Thoughts on ‘The Crown’ on Netflix

Thoughts on ‘The Crown’ on Netflix

I want to reiterate, because I think it’s important right now, not to be cruel to each other – on here, on other sites, in life in general. Please, let’s be better than that. With that said, here’s a hopefully feel good post I wrote a few days ago.

Have you guys been watching The Crown on Netflix? I’ve watched the entire series and I quite like it, but no one I know has seen the show so I have no one to talk about it with. And since it is royal related, I thought I’d talk about it here for the hell of it.

The Crown stars Claire Foy (Wolf Hall) as Queen Elizabeth II and Matt Smith (Doctor Who) as Prince Philip. The show’s first season, which features 10 episodes and is currently available on Netflix, follows Elizabeth from the point of her wedding to Philip through the death of her father and ascension to the throne, ending with Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) stepping down as Prime Minister and the end of Princess Margaret’s (Vanessa Kirby) relationship with Peter Townsend (Ben Miles).

They are currently moving ahead with a season 2. A lot has been made about the cost of this show, with reports saying that it was the most expensive show ever made with a rumored $156 million budget for two seasons. But creator Peter Morgan said: “It was $100 million for two seasons.”

Moving on to my thoughts. I would put The Crown in the middle of the pack of what I’ve seen from Netflix original series: it’s not as good as Stranger Things, Daredevil season 1 & the first half of season 2, or the first two seasons of House of Cards; but it’s better than the second two seasons of House of Cards, Jessica Jones, and the second half of Daredevil season 2.

The producers clearly put a lot of effort into making the show look as good as possible, and I must say the fashion is a big part of the show for me. The costumes were amazing. Some of the jewelry looked pretty fake but it was a good try on their part. And I thought the acting was mostly great – Foy was fantastic, and Lithgow and Alex Jennings (who played the Duke of Windsor) were stand outs.

If you are looking for a good period drama, then this show is a good one for you. But if you’re looking for a biography of the Queen, look somewhere else. The show is not entirely accurate – they get many factual things wrong, make up a lot of private conversations, and perpetuate the myth that Edward VIII abdicated purely for the love of Wallis Simpson and that it had nothing to do with the fact that they were both Nazi sympathizers. So if you’re the type of person to gripe at all of the inaccuracies, like Dickie Arbiter, then skip this show. But if you can overlook that to watch a really well done period drama, then give it a try.

Aside from the inaccuracies, I will say that the pacing and timeframe of the show is off. They do a good job telling you when you’re in the past, but when it’s the present time of the show they don’t do a good job of letting you know where you are in what year. Some episodes spans months, while others span days, so it’s hard to tell what month and year it is sometimes.

My only other gripe with the show is Matt Smith. I can’t help but see Matt Smith playing The Doctor playing Prince Philip. That’s not because I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who, but rather because Smith plays the two characters very similarly. There are many instances throughout the show where if Smith were saying lines written for The Doctor rather than lines written for Prince Philip there wouldn’t be a difference in performance at all.

But overall I very much enjoyed the show – I was able to overlook the inaccuracies and watch it as a period character drama. It’s quite moving at times, and I’m very much looking forward to season 2.

There as a presentation featuring costumes from the show with designer Michele Clapton at the ICA on October 17 in London. Here are some photos from that event of the costumes on the show.

These two were worn by Princess Margaret on the show.

57 thoughts on “Thoughts on ‘The Crown’ on Netflix

  1. Hi KMR, I’ve not had a chance to sit down and watch it but I will in the near future. I’m disappointed that it’s not completely factual but I’ve been on the look-out for a new period drama to fill the void that Downton Abbey left in my life. The costumes in the photos you’ve posted look so glamorous, why don’t we dress up like that anymore? 🙁

    1. Oh, Cat. Concerning the costumes, I agree. Why, indeed, don’t we dress like that now?
      Just so elegant and lovely. I have not seen the series, either. Thanks for the nice intro to it for me, KMR If I can, I will look out for it. Lately, I fall asleep in front of the television.

