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The Crown: Ruritania

Queen Elizabeth: "Can you imagine a city run and populated entirely by the Women’s Institute?"
Women: "Yes."
Queen Elizabeth: "It would have the tidiest streets in Britain."
Women: "Yes."
Queen Elizabeth: "Everything would run on time."
Women: "Yes."
Queen Elizabeth: "And we would take all the men's jobs."

Episode description: "Eager to improve the monarchy's public image, the Queen seeks out savvy statesman Tony Blair – but the Prime Minister's advice defies royal protocol."

After one of my reviews, someone posted a comment wondering if King Charles III really worried about the impact of this Netflix series. Well, this episode posits that popularity is paramount to the palace (sorry for all the Ps). Popularity is what allows them to remain on the throne with rights and privileges and enormous wealth and power. Of course it matters, although I don't know how much the Netflix series matters. I do believe it is making a case for the Crown, though.

This episode starts with Queen Elizabeth having a literal nightmare about the popularity of the current (at the time) Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The dream even has him being crowned. This is in contrast to the popularity of the royals, which is not faring that well. A poll shows them as being out of touch, and many in the UK are still upset with the treatment of Princess Diana both in life and in death.

The Queen takes the unusual step of asking Prime Minister Blair for advice. Asking for advice from a prime minister is frowned upon by some of the royals (especially the Queen Mother who was still alive). At least Janvrin points out to Fellowes that the Prime Minister, according to their constitution, is the chief adviser to the monarch. This irks Fellowes, as he helps the Queen every day.

The palace conducts a review of various positions with antiquated titles, which is actually kind of fun, and rather embarrassing that it had not happened before, as by this time Queen Elizabeth has been on the throne for decades. Someone is in charge of folding napkins, which, with so many royal dinners, makes sense that it is a thing. Another person takes care of the swans, which at one point were reserved for royal banquets.

Back to the other side of the story: I did like how Blair went to the United States and appealed to the consciences of the Americans. President Clinton was lucky in that Milosevic folded when he did.

Blair blows it with the Women’s Institute, using words like "radical," which seems incredibly tone deaf. I don’t know if this speech took place as it did, but I assume it did, because Tony Blair is still alive and could object if he were being misrepresented. Anyway, it allowed The Crown to end with the premise that the Queen could relate to her subjects better, at least some of the time, and she decides to remain as royal as she can.

Title musings. "Ruritania" is used once – or rather the adjectival form is used once – in the episode, by Her Majesty. I had no idea what it was. This is what Wikipedia says: "Ruritania is a fictional country, originally located in central Europe as a setting for novels by Anthony Hope ... Nowadays the term connotes a quaint minor European country, or is used as a placeholder name for an unspecified country in academic discussions." Anyway, I think this title is too obscure. I think they should have done something with swans.

Bits and pieces

As an American, I understand how awkward it is to be asked to interfere when there are problems in other countries. When you do it, it’s not always successful, because it's really hard to get right. And it’s not always appreciated.

Robert Fellowes resigns at the end because he says he feels he messed up. In truth, they have to sack him because they can’t sack a royal and someone has to bear the blame for being out of touch.


Queen Mother: Have you learnt nothing in the time you've been on the throne? Prime ministers come in on a blaze of popularity and goodwill... And leave on a stretcher a few years later with their reputations, and usually their health, in tatters.

Cherie Blair: He knows the fact you're coming to him like this means that NATO's air campaign has failed.
Tony Blair: But he still won't do what it takes. Commit American ground troops. It's... he's worried about it looking like another Vietnam with no political upside for him domestically.
Cherie Blair: Well, you're never going to persuade the White House by appealing to their interests. So do what you do best. Appeal to their consciences.

Tony Blair: Slobodan Milosevic is a monstrous dictator, carrying out the systematic and violent persecution of innocent civilians. He has to be stopped. We have a moral duty to ensure he does not succeed. To all of us in free countries who think this is a remote conflict and someone else's problem, I say this. If you value your freedom, you cannot remain neutral. This is your war too.

Blair: Demoting eldest daughters in the line of succession, I think we can all agree, makes little sense in a modern society.
Queen Elizabeth: As an eldest daughter myself, I don't object to that in principle. But to turn over centuries of royal legislation is no small task. You'd have to consult with the 15 other countries where I'm head of state.
Blair: Where the will is there, these things can usually change quickly.

Yeoman: And my responsibilities also include folding all 170 of the embroidered white linen napkins.
Queen Elizabeth: Oh, that's you! You are clever. How on earth do you do that?

Tony Blair: Well, as far as criticisms go, being too political is one I think I can live with. It would be like someone describing you as being too royal.
Queen Elizabeth: I think I've come to realize there's no such thing as too royal. If you're doing it, do it properly. And unapologetically.

Overall rating

I’m still having trouble relating to The Crown this season, because of the excessive pandering. This time, Queen Elizabeth learns that she can't be too royal and her subjects want her to be above them – conclusions that will surely please King Charles III. This episode was improved by the sessions with those who do the odd jobs around the palace. Two and a half out of four linen napkins.

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


  1. I'd heard the name "Ruritania" before, but didn't know what it meant. And that's my word of the day. :)

  2. The name Ruritania was used by John Sladek in his novel Roderick as well for a backward nation, but obviously Anthony Hope is the progenitor. I was not familiar with his work but apparently Prisoner of Zenda was part of the Ruritanian trilogy.


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