victoria + the crown

victoria + the crown

It’s taken me a while, thanks to the fact that it took so long for the DVD to be released, but at long last, I’ve seen The Crown! My sister Anna got Season 1 for Christmas while I got my own copy of Victoria‘s Season 1. We’ve been very busy “Queening,” as Matt Smith’s Prince Philip would say. And we watched them chronologically: Victoria first (a re-watch for us two, but our parents’ first time) and then The Crown (a first for all of us).

The two shows are very different. Victoria is lighter and brighter, the characters are (for the most part) endearing, and the early 19th century guarantees a fascinating mix of Jane Austen-esque romance and the thunder of social and industrial progress. The Crown, on the other hand, is far more gritty and far more serious, the characters are subtle and complex (and sometimes morally ambiguous), and shows in stark detail the fight for optimism and stability in post-WWII England.

That said, I love both series, and I think they compliment each other beautifully. And I can’t help but enjoy the comparisons and contrasts between the three most prominent characters in each series. Which is what this post is about. Enjoy 😀

The Queens: Victoria and Elizabeth

victoria elizabeth

Victoria is opinionated and high-spirited; Elizabeth is soft-spoken and laid back. Victoria had a miserable childhood, surrounded by people who wanted to control her; Elizabeth grew up in a close-knit family and never had to wonder whether her parents loved her. Victoria becomes Queen before she marries. Elizabeth is married with two children by the time she becomes Queen.

Neither of them, however, were “supposed” to be Queen–yet they’re the longest reigning monarchs in English history (Elizabeth has reigned 65 years at the time of this writing; Victoria reigned for 63). Both women struggle to navigate the turbulent waters of court life, marriage, and Constitutional monarchies. Both women grow up and mature through their series.

I relate to Elizabeth in many ways: she’s the big sister, the reserved one, the hard worker who lights up when she talks about her hobbies and interests yet often fears she’s incurably boring. But I relate to Victoria too: very rarely do I have a lukewarm opinion about anything, I’ve had to defy my John Conroys, and I, too, have fought the lie that because I’m “small” I can’t make much of a difference.  I’m inspired by Elizabeth’s calm common sense and determination when everything around her is chaos, and I’m inspired by Victoria’s strength and courage even when everyone else tries to tear her down.

The Consorts: Albert and Philip

albert philip

I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of the Queens’ husbands. I find them exasperating. Here are two men who knew they were marrying Queens (or future Queens) and that they’d have to be subject to their wives to a certain extent…and they get all hot and bothered about it. I don’t get it. Did nobody prepare these men for those roles?

Philip infuriates me. He’s spiteful and immature, he rarely supports Elizabeth, he’s cruel to her, he ogles every waitress and stewardess within sight, and he almost loses his  mind over the idea of kneeling to his wife in a centuries-old ceremony saturated with tradition and ritual. It’s. A. Ceremony. She’s not asking you to kneel when you sit down for dinner. “Wellllll he considers it an affront of his manhood–” Umm, no my dude, he’s just a big fat jerk.  I hope he’s better in real life :/

Albert, on the other hand, is really and truly a good man. He’s principled, he genuinely loves Victoria, and he wants to use his position and influence as Prince Consort for compassionate and meaningful purposes. He still irritates me sometimes with his tactlessness, and he and Victoria argue a lot–BUT!! They both put a LOT of effort into making their marriage work. That’s something you don’t really see with Philip and Elizabeth. (Which is so sad because Elizabeth would absolutely blossom if Philip would be nice to her a little more often.)

The Prime Ministers: Lord Melbourne and Winston Churchill*

*any and all fangirling has been edited so as not to damage the reputation of the Authoress

melbourne churchill

Detach yourself for a moment, if you will, from Victoria and The Crown, and consider the actual history of these two queens. Both Victoria and Elizabeth were extremely vulnerable when they ascended to the throne. They had little to no idea of what they were doing. That’s why I don’t think it’s an accident (looking at history from a providential standpoint) that Lord Melbourne and Winston Churchill were their first prime ministers.

Historians have sliced their relationship in so many different ways it’ll make your head spin, but pretty much everybody who’s anybody agrees that Lord Melbourne did love Victoria, gave her her first real schooling in politics, and built up her confidence. Churchill, similarly, provided Elizabeth with a stable, familiar, and encouraging presence: she’d known him since her childhood, and even when they disagreed she knew he loved and cared about her.