    2. I don’t know if you live in the states but Victoria (which I think is going to air in Jan) is supposed to fill the downtown void.
      I’m excited!!
      I read where the replica of the Queen’s wedding dress cost $3700 so I can believe a huge part of the budget went to clothing!
      When I see people dressed in their jammies at the airport I cringe and remember seeing movies when people got dressed up for the airport. We’ve taken comfy to a whole new level.

  2. I figured it wouldn’t be 100% accurate, especially the private conversations because there is no way they would get that from a direct source. That said, I enjoyed it as a costume drama and liked it better than Downton Abbey, because the latter got way too melodramatic.

    I also have to disagree about Matt Smith as Phillip. I felt he was different here and less flighty, which is how he played the Doctor. His Phillip was resentful, which isn’t a trait the Doctor had, and makes for an interesting interpretation of what the real life Phillip could have been like.

    But Claire Foy is really good and I can see her being nominated for awards. Same with Alex Jennings as the Duke of Windsor.

  3. I totally binged my way through. I love Claire Foy, and because I’ve never watched Doctor Who (I know, blasphemy) I quite like Matt Smith and his chemistry with Foy. And though I know that they infer so much, a lot of it fits with things that have been reported over the years. For instance, the scene in which Elizabeth tells Philip that they won’t be using Mountbatten, it seems quite similar to Philips comment about being “a bloody amoeba.” I love Alex Jenning’s portrayal of the Duke of Windsor, and even though she’s only in a few episodes Eileen Atkins as Queen Mary is brilliant. And the costuming! I know it’s not all real but I’m loving it anyway.

    1. I loved Foy and Smith together. I thought they had great chemistry together and I hope for more scenes with them in season 2. I’m not sure why the Duke of Windsor was given so much screen time but Jennings was great.

      1. Did you hear that starting in Season Three, there will be new actors, rather than aging Foy and Smith and the others? I was skeptical but it’s been confirmed by Peter Morgan. I’m sad because I really love the Queen/Prince Philip dynamic, particularly in how they let his (reportedly real-life) humor come through.

  4. I think it’s one of the best ‘royal’ interpretations I’ve ever seen. I can not recommend it highly enough. Apart from the wealth of stellar performances the costume, the sets, the music, the cast…….it’s all utterly brilliant. I cried my way through episode 2 when the magnitude of what was in front of her really hit home to me. Maybe for the first time I think it’s the closest I’ve ever been to understanding quite what her life was to become. For al the carping about privilege and wealth my God they all sacrificed so much and I never really thought of what the personal cost to them all was. I’m just surprised she didn’t have a breakdown with the enormity of it all.

    It really is the most beautiful piece of work, should win awards galore and I cannot wait for Season 2.

    1. Glad to know I wasn’t the only one who cried through the second episode! When the Queen ascended the throne, she was almost exactly my age, and I can’t imagine the weight of that burden on such a young person. I know times were different, but still, what a responsibility!

      I’ve wondered how accurate the parts about their marriage are. The Duke of Edinburgh seems like such a beacon of duty and tradition now, but the show makes him appear as though he wasn’t in his younger years.

      1. There are rumours he had affairs especially between Anne and Andrew. Andrew is reported to be the reconciliation baby, hence why he is the Queen’s favourite.
        I don’t think the series has reached the relevant time period because I was wondering if they would cover that.

        1. There have also been many rumours that Prince Andrew was Porchy’s. I think the Queen is very good at not confusing sex with love. And there are also some stories that the Royal couple had a very ‘active & healthy’ sexual relationship at the start of their marriage. If you get the chance I would really recommend Gyles Brandreth’s ‘Philip & Elizabeth’. He’s friendly with PP and his account of their early marriage is probably the most moving and believable of what I’ve read. Instead or two saints in an arranged, sexless marriage who only met to produce heirs he talks of a rumbustious loving, marriage with lots of ups and downs, quite literally. Xx

      2. Never will I ever begrudge them anything of their lifestyle. They’ve all paid a far higher price than I would ever / could ever. Even the scenes with the QM with her friends at the dinner table and again on the beach moved me to tears. And as for PM my God I knew her life had been tragic but for once I could feel the tragedy and agony and understand it rather than just accepting that it was a difficult life. No wonder she was such a difficult woman. Xx

      3. I cried (or got misty?) when she tells her uncle that she could have had an ordinary life as a country wife and mother.

