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The Crown: The Way Ahead

News reader 1: There's uproar in Britain over the publication of the so-called Camillagate tapes.
News reader 2: The call, allegedly between Prince Charles and a close female friend, was taped three years ago.
News reader 3: He will not come back from this. The tapes are filthy.
News reader 4: It's raised doubts whether the Prince of Wales can ever be king.

Episode description: "Faced with the fallout of an intercepted call with Camilla and the consequent kickback to his marriage, Prince Charles must navigate a scandal."

And what a scandal it is! The very married Prince Charles calls up his lover, the very married Camilla Parker-Bowles, and has a long, intimate chat with her. In which he even says he would like to be reincarnated as a tampon so he could be, well, you know, let’s not get too explicit.

Everyone at the time condemns this as disgusting stuff. But was it? I don’t think it was. It was just silly, intimate stuff, a conversation between two comfortable lovers.

Anyway, how did it get out there? The Crown shows us how. An amateur recorder – "radio hobbyist" – was listening to a whole bunch of conversations and picked it up and recorded it. When he realized what he had he sold it to The Daily Mail. At first, The Daily Mail just held onto it, because they did not want to embarrass the Prince and Princess of Wales. However, after the couple's separation was announced, the paper decided they could print it.

Apparently there was debate about whether or not to include this event in The Crown, and some actors rebelled against it. I guess everyone was too squeamish. On the other hand, the event did happen; it also had real repercussions for the Royals. Besides, it’s juicy. And you know what? It’s easy. The phone call is repeated word for word in the episode, and that means several pages of dialogue that Peter Morgan and company didn’t have to write. I also liked how it was filmed, with us seeing Camilla at home, going upstairs for some privacy.

Despite the embarrassment that Prince Charles must have felt during this, he comes off looking rather well in the episode. First, the Queen herself (with words that I assume were imputed to her) says that Charles has been liberated by his separation from Diana. And then the Princess Royal says that people will be jealous, because he has the sort of relationship with Camilla that so many people out there would like to have. This is what popular characters say, despite the absolute furor that was caused by Camillagate.

In other words, The Crown comes out swinging for Prince Charles in this episode. Why? I can’t help suspecting the motives of Peter Morgan. He has made a career of writing about the Royal Family. Princess Diana died years ago; although she still has some fans, she has less influence. Queen Elizabeth II was not dead when this series was created, but she was already in her 90s and Morgan may have realized she had multiple myeloma. Morgan and others involved in The Crown may have wanted to preserve future access, and the man on top would be King Charles.

Or perhaps the creators were trying to give another view of the situation? At the time – which I well remember – there were calls for the crown to skip over Prince Charles and that it should be passed to Prince William. The episode does show another perspective.

Anyway, Prince Charles does what must be done after being discovered in a transgression of this magnitude: the heartfelt interview. Sometimes the interview works; sometimes it doesn’t. This time it seems to function fairly well; fortunately, Dimbleby didn’t dwell on the subject of feminine hygiene products. I, like so many others, like what Prince Charles said about faith. I don’t, however, buy what he said about giving his marriage to Diana much effort; he was communicating with Camilla at the time of his wedding to Diana.

There’s fallout for others besides just Prince Charles. Princess Diana, however, is also embarrassed, but likewise vindicated. As she claimed, her husband was always in love with another woman.

We see Camilla leaving her home as well. Her first husband, Andrew Parker-Bowles – a man with many mistresses – was fairly tolerant of his wife’s affair with the Prince of Wales, but this leaked conversation was too much even for him. For once the media are camped outside her home as she leaves it. They are not kind to her.

Title musings. “The Way Ahead” is the title of the episode, and it is all about Prince Charles. I like some of the things he is trying to do, although the one little victory mentioned – where women are included in the band – seems quite minor. A fair title.

Bits and pieces

The fact that this conversation was recorded makes you wonder what else is being recorded. Probably much more now, a quarter of a century later, as that is many generations in technology. Alas, my own conversations are too banal to be of much interest to anyone.

A recent example of a BBC interview not working was when Prince Andrew was trying to reduce the scandal of his association with sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

I was able to find a youtube of Prince Charles breakdancing. However, what I found was from the 1980s and not the 1990s. Either he breakdanced twice or The Crown took liberties with the timing.

I find it strange that certain topics involving bodily functions are considered taboo. For example, all living creatures poop, and parents of young children will find that they have to talk about pee and poop a lot.


Prince Charles: In any other professional sphere, I'd be at the peak of my powers. Instead, what am I? I'm just a... useless ornament, stuck in a waiting room, gathering dust. There I go again. Always a little whine with my cheese.

Prince Charles: God, I wish I could just live inside your trousers or something. It would be so much easier.
Camilla: What are you going to turn into? A pair of knickers? Or, God forbid, a Tampax.
Prince Charles: Just my luck.
Camilla: You're a complete idiot. What a wonderful idea.
Prince Charles: My luck to get chucked down the lavatory and keep on going on and on forever, swirling around on top, never going down.

Queen Elizabeth: That was a different Charles today. Separation from Diana has liberated him. Energized him.

Princess Anne: Here. I brought you some weapons-grade, entirely chemical cold medication. I know you're probably taking some sort of root or herb.
Prince Charles: Garlic, ginger, and elderberry.
Princess Anne: Mmm. I thought I'd bring you something that actually works.

Richard Aylard: But right now the problem is, no one knows you. They don't know who you really are, nor what you think, or feel...
Prince Charles: I quite agree. But what should we do about that?
Richard Aylard: Well, one thought that we had was that, um... perhaps a mature, progressive, open television special would be a way to go. Where the Prince of Wales is finally given the opportunity to freely air his voice. Alongside an expansive and wide-ranging interview, we could grant cameras unprecedented access to a future king, at work. An intimate and authoritative profile of an enlightened, thoughtful, forward-thinking man who has been Prince of Wales for a quarter of a century, and a chance for him to lay out his vision for a modern monarchy, a modern Britain.

Jonathan Dimbleby: As king, you will also find yourself at the head of an established church. In the past, you have shown an interest in other faiths. How does that sit with a future role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Defender of the Faith?
Prince Charles: Because I prefer to think of myself not as defender of just one faith, the Church of England, but as defender of faith in general. Why should the Church of England have a monopoly on the Crown? What about the Jews and Catholics and Sikhs and Muslims and Hindus? Are they not its subjects as well?

Overall rating

I have not been able to decide how I feel about this episode. Sometimes I appreciate it, and think, oh, another point of view on that recorded conversation! Other times I feel manipulated. So I will give it two and half out of four feminine hygiene products.

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

1 comment:

  1. I liked your comment about Morgan and his motives for this episode. I hadn't thought of it, but think you are on to something. Charles is not often shown in a good light, but The Princes Trust is something he should be justifiably proud of.


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