In an interview with Janet Davison at CBC News, I discussed screen portrayals of Diana, Princess of Wales and the challenges that arise in fictional depictions of Diana’s life for TV and film.
I discussed Harry and Meghan’s Netflix deal, Camilla’s charity work and the history of royal philanthropy with Janet Davison at CBC News for this week’s Royal Fascinator newsletter.
I discussed the future of The Crown series on Netflix with Janet Davison for the CBC News Royal Fascinator newsletter. Peter Morgan, the creator of the hit series, has announced that there will be only 5 seasons rather than 6. Since each season dramatizes a decade or less of the lives of Queen Elizabeth II, her family and her Prime Ministers, it is unlikely that the program will cover events in the 21st century. This week’s Royal Fascinator newsletter also discusses the future of the royal family in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth after Harry and Meghan’s decision to step back from royal duties and a royal scandal in Luxembourg.
Season 3 of The Crown series premieres on Netflix today and there is already interest in how much dramatic license has been taken by the writers of the series. I discussed the portrayal of Princess Margaret’s 1965 official visit to the United States with Daniel Arkin at NBC News. President Lyndon Baines Johnson was the only American president elected during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign who did not meet the Queen but he hosted an official dinner at the White House for Princess Margaret.
For more about President Lyndon Johnson, I recommend reading Robert Caro’s ongoing series “The Years of Lyndon Johnson” – The Path to Power, The Means of Ascent, Master of the Senate and The Passage of Power have been published so far.
My latest article in the BBC History Magazine examines the reputation of Queen Mary, the wife of King George V, and grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II. In the new Downton Abbey film, one storyline references a long-standing question: was Mary partial to stealing from the grand houses that she visited? Writing for History Extra, I explore the life of George V’s queen, and her habits as a collector of precious objects.
Click here to read “Was Queen Mary, wife of George V, a kleptomaniac?” in the BBC History Magazine.
I discussed a variety topics concerning the royal family including the royal wedding, popular attitudes toward the monarchy in Canada, and The Crown series on Netflix with Courtney Shea at Reader’s Digest Canada.
Illustration by Aimée Van Drimmelen
Episode 8 of Season 2 of The Crown “Dear Mrs. Kennedy” employs a story structure that appears frequently over the course of the series: dramatizing two historical events and creating a fictional connection between them. In the case of “Dear Mrs. Kennedy,” the Crown portrays two events from 1961: John and Jacqueline Kennedy visiting Buckingham Palace (including reports that Jacqueline Kennedy was critical of both the palace and the queen) and the Queen’s visit to Ghana and creates a direct connection between them. I discussed fact and fiction in The Crown on Netflix with NBC News.
I discussed the portrayal of Princess Margaret in the Netflix series “The Crown” with Daniel Arkin at NBC News.
As I mention in the interview, The Crown focuses closely on Princess Margaret’s personal life with Season 1 examining her doomed relationship with the divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend and Season 2 ending with her marriage to society photographer, Antony Armstrong-Jones. The emphasis on Margaret’s relationships with Townsend and Armstrong-Jones as well as her struggle to establish an independent identity within the royal family obscures some of the Princess’s other interests such as art and the theatre. The Crown, like other works of historical fiction, emphasizes certain events and personality traits of public figures and obscures other aspects of their lives.
In Season 1 of The Netflix series, The Crown, Queen Elizabeth II succeeds to the throne in 1952, at the age of 25, and there are flashbacks and discussions of the challenges of her father’s reign: The Abdication Crisis of 1936 which brought George VI to the throne and the Second World War. In Season 2, the series explores Prince Philip’s childhood, dramatizing his family and education. In Season 2, Episode 2, a fictional Australian journalist asks him about his family’s exile from Greece, his mother’s nervous breakdown, his father’s abandonment of the family and his sisters’ connections to the Nazi party, prompting Philip to end the interview abruptly.
In Season 2 Episode 9, a remarkably well informed classmate at the Gordonstoun boarding school in Scotland bullies Philip about his family, stating most of the same details as the Australian journalist. Episode 9 also features flashbacks showing the death of Philip’s sister Cecile in a plane crash en route to a family wedding (there is no evidence that Philip’s father blamed him for this family tragedy as dramatized in the series) and the emotional support provided by Philip’s maternal uncle, Lord Mountbatten.