  5. I haven’t finished the first season yet. What I have seen so far. I absolutely love it. Yes it is not historically accurate. Especially the private moments and conversations. I find it to visually stunning. The scope and the richness of the cinematic backdrop and wardrobe. The acting is superb. What is comes down to though is the weight of the Crown. Service and duty. I found a lot of the powerful scenes involving Princess and the King, as well as Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary. Separating yourself as a person and as King or Queen. The line of the death of Albert Windsor was powerful. In a sense, you die as your own person, to ascend as the Head of State. All and all I love it.

  6. It will be good for people who do not know QEII’s life story or know it well. For me, I’m up to speed and I don’t find her life story all that interesting for dramatising. The official story of the Queen is just not that interesting. And that’s how she wants it. It might become interesting when she passes and the secrets, if any come out.

    Otherwise, the Queen’s life from marriage to when her children became adults is a bit of a snoozefest!!! The excitement of the royals is everyone but her Majesty – her scandal prone kids, her relatives and hangers on.

    I might give it a miss. You can read the Wikipedia page of the Queen’s life and basically that covers it and is as exciting as it gets.

    1. I think you might be surprised. I’m pretty up to date with my history but this adds so much to the events. It really is very thought provoking and so beautifully done. Xx

  7. I don’t subscribe to cable or Netflix etc so won’t see it – in Australia there no other option that I am aware of – but from what I have read it is what an American friend called her Dr a “feel good”

    1. I don’t subscribe to netflix, however I hope that ‘The Crown’, will come on dvd. I am making do with Poldark at the moment and before that the drama about Victoria. From what I have seen of the trailer I am interested in the relationship between Margaret and Townsend. Claire Foy looks very much like the young Queen. I think from what I have seen of the trailer, Matt Smiths’ portrayal of Phillip does make him seem resentful. Even Phillip has made personal resentful remarks about the children not having his surname and walking behind his wife. The costumes look lovely and on the cover of the Radio Times it shows Claire Foy in a replica of the wedding dress.

      1. A side note. In ‘The Kings Speech’, there is a scene where the family are watching a newsreel of Germany. Margaret, played by the charismatic Ramona Marquez, says, “What is he saying”. Bertie admires the confidence, of the fuhrer. I like how the film sets up ‘The Crown’. KMR, the British version of The House of Cards is the best. I listened to the version on the radio and it chilled me.

        1. Oh yes! The British House of cards is fantastic– more subtle and so, to me, even more disturbing. After living through the suppression of Bernie it felt quite real.

          1. After studying ‘The Duchess of Malfi’, and ‘Othello’, I understood it when I listened to it. I think my class watched a bit in class. It was chilling as I said. I can’t watch some things. It is not because I am sensitive. Its just the subject matter is disturbing.

  8. I am watching it and am about half way through. I tell myself I can’t watch it unless I am on the treadmill! I am enjoying it but not as much as Downtown Abbey or Mr.
    Selfridge. The costumes are beautiful..

  9. I will get around to watching it, but I have a bunch of other shoes to watch first. I still haven’t watched The Night Manager yet. Has anyone watched Versailles? I caught two episodes of that and loved it!

    1. It didn’t get very good reviews in U.K. so I didn’t bother especially as War & Peace had been on slightly before and that was incredible. I tell you what is worth a watch if you can find it…..The Scandalous Lady W. the direction, set, costume, performances in that (Natalie Dormer) are BBC British drama at it’s finest.

    2. The night manager is wonderful and you should bump it up to the top of your queue! Tom hiddlestone was great but I loved Hugh Laurie as the bad guy! I’d love for there to be a season 2.
      I caught a couple episodes of Versailles and would say, if nothing else is on and you want to watch something category.

    3. I loved Versailles precisely because they appeared to be going for glam rock pop opera. They took real events and real people and went a different glam rock way.

      The Guardian’s TV recaps were worth the weekly viewing. They took the piss by reviewing each episode in franglais which suited the high camp absurdity of the thing.

      And the two phillipes, good phillipe (the King’s brother) and bad phillipe (his brother) were brilliant. The actor playing good phillipe was mesmering.

