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The Crown: Willsmania

Prince Charles: I'm afraid we don't do fathers and sons very well in this family.
Camilla Parker-Bowles: And you know my attitude to that. It's no excuse. It really isn't. The boys need you now more than ever. And if I may...
Prince Charles: Go on.
Camilla Parker-Bowles: You need them too.

Episode description: “Hounded by press and adoring girls, 15-year-old William struggles to find stability after Diana's death. Charles enlists his own parents to help his son.”

After the death of Princess Diana, I paid much less attention to the royal family, and for me, Prince William belongs to a younger generation. So, for this episode at least, I have few memories to influence my viewing experience.

Still, the episode felt slow and rather boring. I know some events are certainly real. The visit to Canada – Prince Charles with sons William and Harry – happened pretty much as depicted, as well as the craze for the handsome, unhappy young prince. I can imagine that the attention would be overwhelming and I don’t blame William for hating it.

But the emotional core of the episode is getting Prince William to admit his grief and his anger at the death of Princess Diana. Again, The Crown strikes me as a campaign from Peter Morgan to win the approval of King Charles and Queen Camilla, as Prince Charles tries to reach his son and Mrs. P.B. gives her lover parenting advice over the phone (the lovers cannot meet because the public would frown too much). Did this happen? No idea. But it does make out Charles as a father who is trying hard as an unexpectedly single parent.

There are moments of catharsis. Prince William blames his father for his mother’s death. I don’t know that this ever happened (it seems as if Harry would be a better candidate). Prince Charles defends himself, saying that Diana died because her driver was drunk (and she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, which never gets brought up, but is true, and I will keep mentioning because no one does). Prince William also challenges his father with respect to popularity, as William, at this point at least, seems to have the attention that his mother did.

Now, I know the title of the episode is "Willsmania", so one can expect the episode to be more focused on Prince William. And Prince William, now Prince of Wales, is in the direct line to the throne and this series is all about the crown. But I think it is telling that there is absolutely no concern on Prince Charles’ part for the emotional well-being of Prince Harry, his other son. Prince Harry, younger, could be expected to be suffering more. Instead he’s insouciant, teasing William, sneaking alcohol into their cups, and able to express what William cannot. Still, it would be more flattering if Prince Charles had mentioned some concern for Harry, or just even said, Harry seems to be handling it better so I'm less worried about him.

Prince Charles tries to get his parents to help out. At first they refuse, tricking William into a visit but not showing up. However, Prince Philip finally goes to his grandson’s room at school – they bond over pin-up photos – and talks in a way that apparently reaches Prince William. Because the next time William sees Charles, he goes and hugs him.

But the hug is seen from a distance, blurry, without words. To me, it does not work, and the way it is filmed suggests the makers of The Crown do not think it really works either.

Title musings. “Willsmania” is what the press called the overwhelming popularity that Prince William experienced as he became a teen heartthrob. It also works as we experience the young prince’s emotions in the wake of his mother’s death. The title is pretty good.

Bits and pieces

The actor, Luther Ford, playing Prince Harry looks much like Prince Harry did at this stage, except much taller and certainly much older.

I have never understood the British antipathy toward red hair, which some these days may dispute, but which I have seen in many older books. Many sources report that Prince Charles was disappointed in Harry’s red hair.

Quotes

Princess Anne: That's encouraging. I'm sure these days they've got better at handling a situation like this.
Prince Charles: Oh, let's hope so. I'd hate it for him to be at Gordonstoun in my day. Their idea of grief counseling would've been a cold shower and a long march, cross-country.
Princess Anne: What's wrong with that? Better than having some awful fuss made and being mollycoddled.

Prince Harry: He assured me they'd be shutting the place down. To keep the girls out. "Marry me, William! I love you!"
Prince William: FŐ˝ck off.
Prince Harry: I'm just jealous. In the history of humankind, no one has ever screamed for someone with red hair.

Prince Philip: Oh, nothing to be ashamed of. Do they have names?
Prince William: That's, uh, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, and Naomi Campbell.
Prince Philip: In my day, it was Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, and Lana Turner.

Overall rating

This is a shorter review than I usually do, but I did not care for the episode, and so have much less to say. Two out of four pin-up photos.

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

4 comments:

  1. Victoria, this review is quite comprehensive. It doesn't look at all short to me.

    This redhead prejudice is weird. I love red hair. Queen Elizabeth the first, possibly the most successful British monarch ever, had red hair. :)

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  2. I wonder if the red hair thing is because it tends to be associated with Celtic backgrounds more than the Anglo-Saxon, at least in popular culture. I haven't been watching this season, but something I have found puzzling about the crown in past seasons is how sympathetically it has portrayed Prince Andrew in past seasons...I can understand wanting to court Charles' favour, but Andrew's?

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  3. My mom got Prince Harry's memoir, Spare, from the library to read, and while she had it, I read some bits and pieces. According to Harry's account, the time after Diana's death was heartbreakingly painful. Both boys, but especially Harry were pretty much neglected emotionally at a time when they obviously would need someone to talk to and confide in.

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  4. Thanks, paladinteacher, for the insight. Also, Billie, according to word count, this is about 60% of what I usually write. And, magritte, I really only saw that Queen Elizabeth was especially fond of Prince Andrew - I didn't notice a general rehabilitation.

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