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The Crown: Persona Non Grata

Diana: No, I'm not welcome there anymore. Very much persona non grata.
Dodi: So, you'll be on your own for the rest of the summer?
Diana: Yes, all on my little lonesome.

Unwelcome in so many places, Diana takes her holiday on the Al-Fayed yacht, while Prince Charles tries to elevate Camilla in the eyes of the public and the Queen.

The episode opens in Paris, actually in French, which was so surprising that I paused the show to check my language settings. Anyway, a man is walking his dog when he notices a far too fast car followed by a whole bunch of far too fast motorcycles. They go into a tunnel, and there is a crash – and we know, of course, this is the crash in which Diana dies. Then we go back eight weeks, just a mere eight weeks, to when Diana and Dodi start their romance.

The episode follows both Prince Charles and Princess Diana, who have been divorced for about a year. Both are trying to get on with their lives. Diana wants more to do – she even appeals to Tony Blair to intervene – but when the Prime Minister brings it up with the Queen, Queen Elizabeth refuses. The royals are the most exclusive club there is, and now that Charles and Diana are divorced, Diana is no longer a member, not even an HRH (although people still call her that). Diana can no longer do royal things, but it’s also hard for her to do much of anything else. It makes sense that she accepts the invitation of Mohammed Al-Fayed to spend her holiday on his yacht. Diana is desperate to get out of England and it is a lovely place to take her boys on holiday.

But the owner of Harrod’s is never completely altruistic; he always has his eyes on the prize. Princess Diana is divorced; she has broken up with the heart surgeon (who could not afford her); she is lonely. Mohammed compels Dodi, his oldest son, to come and spend time with Diana and her sons. Dodi – who is engaged, and who is having a house built for him and his fiancée in Malibu, California, protests, but not too much. Mou Mou (Mohammed’s nickname) just has too much money and power. Dodi’s loyalty to his fiancée is tested – well, he fails – because Diana is really attractive and fun. They have a great conversation about fathers: his interferes too much, while hers did not seem to care at all.

Mou Mou is not the only one with too much power. Prince Charles wants his mummy, a.k.a. Queen Elizabeth, to bless his relationship with Camilla and attend the 50th birthday party he is planning for the love of his life. He goes to her to ask her to come, and says she will charm everyone. This is pure bunk. The real Queen might have been charming, but this interpretation is not at all charming. She refuses, showing her dog much more affection than she does her son. Prince Charles has been trying to get his mother’s approval for Camilla for years. At this point, he had been separated from Diana for five years and they had been divorced for one.

Something to take from this episode: sometimes it's easier to get your way by asking for forgiveness rather than permission. Prince Charles has the party, without his mother; the only royal to come is his aunt, Princess Margaret. Princess Margaret and the Duke of Edinburgh point out that it might be time to be more open to Camilla, and Queen Elizabeth relents to the point of calling her son to ask him how the party went. This is showing her thaw, at least a bit.

Now, not all around the royals can manage to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. Prince Charles is fortunate in that he cannot be entirely excluded. At this point he’s not just a prince, but the heir to the throne. Princess Diana is stuck on the outside without any means to get in. And, these days, I don’t see much hope for the Sussexes. Prince Harry is too far out of the line of succession.

Title musings. “Persona Non Grata” means an unwelcome person. Diana says she is unwelcome, but she is not the only person to sense that. Prince Charles is not welcomed by his own mother – she is more attentive to her dogs. Camilla certainly has felt like the persona non grata for a long time. Dodi’s American fiancée is also non grata. Many people feel non grata in this episode. It’s a good title.

Bits and pieces

Saw an article praising Elizabeth Debicki and her swimming costumes. She does look good in them.

Although I enjoyed this episode more than I did many of the episodes in season five, I still had trouble warming up to Queen Elizabeth. Maybe it’s because Imelda Staunton played the horrible Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter series. But her constant disapproval – both of Prince Charles wanting to move on with Camilla and Diana wanting to have the blessing of something to do – is just so unpleasant. People get divorced; why not help them move on instead of sitting around and frowning at them?

Despite my appreciation for the episode, I’m still feeling extremely negative about monarchy these days. My distaste is not just due the current set of British royals, but from watching what dictators and dictator wannabes are doing these days. Why allow a family to have so much rank, money and power? Why let anyone be above the law?

OK, I am a big Jane Austen fan – a true Janeite, with several murder mysteries set in the aftermaths of Jane Austen’s novels – so I was especially moved when Prince Charles read an excerpt from Persuasion, the story about two lovers who are forced apart when young and who reconnect later.

One complaint: there's a lot of conversation in Arabic, a language I do not know, but given the length of the speeches, I'm sure that the subtitles are not translating everything.

Quotes

Queen Elizabeth II: I always say it's hard to be half in anything. You're either in or out. You yourself will know the difference of being in government or out. Whilst she's mother of the boys and, in that respect, always welcome at the palace, as a divorced woman and no longer an HRH, Diana is now learning the difference between being officially in the royal family, and out.

Camilla: It's fine. It'll happen in its own time.
Charles: Diana and I have been divorced for a year, separated for five. The time, darling, is now. I shall have to go and see her myself.

Queen Elizabeth II: But how can I possibly give my approval when I don't approve? It's nothing personal. I'm sure she's very nice.
Prince Charles: Rather more than that.
Queen Elizabeth II: It's a matter of principle. Two perfectly good marriages, two perfectly happy families have been broken up by this...

Dodi: This is the craziest idea I ever heard.
Mou Mou: Why?
Dodi: First, because I'm about to get married.
Mou Mou: Uh-huh.
Dodi: Second, she's not in the slightest bit interested in me.
Mou Mou: Then make her interested. Isn't that what you've always been able to do? Make women fall in love with you?

Prince Charles: Darling, all of us here can testify to your quite exceptional warmth and generosity. But, again and again, I've been struck by something else. And that is your heroism. Because over the years, there have been many people out there, who know nothing about you, who've been quite staggeringly unkind and unfair. Now, the easy thing for you to do, the understandable thing, would have been to walk away. But you haven't. You've stuck with it. And you've stuck with me. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Overall rating

I enjoyed this interpretation of events, where everything really hung together. It’s also beautifully shot, especially the yacht scenes. On the other hand, although I have read that the royals are not amused by this Netflix series, it does seem as though it was designed to put Prince – now King – Charles – in the rosiest possible light, with an emphasis on how Camilla has always been the love of his life. The Queen and Dodi’s father, however, do not come off well. Three out of four yachts.

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

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