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The Crown: War

Camilla Parker-Bowles: “I’m an old woman, I’m a married woman, I’m nowhere near as pretty, nowhere near as radiant, someone who looks like me has no place in the fairytale. That’s all people want, the fairytale… To be the protagonist of a fairytale, you must first be wronged. A victim which, if we were to become public, we would make her.”

Mrs. Thatcher is ousted as Prime Minister as her allies turn against her; the Waleses’ marriage continues its meteoric plunge.

The couple stages a show of unity by going to their son’s rugby match together. Diana tries to speak to Prince Charles in the car, but it quickly turns into an argument.

The MacGuffin on which much of this episode is based: Princess Diana is planning a trip to New York City on her own. Prince Charles objects, telling her it won’t work and that her motive for going is pure selfishness. They meet later in order for him to object again. The formal meeting is great staging, with each Wales on one side of a long table; Prince Charles, naturally, has a much greater retinue than Princess Diana. Neither Charles nor Diana speaks during this meeting; instead a spokesman speaks for each of them. I loved how this was put together.

Despite her husband's protests, Diana goes to the States (the trip was okayed by the palace), and although she’s a bundle of nerves, she does a wonderful job. I was impressed by the scenes in New York. Filming in a real city has to take a lot of effort at any time, but filming several city blocks in New York City during winter has to be extra challenging.

Camilla, watching Diana’s triumph on the telly, turns into a puddle of goo, breaking down and telling her lover that they will never win because Diana is so successful. This infuriates Charles, who now gets angry at Diana for doing a good job. We already knew that everything she does displeases him, but this behavior is especially revolting. He told her not to go because she would fail, but he's even more furious when she succeeds.

Mrs. Thatcher’s claim of being betrayed disgusts me more than usual because of what has been happening in the United States. Monarchs may be entitled to power (something I question), but elected officials have no such claim to entitlement. Yes, the Prime Minister is selected differently in the UK, but no one is entitled to that position, even if they actually deserve it. She never ever considers she might be doing something wrong, and it’s bizarre she never even seems to have contemplated the possibility of being forced out of office someday. After all, all prime ministers eventually leave office, usually by being forced out, unless they voluntarily retire (difficult for some ambitious people, although we saw a few do it for health reasons) or die in office. How could Margaret Thatcher have so little imagination as not to realize it might happen to her? Admittedly, I don’t know how Mrs. Thatcher actually reacted but I have the sense The Crown got pretty close.

After the way Prince Charles has behaved, at least the role in The Crown, we all enjoy the scolding the Queen gives him. (We can also conclude that Charles is not her favorite child, but British monarchs have a habit of not being impressed with their heirs; apparently Queen Victoria thought little of Albert who eventually became King Edward VII, the king who had the long affair with Alice Keppel, Camilla’s great-great-grandmother). The Queen may have pushed off Diana and scolded Charles, but as we all know, this marriage cannot be saved. Also, if the behavior is at all accurate, who wants him on the throne?

As it is Christmas; Diana has to partake of the family celebration – torture! – but after being informed that she matters less than the dogs, she retreats to her room. However, one person shows a smidge of human kindness; Prince Philip comes to speak to her. I don’t know if there was any particular affinity between the two in real life, but the action, at least in The Crown, is consistent with what we have seen of his character. He and she tracked the stag in “The Balmoral Test.” He has spoken for her on other occasions, noticing, as a man, that she was going to turn into a very beautiful woman. His speech to her reminds me of the time when King George VI took Philip aside and told him how his mission in life was going to require him to do everything to support the monarch.

Philip attempts a similar tête-à-tête with Diana, and I must say, he shows unusual sensitivity. Instead of telling her how she feels, which he is at the threshold of doing, he backs up conversationally and asks her to describe her feelings. He assures her everyone thinks Charles is mad, and says the Prince of Wales will eventually come around. Of course, he doesn’t know how Charles has actually behaved; this was before ubiquitous cell phones made recordings easy. Philip emphasizes that the Queen is the only one who is important, not any of the rest of them. Alas, the Duke of Edinburgh’s words are too little, too late, and Diana, on the edge of the royal family for the Christmas photo, blinks backs tears.

Title musings. “War” is the title of the episode, and it refers, obviously, to two battles within families. There’s the fighting within the Conservative party, in which Mrs. Thatcher is ousted; there are the battles between the Waleses. In some respects I don’t like the title, because I think a word like treachery would express the situation better. However, there’s nothing like a three-letter, single syllable word for impact. It’s probably the best title available.