      All we needed was *Richard Chamberlain in a guest spot and it would have hit the sweet spot it was aiming for.

      * Richard Chamberlain is an actor better known for Alexandra Dumas adaptations in the late 70s and 80s. Also The Thorn birds tv series. He was typecast in those roles which were very camp.

      1. I will say the one thing a learned from the episodes I watched was about how phillipe was dressed in girl’s clothes Early on from his mother. I had to look that up to see if it was real.
        And the black nun myth as well.
        I was expecting something altogether different (more along the lines of Musketeers)and had a hard time reconciling reality vs theory.
        I liked the actor who played Louis when he was Adewald from the Vikings but his Louis didn’t do it for me. I agree about the Phillipe analysis (from what I saw) I love a good conflicted/duality personality. Also just reiterates that the spares have always struggled..

        1. Louis: You spent 50 thousand on shoes

          Good Phillipe: you should have seen the shoes


          Re: struggling spares. The sad thing was that Phillipe could have been a fantastic asset to Louis because he was intelligent, a good military commander and diplomat when given the opportunity, but he was marginalised and belittled at every turn.

          He is truly one of history’s what if……

  10. I am really loving the show. I keep forgetting that it’s John Lithgow. I never watched Matt as the Doctor, so he fits Phillip well for me. Claire is phenomenal. I don’t like that the only clue we get to what time we are in the present is at the very beginning. The costumes are fantastic.

  11. Haven’t watched it yet, but it’s on my cue. Will probably watch it this weekend. People I’ve heard from love it and I’m a sucker for a good show featuring royalty, entirely factual or not. Let’s just call it dramatic license and get out the popcorn!

  12. I loved it. I also liked how they made a point of separating the person from the monarch, and how Uncle David wasn’t willing to die for King Edward. I think that’s why they included so much of him in this series. And by not mentioning the Nazi thing (which Elizabeth wouldn’t have known about) her decision about Margaret’s marriage makes more sense with a living example of dereliction of duty in front of her. Her mother’s constant comments that had Uncle David made that personal sacrifice, her own father would still be alive just emphasized that.

    I sometimes saw Dr. Who in Phillip playing with his children, but they did make a point of showing his dedication to them, so I could go with it. Matt Smith got some of the mannerisms just right, the way Phillip stands and scratches his nose, for example.

    My biggest gripe is from one of the stills above. They’ve got the Queen posing in the Cambridge crotch clutch position. Nooooo, please don’t perpetuate this myth that Kate has got it right. In fact, it’s like the words, “all right”. If you read older grammar books, all right is always two words — same logic as a lot. People stopped fussing about it about 20 years ago, and now even editors think it’s alright (I hate that term… can you tell?). When the hands are in front of the body, they should be raised closer to the diaphragm than the genitals.

    I remember seeing a bit of the filming of Downton abbey and Julian whatsisname was directing an extra in how to position herself. She was all dressed up in period gear and looking respectable, so she naturally put her hands in the CCC position — I imagine she thought it was correct because of the proliferation of photos and good press Kate had received — and Julian corrected her, saying to never do that with her hands and to lift them up (to about mid-corset level, I think). Okay. Rant over. Back to topic… The Crown is great fun. I’m going to watch it again to just gaze at the sets and costumes.

    1. Two things: 1) The “Doctor” in “Doctor Who” is a name not a title so it’s never abbreviated. 2) The woman in the photographs were models modeling the clothes, not the actors who played the characters so I give them a pass on their stance.

      1. That’s why she didn’t look like Claire Foy. I assumed it was my tired, middle-aged eyes not focusing well. Good catch on the Doctor/Dr thing — my fingers just went into habitual abbreviation.

  13. I haven’t read the comments yet. Will come back when I have more than a 5 minute break at work. I watched the entire season in 2 days. I really like it. For me, it’s like Downton Abbey on another level. I’m not a huge history buff so it’s been good at getting me to google the events and learn about it. I’m torn between being able to watch it all in one sitting and having episodes released weekly. On the one hand, I get to watch it all. On the other, now I have to wait til the next season is out. I like the idea that this is supposed to be 6 seasons to bring it up to present day. I like learning about the behind the scenes stuff… even if it could he partly fictional. There are also certain things that make me think “hmm…. maybe that’s why Kate is like that”. Thumbs up from me.

