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The Crown: Tywysog Cymru

Prince Charles: “Mummy, I have a voice.”
Queen Elizabeth: “Let me let you into a secret. No one wants to hear it.”
Prince Charles: “Are you talking about the country? Or my own family?”
Queen Elizabeth: “No one.”

Episode description: "Prince Charles is sent to Aberystwyth to learn Welsh from an ardent nationalist in preparation for the ceremony for his investiture as Prince of Wales."

The episode opens with drama students working on tongue twisters and practicing lines, then settling on one student in particular, whom we immediately recognize as Prince Charles.

Currently the government is discussing the investiture of Prince Charles as the Prince of Wales. This ceremony usually encompasses lots of ritual, and one stodgy fellow advises doing exactly as was done in the past. The past has involved the English sending essentially a show of force to the Welsh, and then the princes of Wales ignoring the principality from then on.

Prime Minister Wilson, concerned about discontent of the Welsh – many want to throw off the English yoke – wants to do something different for the investiture of Prince Charles. He wants the prince to go to Wales and learn enough Welsh to deliver his investiture speech in Welsh. Queen Elizabeth, when she hears this, objects, as she knows her eldest son has finally found some contentment at Cambridge.

Nevertheless, we soon see a Family Meeting (possibly arranged in order to give some of the actors more screen time, although the investiture of Charles as the Prince of Wales is an important event) in which the heir to the throne is told to go Wales, despite his protests. We detect the chilly relationship between Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, and if some viewers missed it, Princess Anne and Prince Charles discuss it immediately after the grown-ups leave the younger generation to themselves. Anne is envious of Charles and his position, but she doesn’t suffer from the gnawing jealousy and resentment that afflicts Margaret’s attitude toward Elizabeth.

The scenes of the Labour government and the Royal family have alternated with scenes in Wales, mostly focused on a fellow (Edward Millward) who is making speeches about kicking out the English. Most of his scenes are in Welsh, so, unless you know the language, you’re going to have to read the captions. It seems a bit of a stretch that this man is the individual who is tapped by the powers-that-be to tutor the prince in Welsh, but only a bit of a stretch. Language is extremely important to cultural identity, and so it's not surprising that a man who is promoting the language as the only tongue would be good at teaching it, too. While watching, I wondered if Millward were both nationalist and tutor to the prince, but I haven’t done the research to determine yea or nay. (If someone reading this review knows, please share in the comments.)

We see Millward objecting to the assignment, and later we see that he has accepted, but we don’t see which argument made him yield. Anyway, a little while later, the prince arrives. Millward refuses to bow (or even clear a chair for the prince; the prince’s man does this). He insists on treating the prince as he would any other student.

Neither Prince Charles nor his tutor is particularly happy with having this project forced upon them. What is interesting is how completely ignorant they are of the other’s situation. Prince Charles offends an entire dinner party by not knowing who Llewellyn was and by not having visited the library. Later Millward chews him out.

Although Millward is a nationalist, he’s also a professor, and most professors are protective of their students. At first Millward thinks of the prince as just a footloose, very rich young man, but then realizes the prince has not been out socializing, but has been eating his dinners alone in his room (Prince Charles tries to talk to a few people but most, thanks to the anti-English sentiment, won't have anything to do with him). The tutor brings the prince home for dinner, to the great consternation of Mrs. Millward (no advance warning for her; perhaps she was on the phone when he tried to let her know, and this was long before cell phones, when a busy signal meant you were out of luck). The home, compared to Buckingham Palace, is modest, even shabby, but it’s full of love. The Millwards realize that Charles has never watched parents put a child to bed before and they end up both feeling sorry for him.

Charles learns enough Welsh to deliver the speech, and the whole Family shows up for the really cool ceremony. His parents discussed having him modify the speech to make it more his own, but then decide against it. Charles does this anyway, something not detected when he gives it, because it is, after all, in Welsh.

When the prince returns to Buckingham Palace, expecting a “Well done,” from his mother, he’s disappointed. Instead he gets a dressing-down for what he inserted into his speech (translated and then transmitted to his mother). She aptly identifies the resentment of the Welsh with her eldest son’s resentment (which made his words more sincere and him more appealing to the Welsh, I would think). She makes it clear that he is not entitled to either resentment, praise, or expressing himself, and tells him of the time her grandmother told her that the hardest part of a sovereign is fulfilling the requirement to do nothing.

The episode ends with Prince Charles back at Cambridge, reciting some apt lines of Shakespeare.

Title musings. “Tywysog Cymru” means Prince of Wales, or more literally, leader of Wales, in Welsh. It refers not just to Prince Charles but to Edward Millward, who is a mover in Wales. It also reminds us of Llewellyn, the man who united Wales (and who married an illegitimate daughter of King John of Magna Carta fame). As so much of the episode is in Welsh, having the title be in Welsh is fitting.

Bits and pieces

The actor (Josh O’Connor) playing Prince Charles does an excellent job imitating the prince’s hangdog posture, even though I think that’s more a trait of later life. The actor evokes him well. I even feel as if the ears match.

Lord Mountbatten and Prince Charles were very close; Lord Mountbatten was his great-uncle.

Prince Charles has been Prince of Wales for fifty years now. Ah, those Queens of England are long-lived. Long live the Queen!

I have read that many sovereigns resent their heirs; certainly Queen Victoria was hard on her eldest.

The speeches at the end of the episode are from Shakespeare’s Richard II. “For you have but mistook me all this while:
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?”


Earl Marshall: Whenever possible, change absolutely nothing. Do things exactly the same way as they were done before.

Queen Elizabeth: But my son isn’t Welsh, so gestures are all we have.

Wilson: Went on and on … less like an investiture and more like an invasion.

Edward Millward: I understand that it’s all a bit of fun to you. That was clear last night. ‘Where is the library? Who is Llewelyn?’ Do you have any idea how embarrassing that was for the rest of us?

Edward Millward (to his wife in Welsh): See? You feel sorry for him too.

Queen Elizabeth: We have all made sacrifices. Suppressed who we are. Some portion of our natural selves is always lost.

Overall Rating

I must have liked this quite a bit, for I kept writing and writing! Three and a half out of four sêr (stars in Welsh).

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

1 comment:

  1. I liked this one, too. If it was intended to make us empathize with Charles, it certainly worked with me.


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