Bits and pieces

It’s fun that Tobias Menzies (Prince Philip) got to announce “It’s the Ides of March!” as the actor played Junius Brutus in HBO’s Rome (which I also reviewed for Doux Reviews).

I would have liked more about why the conservatives were turning against Thatcher, but it was probably too complicated for dramatization.

The portrayal of Thatcher being appointed Member of the Order of Merit (OM) two weeks after her resignation is accurate. At the same time, her husband Denis was made a hereditary baronet. Admission into the order remains a personal gift from the Sovereign and is restricted to a maximum of 24 living recipients from the Commonwealth realms, plus a limited number of honorary members, such as Nelson Mandela. I felt it was odd she left the box behind.

The family photo shows Diana blinking away tears as the camera flashes. This is significant as we know she will die trying to escape paparazzi.

The last scene, the family photograph, is also the cast ensemble – or at least most of it, as non-royal parts have to be excluded.


Prince Philip: It’s the Ides of March! It’s Julius Caesar, or should I say, Julia Caesar?

Prince Charles: Since every time we do talk, it ends in an argument, I’d say silence was preferable.

Geoffrey Howe: The conflict of loyalty, of loyalty to my Right Honourable Friend the Prime Minister – and, after all, in two decades together that instinct of loyalty is still very real – and of loyalty to what I perceive to be the true interests of the nation, has become all too great.

Prince Philip: Not the fact that she’d just been knifed in the back by one of her longest-standing allies?
The Queen: No, I asked her about that. …
Prince Philip: You’re brave.

Princess Diana: He tells everyone I’m mad. They treat me like I’m mad. And I’m starting to feel mad.

The Queen: Power is nothing without authority. And at this moment, your Cabinet is against you. Your party is against you. And if the polls are to be believed, if you were to call a general election today, you would not win. Which suggests the country is against you. Perhaps the time has come for you to try doing nothing, for once.

Mrs. Thatcher: The difference is, you have power in doing nothing. I will have none.

The Queen: When people look at you and Diana, they see two privileged young people, who, through good fortune, ended up with everything one could dream of in life. No one, not a single breathing, living soul, sees cause for suffering.

The Queen: They know you’re a spoiled, immature man, endlessly complaining unnecessarily, married to a spoiled, immature woman, endlessly complaining unnecessarily. And we are all heartily sick of it.

Prince Philip: Everyone in this system is a lost, lonely, irrelevant outsider, apart from the one person, the only person, that matters. She is the oxygen we all breathe. The essence of our duty. Your problem, if I may say, is you seem to be confused about who that person is.

Overall Rating

Even if the depiction of real events wasn’t 100%, the episode was well done and, for me, satisfying, as Mrs. Thatcher was rebuked by her colleagues and Prince Charles was dressed down by his mother. Four out of four camera flashes, and this season of The Crown ends.

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


  1. Victoria, congratulations on finishing another season of The Crown! I still need to catch up -- I thought I could keep up with you, but I haven't.

  2. Also, if the behavior is at all accurate, who wants him on the throne?

    This is not a good argument to me. I found his behavior toward Diana abominable, but selfish desire for another woman and infidelity is not a good excuse to bypass him for the throne. Let's be frank. The Queen was not exactly a great parent. Do you think she should have been denied the throne (even if she never wanted it in the first place)?

  3. Obviously, the Queen is a failed parent, although we don't know how much is nature rather than nurture. However, when she was coronated, so many decades ago, no one knew how poorly so many of her offspring would turn out. I can also point out that the Duke of Windsor was forced out because he wanted the wrong woman. As for whether or not Charles is accepted on the throne or not, that's up to the citizens of the UK. As The Crown keeps pointing out, the position of the royal family is not guaranteed, and I personally would have trouble accepting any monarch. But that's up to the citizens of the UK, not me.

  4. I know the show is about Queen Elizabeth, but how can they go through Thatcher’s 11-year tenure as Prime Minister without once mentioning The Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall, Ronald Reagan, the Pope, or her most significant achievement, the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union? Or did I miss something?

  5. As someone who grew up during the Thatcher years I'd saw putting millions out of work and pushing the country further to the right, was her most significant achievement The fall of the Soviet Union was more of an own goal than anything Thatcher ever did. I'm surprised they didn't cover her support and friendship with Pinochet.

  6. So I've come to the end of my Crown marathon. While I've enjoyed the show, I feel like they focus more on the romantic melodrama than I would like. In this past season, I got a little tired of Charles and Di. It just seemed kind of repetitious. Maybe they could have included more political context if they'd had less of them.


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