We’re catching up with The Crown, via (I think) Netflix. I’d avoided it up till now, because I have virtually no interest in the British Royal Family, or in any royalty at all after Olaf I of Norway (see https://bernardjporter.com/2020/10/13/kung-olaf/), and am bored and irritated by our popular press’s unhealthy obsession with it. I was also rather put off the royals by my mother’s near worship of the Queen Mother (Queen Mary?). When my mother died I found dozens of pictures of her (the Queen Mum) cut from the Daily Mail, religiously preserved because she (my Mum) thought they were valuable. That was although she’d got rid of all my early Eagle comics, from the very first issue, which – had she known it – would have fetched a small fortune today. She also embarrassed me when Queenie visited my school and Mum broke through a cordon and ran into the street to tap at the window of her car as she departed. All my friends knew whose mother she was. Imagine!
But people kept telling me how good The Crown was, so we started watching it. It’s now filling our long Nordic nights. We’re up to Suez, so with lots more to come. And I must admit I’m thoroughly taken by it. Not as history – I found lots to quarrel with there – but as sheer soap opera. For those who haven’t seen it – and there can’t be many of you – it’s not really about ‘the Crown’, but about the personal lives of those who live in its shadow. Marriages, divorces and ‘affairs’ make up most of it (so far). The acting is superb, as is the dialogue. I wonder how much of that was the Royals’ themselves, and how much is down to the series’ scriptwriters? A lot of it must be embarrassing for the surviving Royals and their hangers-on to watch, and even potentially libellous. It’s certainly not particularly ‘respectful’ of them. Philip comes out of it as rather stupid and ‘blokeish’. But that’s hardly a surprise. Macmillan isn’t as impressive as I remember him; and Attlee is ignored almost completely. But on the whole the writers have made a good – or at least a watchable – job of all the ‘great and the good’ (a.k.a. ‘nobs’) of those pre-Beatles years.
The Queen comes over wonderfully; which I’m happy with, as I’m a bit of an admirer of hers. (She’s the only one.) I fell for her after meeting – being ‘presented to’ – her at a Historians’ function many years ago. I’d drunk several glasses of dry sherry before she reached our group, which I didn’t think mattered as she wouldn’t be capable of any intelligent conversation with me. (‘They’re all inbred.’) She asked me what I worked on, and I told her in simple words that I thought she’d understand; only to be taken aback by a very insightful supplementary question she put to me. I think it was about British-American relations. So I shook the alcoholic fuzz from my head, or tried to, and treated her to a long lecture on the subject. You can see how fascinated she was from this official photo. (Actually, everyone says she doesn’t photograph well.) I’m the second from the left, in Professor Donald Read’s (literal) shadow. I’ve kept that picture hidden from nearly everyone since then. Even Kajsa was only allowed to see it after we’d been together for ten years. Now I reckon it can cause me no more embarrassment.
OK, soap opera. But isn’t that what the Royal Family basically is? Eastenders with sparkly hats.