    1. I think we might see more of that (why Kate is the way she is) in subsequent seasons. She could well be using Charles’ rumored annoyance at Diana’s popularity as an excuse to rusticate in Norfolk. And her unwillingness to speak? It’s not that she has nothing to say or is a piss-poor public speaker, it’s how she interprets her role as being the adjunct of dignity.

  14. I loved The Crown! I thought the casting of Princess Margaret was particularly good. It did become more enjoyable when I stopped trying to draw correlations between what I was watching and the actual history. I think it’s better just to enjoy it as a show and then research the bits that are particularly interesting. I think one of the great things about historical dramas is not that they are necessarily accurate but that they can inspire people to undertake their own study of the subject.

    The big surprise for me was that it’s not really about Queen Elizabeth as I thought it would be. I think they’ve accomplished something better in making it truly about the crown. It’s more like Elizabeth is the center of the wheel and all the spokes, Philip, Margaret, her mother, father, Churchill, etc. are all the spokes coming out and revolving around, not her, but the crown. You could even argue that Elizabeth Windsor is one of those spokes revolving around the crown.

    1. I agree with your analysis on historical inaccuracies! I used to be such a stickler for the facts but then realized that if the show got some people interested enough to look into things further, then that was actually something in itself.
      I hate to admit that I actually really liked the showtime show The Tudors and that was riddled with historical inaccuracies. Some great actresses came out of that tho, Natalie dormer and Maria Doyle Kennedy are some of my favs.

      1. I love The Tudors! Natalie Dormer is my favorite and Maria Doyle Kennedy was amazing. I’m also a big fan of Philippa Gregory’s books.

      2. Despite my rant below, I do enjoy historical dramas and I can overlook historical inaccuracies if the larger theme is properly done.

        The Tudors works because the social history is pretty accurately rendered.

        Elizabeth starring Cate Blanchett is another terrific rendering of political reality whilst not being strictly accurate in it’s history.

        Ditto Anne of a thousand days starring Richard Burton.

        Ditto Victoria / Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt and Jenna Coleman.

        The Crown has been hyped so much and for me it disappoints on all fronts. It felt like it couldn’t decide if it was entertainment or docu-drama. The inability to sit in either genre made it impossible to suspend disbelief to overlook all the production inaccuracies.

  15. I’m with Dickie Arbiter.

    I couldn’t get past the first episode. I found so many inaccuracies on all fronts that i couldn’t suspend disbelief. This is a glossy 80s style costume drama with shoddy accuracy to match. In all departments. Complete with a giant Churchill trying to make himself smaller, wrong protocol every time, wrong production design backdrops, costumes, jewels, and 5-6yr old kids standing in for Charles and Anne who would have been 3yrs old at his oldest when George 6 died.

    It’s inexplicable when much of this is in the public domain or perhaps they didn’t want to use a historian to check accuracy.

    The Queen had the same production team and writers and producers and directors, so they’ve already had a trial run of sorts. On a fraction of the cost. Where did this one go so wrong?

    And the dialogue felt like a history lesson. People kept giving giving background information instead of either just living it or cutting out an unnecessary character whose presence was only a scene and only to give out the history lesson.

    Victoria does a better job on a fifth of the budget of this production. Accurate and entertaining and grand enough.

    Or perhaps they should just go full camp like Versailles and be done with it.

    All this to say, very disappointed and definitely wouldn’t recommend.

    1. I saw Versailles and Victoria mentioned previous too. I’ve never heard of them. I guess we don’t have them in Canada yet. I will have to check them out!

    2. I think you are being very harsh and judgmental. It is a series for entertainment, not a history lesson. And Arbiter as an arbiter??? Please! Down with the little grey men!

  16. I binge watched this over the weekend. I could not put it down. As an American living in the Pacific Northwest, and largely unfamiliar with Royalty (other than what i read in history books and tabloids) here are my takeaways.

    1. I didn’t realize how much the abdication shook the Royal Family and informed all of it’s decisions for years and years afterwards. It influenced the Queen’s treatment of Margaret and it was like the Royals had to make up for the failure of Edward. Also, the public obsession with “the end of the monarchy” is an old one. And it’s something the Royals are obsessed with too. It’s weird relationship.

