The Crown: Terra Nullius

Bob Hawke: “That superstar may have just set back the cause of republicanism in Australia for the foreseeable future.” 

The Prince and Princess of Wales travel to Australia and New Zealand for a royal tour.

The episode gives us some interviews with Bob Hawke, who in his campaign to become the Australian prime minister, expresses a lack of enthusiasm toward the royals as the rulers of his country. As an American, I sympathize with his views. Why should some random person who lives half a world away have any say over one’s country? On the other hand, these days one can appreciate the value of checks and balances. Having a sane, compassionate sovereign could prevent dangerous actions by a government – but what if the sovereign is crazy or cruel?

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles show what a couple they really are by telling a dirty joke together. I admit I didn’t care much for the joke. Not because I am a prude – although I have a prudish streak – but because it was so obvious.

Prince Charles and Diana, his legal wife, journey to Australia. Diana insists on baby William coming along, which has both pros and cons. Diana, worried about William or perhaps just not that interested, flubs some facts about Down Under during an early interview. Hawke salivates, hoping this is the moment – the tipping point – when Australia can finally declare independence from the crown.

The Queen and Prince Philip, aware of the possibility of Australia deciding to leave their rule, are concerned about having sent the B team out on this tour. At first, the trip does seem to have the makings of a disaster. Diana can’t stand the heat; she’s complaining constantly, and Charles is calling Camilla every day. They have a terrible row, but then it turns into a real conversation. Charles tells Diana he loves her, something I wasn’t expecting; something Diana clearly wasn’t expecting. They are both elevated by the conversation, and their relationship begins to mend. In consequence, Princess Diana puts in an effort and starts to shine. In fact, she shines too brightly, completely eclipsing Prince Charles. Charles, tired of being in his mother’s shadow, now finds himself in the shadow of his wife. He is furious.

The leg in New Zealand gets very short shrift, just some of Diana engaging in bulimia interspersed with Maori dancers. The wood paneling in the scene reminded me of a museum I visited in Auckland, so even if it was brief, it felt right.

The last few scenes drip with symbolism. When the Prince and Princess of Wales deplane, Diana gets in a car going to Kensington Palace, while Charles’s vehicle is headed to Highgrove. Princess Diana tries to get assistance from the Queen, and even hugs the Queen, who doesn’t hug back. The Queen behaved with more warmth toward Michael Fagan, the intruder in the last episode.

The Queen mentions the hug to her closest female relatives – mother, sister, daughter – and during the conversation Her Majesty wonders if hugs and Diana’s freshness might be a good thing for the monarchy. However, as we all know, if she does anything about it, it was too little and too late.

Title musings. “Terra Nullius” is the title of the episode. Terra Nullius can be translated as “nobody’s land,” and that is how the Brits referred to Australia when they first arrived, ignoring the Aboriginal peoples who had arrived about 50,000 earlier. Yeah, that’s a problem, but it's not the focus of the episode. Another translation could be “no man’s land,” and just as Australia was charmed by Queen Elizabeth back in 1954, the land is charmed by Princess Diana on this occasion, while the husbands, both princes, are mostly ignored. The title is excellent.

Bits and pieces

“Pommy" (or "pom" or "pommie") – used by Bob Hawke – is an Australian, largely derisive slang term used to indicate a recent immigrant from Great Britain, or a Brit in general.

As of this review, Australia remains a part of the Commonwealth. Interestingly, some members, such as South Africa, have left and then returned.

The Queen and her husband talk about their trip to Australia in 1954 as if it were the only one. Perhaps it was the most consequential, but they visited many times after that.

The title, "Terra Nullius" reminds me of the no man’s land in the Wonder Woman movie set in World War I, where Diana Prince, a woman, crosses the gap between the armies.

Quotes

Bob Hawke: You know, a non-elected non-Australian who lives on the other side of the world, and, for all their good intentions, is a different breed.

Bob Hawke: You wouldn’t put a pig in charge of a herd of prime beef cattle, even if it did look good in a twinset and pearls. (And then we see the Queen in a twinset and pearls.)

The Queen: Now she’s old and dumpy, they want to get rid of her.
Prince Philip: Not old and dumpy. Experienced and mature.

Prince Charles: I need encouragement and the occasional pat on the back, too.

Princess Diana: I still think you’re gorgeous.

Princess Anne: Evidently that is what the Australians have responded to. What a natural mother she is. How physical. How caring.

Crowd: We want Di!

Queen Elizabeth: Because I’ve been a terrible mother? Is that what you’ve come here to tell me?

Overall rating

I thought this episode was very well done, combining the problems in the Wales’s marriage with the political tensions in Australia. It reminds me of when Princess Margaret went to the states to get money out of LBJ in "Margaretology," another excellent episode. The episodes are similar in that both marriages are in trouble, and in both cases the women sacrifice themselves for Britannia, only to be put back down when they return. Four out of four stuffed koalas, now Prince William's favorite toy.

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

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

I spent this entire episode feeling pity for Diana, who simply could not win. If she had blown the tour, they would have given her a hard time. Instead, she sparkled, and they gave her a hard time. The way she tried to get the Queen to simply support her and hug her was tragic. And I wouldn't have been able to leave my baby for so long when he was that age, either.