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The Crown: Favourites

Princess Anne: “Is doing nothing your solution to everything?”

Queen Elizabeth checks in with her offspring.

The episode begins with the arrival of the Prime Minister, who receives a well-deserved dressing down by the Queen on how poorly the country is doing. To my surprise, Margaret Thatcher starts to weep, and is ashamed of herself, believing herself to be the first Prime Minister ever to break down before Her Majesty, which is especially humiliating because she’s a girl, dammit! I loved how the Queen pointed out how Mrs. Thatcher is certainly not the first prime minister to have wept, and sensibly points her in the direction of the paper hankies and even pours Mrs. Thatcher a whiskey. I liked both women during this, especially when we discover that the reason the Iron Lady is losing it has nothing to do with the government. Her favorite (!) child, her son Mark, has gone missing during a long race.

The Queen is shocked the Prime Minister would be so politically incorrect as to admit one of her children – and of twins – to be her favorite. She has a chat with her husband who claims every parent has a favorite, and is quick to declare his is Anne. He seems to know whose Elizabeth's is, and I half-expected him to write down a name on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope, and tell her to look at it when she figures it out. Alas, the episode didn’t do that, and I guess it would be, well, pushing the envelope. If it were not a show based on alleged reality, I think we would have seen a trope of that nature.

In the meantime, the Queen decides to get to know her kids better and arranges to have lunch with each of them. They are all alarmed (although Papa Philip says perplexed) by the summons. We finally get a look at the two younger boys, who have been missing from prior episodes (not just the actors, which is understandable, but any mention).

We start with the youngest, Prince Edward. He’s got braces, and an attitude. He’s worried that Mummy has summoned him in order to cut off his allowance. He accurately predicts poached salmon for the meal, and has the self-confidence to open up to her. He’s been bullied with spit and urine, but he gets back at his schoolmates through the use of his position. I hoped to like him more than I did; I sensed the Queen felt the same.

The Queen goes to visit Princess Anne herself. They share a horse ride and a picnic lunch in the mud. Princess Anne is not in a good mood, and points out the journalists and paparazzi are always watching. Anne is suffering on several fronts. Despite all the good she was doing – and Princess Anne has been called the hardest working member of the royal family – media coverage of her was unflattering, especially compared to Diana. The Queen leaves Anne even unhappier, because the bodyguard she likes is going to be transferred. Although I come away not disliking Anne, it's hard to enjoy her, as she is so dour.

Prince Andrew arrives by helicopter, having commandeered one for his lunch with Mummy. This third child and second son (second in line to the throne; they are all keenly aware of the order) asks which Duke she will make him when and if he marries, and then narrates the plot of The Awakening of Emily, a 17-year-old girl who goes to bed with older men. Koo Stark, Andrew’s girlfriend at the time, was in such a movie, but it’s a huge reminder of the fact that Randy Andy has been associated with men such as Jeffrey Epstein. If it weren’t for that, I might have liked Prince Andrew in this episode, because at least he asked to be sent to the frontlines in the brewing Falkland Islands fiasco.

The last meeting is with Prince Charles, who is now at Highgrove. We see him knocking on Diana’s door, but she won’t come out. Charles, at least, has some interests, especially organic gardening – and Camilla, who is now 15 minutes away by car, which, one must assume, is why he lives there. The Queen rips him one, pointing out he has all these men working to make his dreams come true, and yet also seems to be unable to deny himself anything (namely Camilla).

All of this has been rather slow, so the episode adds drama by inserting bits about looking for the missing Thatcher (he was found) and the conflict with the Falkland Islands.

Carol, the Thatcher twin who had the sense not to get lost, tells her mother she treats her badly because Margaret Thatcher didn’t respect her own mother, who was just a housewife (in an era when it was pretty hard to be anything else). Again, I have the impression that the kids know their parents better than the parents know their kids, when the world has set us up to feel it ought to go in the other direction. However, I don't think this is so unusual. Parents have so much power over children, that it would be natural for children to observe their parents with especial care.

Then there’s the big debate of these two powerful women, emphasized with a hammer: Doing something versus doing nothing, the Prime Minister versus the Queen. Of course, the Prime Minister is in charge of running the government; she can’t do nothing (and ignoring the situation in the Falklands would have been political suicide). The Queen’s position is mostly ceremonial, but I also get the sense that “doing nothing” is rather preferred by her.

Title musings. “Favourites” is the title of the episode. Although Mrs. Thatcher, Mr. Thatcher and Prince Philip all know their favorite child, I don’t come away with the impression that we know the favorite child of Elizabeth. In fact, she seems disappointed by all of them.

Bits and pieces

Ah, the times before GPS, with Mark Thatcher impossible to find as he drives in the wilds of Algeria.

There's really an amazing likeness between Anne and Philip, which of course is normal between daughter and father, but amazing because these are actors.

Queen Elizabeth pets the horse more than she pets her own kids.

I recall how the start of the Falkland Islands war was so dragged out that a character in Doonesbury (Uncle Duke) had time to make brochures as he was planning to profit off by a cruise for spectators.

I like how the Queen signals she wants a conversation (or anything else) with her husband – by leaving the door ajar.


Queen Elizabeth: Prime Minister, when you first came to power you told me you hated seeing Britain in decline and you would get the house in order. Now, almost three years on, we have inflation of 12%, unemployment of 3 million, and rioting and civil unrest in several major cities.

Prince Philip: Your lack of self-knowledge is sometimes breathtaking.

Queen Elizabeth: One would hate to appear uninformed. Or cold. Or remotely … remote.

Prince Edward: There has to be some upside to being who we are. And some return for what we do for the country.

Margaret Thatcher: How will it be well if we do nothing?

Princess Anne: I’m only human. Sometimes even a pit pony needs a pat on the head.

Margaret Thatcher: You are all used to thinking of me as prime minister, but the last few days have shown very clearly, that above all else, I am a mother.

Prince Charles: Don’t you hate it when gardeners impose straight lines everywhere?

Overall Rating

Seeing the younger princes was long overdue, and I liked the comparisons between the Queen and the Prime Minister. Still, for me, it dragged in some spots, and the set-up – trying too figure out which one she liked best; it would have been enough for the Queen to realize she needed to get to know them better – preposterous. Three out of four poached salmons.

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


  1. Agreement -- this isn't a strong episode, and I wish I'd at least gotten some idea which child the Queen prefers. And I'm still not liking Gillian Anderson as Thatcher. I thought I'd like Gillian Anderson doing anything.

  2. I guess you're right that not much happens, but it was a nice reminder that the Queen has more than one child. I've been wanting to see more of Anne for some time, but she was a bit of a disappointment in this episode. She used to steal every seen she was in, and she listened to the coolest music in the family. Marriage (when did that happen?) seems not to have agreed with her. I am very surprised they didn't include her participation in the Montreal Olympics and her fall.

    I thought it was fairly obvious that Philip was right that Andrew was her favorite. He seemed to be the only one who seemed genuinely happy to see her.


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