    2. Tommy Lascelles-I thought Queen Elizabeth was the boss. Do these Courtiers really have that much power?

    3. Their decisions regarding public sentiment is really hit or miss. The public would not have cared if Queen Elizabeth stood by her sister getting married to Townsend. Again, this goes back to Edward.

    4. Didn’t know the Queen was so poorly educated.

    1. Re #3: My grandmother was a contemporary in age and in upper-class upbringing in the Commonwealth and from her opinion, the positioning for the mid-’50s Britain regarding religion and the Queen was spot on. It seems so different now but the ’60s changes hadn’t happened yet and even those took longer to bleed into the peerage. The actress who plays Margaret met a man whose parents were friends of Margaret in the ’70s, and they married in the Church even though he was divorced. By his account she was still bitter 20 years later that the Archbishop and queen had been so unwilling to be progressive. But she was really ahead of her time

      I’m in the PNW too, Portland to be exact!

    2. I think the inclusion of Lascelles was to show how people were really patronizing to Elizabeth. She was 25, she was A WOMAN, they didn’t really respect her and tried to run roughshod over her.

    3. #1. The obsession with ‘the end of the monarchy’ has been around since the beginning. It’s a recurring theme/fear of all monarchies.
      At least in modern times, they don’t fear bloody endings.

      #2. A weak monarch is always in danger of a powerful/manipulative courtier. That has always been the way. See Rasputin. Mind you, every leader has to assert themselves or else they fall to the machinations of their courtiers even if they are presidents or boss of a company.

      #3. Exactly. Yet I think they should try to have some idea of public mood and or have a very good PR machinery to influence the mood in their favour.

      #4. She’s of a class that didn’t believe in educating women to a high degree since they were always looked after and were only required to make good marriages and birth heirs. Yet I think she was educated as far as was required for her future role. To that end, whilst she didn’t go to university or have a high school level education in the conventional sense, she was home schooled to a very high degree, if not university level, in such things as Constitutional law, history and languages eg French.

      Philip was properly badly educated in that he stopped at high school, an *experimental one at that, before joining the Navy.

      *He was one of the earliest intakes into the newly opened Gordonstoun school whose education philosophy was centred around spartan physical exercise and community spirit than intellectual pursuits.

      It has since devolved into a really good public school and the spartan regime has been relaxed somewhat.

  17. I was going to post this earlier and forgot, but doing more reading while watching the show made me wonder more about Philip and how his early life may have affected his marriage. It’s well-known that he has a companionable relationship with other women (I, personally, disbelieve the rumors that they are sexual). But his father emotionally separated from his mother throughout his early childhood and then had her committed in secret one day while the children were away. And then he left the family for a mistress. What kind of separation issues would that have necessarily caused for Philip, and what kind of model for a marriage and emotional intimacy? I can see some push/pull for him in wanting the stability and loving family that Elizabeth came from but also having a difficult time opening to that. And then compounding that with deference to her role, and the changes he imagined of what his life would have been had her father had lived another twenty years? Oy. And then seeing that bleed to another generation and Charles would have reacted with his own set of coping skills, and then on to William. It doesn’t excuse poor behavior, particularly for William, but it is certainly interesting.

  18. I am savoring this one, and have made it through the first two episodes. So far I am really enjoying it. I like the way it has a long plot arc and moves slowly enough to show the subtleties of the situation.

    Jared Harris’ Christmas scene got me a little choked up!

    Looking forward to watching more and discussing it here.

    PS — I want the clothes!! <3

  19. Dear KMR,
    Thank you for reminding to the community to stay courteous in our comments. I appreciate you effort to privilege wit over lame comments!
    Let’s practice our Marquise de Sévigné spirit! Madame de Sévigné lived in the XVII century!
    I highly recommend the reading of her letters! They are so much fun and so inspiring.
    My favorite letter is the one she sent to Madame de Coulange to let her know that “the Grande Mademoiselle” is getting married. In the Google Book edition, it is the letter 2 of the whole series addressed to Madame de Coulange. You can find it page 370.

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