Victoria and Elizabeth needed these kindhearted, influential figures in their early days as Queens, and (returning back to our shows) I think Victoria and The Crown both portray that very well. Their heartbreaking goodbyes are definitely the most emotional scenes for me–and I’m not at all ashamed to say that Churchill and Melbourne are my favorite characters.

Other Supporting Characters

The parallel situations and characters keep coming: difficult mothers, constitutional conundrums, intense family squabbles over who deserves what titles, villains (in Victoria, the Duke of Cumberland–and in The Crown, the Duke of Windsor), and outlandish siblings (Albert’s brother Prince Ernest, and Elizabeth’s sister Princess Margaret). Victoria also features a Downton Abbey-esque “upstairs-downstairs” element with her servants; The Crown doesn’t have an exact parallel here, but it does focus some on the secretaries of Elizabeth, Philip, and Churchill.

queens

In conclusion, Victoria and The Crown should definitely be watched together. In spite of the inevitable instances of historical/artistic license, you get a good grasp of both Queens and what they faced in the early days of their long reigns. And if you want to be absolutely overwhelmed with historical feelings, listen to what Winston Churchill actually said at the end of his eulogy to Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI (and then watch the corresponding scene from The Crown):

“Famous have been the reigns of our queens. Some of the greatest periods in our history have unfolded under their sceptre. Now that we have the second Queen Elizabeth, also ascending the Throne in her twenty-sixth year, our thoughts are carried back nearly four hundred years to the magnificent figure who presided over and, in many ways, embodied and inspired the grandeur and genius of the Elizabethan age…I, whose youth was passed in the august, unchallenged and tranquil glories of the Victorian era, may well feel a thrill in invoking once more the prayer and the anthem, ‘God save the Queen!’

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2 Replies to “victoria + the crown”

  1. Ok, you have to watch Season 2 of the Crown, though be careful with episode 6. The other episodes are fairly clean.
    But my absolute favorite moment in the entire series is the episode covering Prince Charles being sent to boarding school.
    Philip is adamant Charles attend the same school he attended, and the episode is layered with flashbacks to Philips childhood. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking. I mean, you can research what happened, it awful and terrible, but the episode plays it so well. It shows why Philip is what he is, with the backdrop of his choices throughout season 2.

    Season 2 is so painful for Elizabeth and Philip, but it ends with them coming to realize how much they do need each other. I think season 3 is going to show how strong their marriage really is as they enter the turmoil of the 70s – Margaret’s divorce and Charles spiral into philandering. And then Margaret Thatcher is elected!!!
    We also have Elizabeth’s and Philips history – they’ve been married 70 years! I think showing their early struggled shows how strong their relationship really became.

    Can you tell I’m excited for season 3? Also, Helena Bonham Carter is going to play Princess Margaret! (Though I can’t stand Margaret – I think she’s the real villain, haha)

    Also, I really love the Duke of Windsor. He and Elizabeth have such an interesting relationship & season 2 really, really delves into it. I don’t think of him as a villain at all. He’s not trying to steal the crown, he’s the family black sheep. He really just wants acceptance.

    1. Hi, Elizabeth! Thanks for commenting!

      I’m really looking forward to seeing Season 2! Especially the episodes with the Kennedys, and Billy Graham. Unfortunately I have neither TV nor Internet capable of streaming whole episodes, so I’ll have to wait for the DVD. But I have heard promising things about Philip and Elizabeth’s relationship by the end of Season 2. I just hope he’s not nearly as cruel to her in real life. Some of it has been so painful to watch 🙁

      I’ve been doing some research today about some of the historical accuracies/inaccuracies of The Crown, though, and I’m very disappointed with the way the Queen Mother (one of my longtime heroines) has been portrayed. She wasn’t the manipulative, harsh woman the series has made her out to be at all. It’s upsetting to think that people who may not have known much about her now have this image of her in their head, when in fact she was an optimistic, loving, active woman of strong faith. It’s one thing to use some historical/artistic license to increase dramatic tension or make the story flow better, but that doesn’t give the writers leeway to completely butcher a real person’s character and history.

      Good point about Margaret being the real villain of the series! She’s so spiteful–and apparently she really could be quite nasty in real life. Yikes!

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