The Crown presents a particular image of Prince Philip as an exile and an outsider to elite society in Great Britain. This interpretation, as well as the time constraints of the series, necessitates leaving out other key figures from Prince Philip’s childhood, who would demonstrate that he moved in royal circles – both British and European – throughout his life. Here are 5 key figures from Prince Philip’s childhood who do not appear in The Crown on Netflix:
One of the most prominent figures in Prince Philip’s childhood was his maternal grandmother, Princess Victoria of Battenberg the Marchioness of Milford Haven. Victoria was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and was born at Windsor Castle (as was her eldest child, Prince Philip’s mother, Alice of Battenberg in 1885). While Philip was at school at Gordonstoun, Victoria’s apartments at Kensington Palace (dubbed “the aunt hill” by King Edward VIII because of the number of older members of the royal family who lived there), acted as a home for Philip, where he sometimes spent school holidays and kept his possessions. Victoria was a friend of Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother, Queen Mary and both women became godmothers to their great-grandson Prince Charles in 1948.
The best known of Philip’s maternal uncles is Lord Louis Mountbatten, who also enjoyed a close relationship with Prince Charles, making him an ideal figure of continuity in The Crown series. During Philip’s childhood, however, another maternal uncle, George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, also took an interest in Philip’s upbringing. George was a naval officer and mathematician with a strong interest in science and technology, which likely influenced Philip’s own intellectual curiosity. In Season 2 of The Crown, Philip demonstrates his own scientific interests by giving the Queen a detailed description of the workings of Suez Canal over dinner. George’s son, David Mountbatten was Prince Philip’s best man at his wedding, not Mike Parker, as shown in Season 1 of The Crown.
3&4–Patricia (1924-2017) and Pamela Mountbatten (1929-) Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife Edwina have a brief scene together in Season 2 of The Crown but their daughters, Patricia and Pamela do not appear onscreen. They were childhood friends of both Philip and Elizabeth and frequently appear in documentaries about the royal family. Patricia belonged to the palace girl guide troop where Elizabeth was a guide and Princess Margaret was a brownie. Pamela was a bridesmaid at Elizabeth and Philip’s wedding and accompanied the royal couple on Commonwealth tours in the 1950s as a lady-in-waiting. Pamela’s memoir, Daughter of Empire, provides a behind-the-scenes perspective on the overseas tours took place in Season 1 of the The Crown.
5 –King Michael of Romania (1921-2017) In Episode 10, Prince Philip’s cousin, Princess Marina of Greece, Duchess of Kent (the widow of Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle, the Duke of Kent) makes a brief appearance to complain about the noisy renovations to Princess Margaret’s apartment in Kensington Palace. Marina’s wedding is probably where the Queen and Prince Philip first met, before the famous 1939 tour of the Dartmouth Naval College.
Aside from the Duchess of Kent, Philip vast extended family from Greece and Denmark, which connected him to Europe’s other royal houses, is missing from the series. One of Philip’s cousins and childhood friends was King Michael of Romania (the son of Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark). Philip and Michael played together as children and Philip spent part of his Christmas holiday with Michael in 1936. Michael met his future wife Anne of Bourbon-Parma, who had been one of Philip’s kindergarten classmates, at Philip and Elizabeth’s wedding in 1947. Photos of Philip and Michael as children together are available to view on Marlene Koenig’s Royal Musings website.
Further Reading About Prince Philip’s Childhood:
Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life by Philip Eade
Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage by Gyles Brandreth
Further Reading About The Crown on Netflix
The Crown: The Official Companion: Volume 1 by Robert Lacey
Before the announcement that Prince Philip would be retiring from public life at the end of the summer, there was widespread speculation on social media that Buckingham Palace would be announcing his death on the morning of May 4 as members of the royal household gathered for an “eleventh hour” meeting.
There were also more optimistic theories including the idea that forthcoming renovations to Buckingham Palace would prompt an announcement that the Queen and Prince Philip were moving to Windsor Castle or Balmoral for an extended period of time. In an interview with University of Toronto news, I discuss the timeless fascination with events behind palace doors and how the internet has accelerated the spread of royal rumors.