anything he CAN'T do?

  3. Sooze, I'm TERRIBLE and watching the show and then reading the history. I'm more like *starts the show* *pauses show* *checks for spoilers of what's going on on Wikipedia.* Not just with The Crown either. That's how I watch American Crime Story and pretty much all documentaries. I wish I could resist.

  4. Loved the transition with the stamps -- how clever that was!

    One thing about a massive binge. The shift in characters is odd when you go from the end of season two to the beginning of season three. It took me a bit to adjust. Having said that, what a cast they got for this round!


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