It took a little while to realize, but back in December, I guess I had so much to write about that I never had a chance to write about something I’d seen recently that I loved. That thing that I loved? The series “The Crown” on Netflix. I think I mentioned it briefly back in December, but never wrote about it. Of course, here in March saying that I love “The Crown” feels like telling you that I love “The Godfather” and feeling smug, because the Crown has already started winning awards.
Basically, if you haven’t watched the The Crown yet, it’s fascinating. It follows the story of Queen Elizabeth II of England from the time of her marriage through the 1950s – essentially the first 10 years of her reign/marriage. Seeing the dynamic between the new Queen and her first Prime Minister Winston Churchill was fascinating. And John Lithgow is so good as Churchill. The Boy and I watched it together, and as an Englishman he was able to point out different historical things to me and say, “Oh yeah – I remember learning about that”. Things that I never knew since Americans tend not to focus a lot on modern world history, or even much modern history in the United States (I remember racing through WWII to the modern era when I took AP US History in high school).
So if you haven’t watched the Crown yet (it’s on Netflix), I highly recommend it. But it’s not the only royalty-themed television programming we’ve been watching lately.
Last summer while we were in London, we would put the girls to bed at night and then be a little bored. Too much time to devote solely to reading, so we tried watching a few of our shows as they were happening, and we also started watching at least one new show. That “new” one? The White Queen. It aired on Starz back in 2013, and it seemed an appropriate show at the time since it focused on British history and the War of the Roses. We only watched the first episode (which was essentially a movie), but it stayed on our radar.
When winter rolled around and we were looking for shows to watch, we remembered The White Queen and picked it back up. It’s definitely slow and dramatic, and yet is simultaneously too fast paced and over-the-top. We sit next to each other as we watch it (we’re about halfway through at this point, picking up episodes when we have time and aren’t invested in something else), and occasionally go – “Wait, how much time is supposed to have passed in this episode?” The historical inaccuracies are little distracting to history nerds like us too – the Boy keeps commenting on the style of castle and building that they’re in. He wonders about materials and if a certain style of decor (like the use of rugs) would even have been in use at that time. As a historical fashion nerd, I wonder about the costumes and try to decide just how anachronistic they are.
It’s still a fun show, it’s just not as high quality or production value as The Crown.
There is a show that we started recently that does match the production value of The Crown, despite it being Netflix’s most expensive original programming. That show is Victoria, which is airing on PBS during Masterpiece. It is gorgeous. The story begins with young Victoria ascending to the throne, and then struggling with maintaining her power despite her youth in the face of a mother (and her companion) who doesn’t believe she is ready to lead, a prime minister who seems to take advantage of her affection for him, and various relatives who are ready to step in at any moment.
I was likely to love this show from the beginning. I think Jenna-Louise Coleman who plays Victoria is adorable, and have enjoyed her from back in the days as a Doctor Who companion. One of my favorite movies is The Young Victoria, and I love the love story of Victoria and Albert. So the costumes and the pageantry of it all is just so good. But again, this is one that is not without issue. Too many of the episodes at the beginning of the series make it out like the young Queen Victoria is having a love-affair with Lord Melbourne who was her Prime Minister. We know that she was writing to Prince Albert and was thinking of him as a potential husband even before she became the queen, so to separate the two and make it out like she had serious feelings towards “Lord M” is sort of ridiculous. I think I spent the first two episodes shrieking to the Boy about historical anachronism in plot.
Oh well. We can’t have everything we want all the time. Not every show can be The Crown. But for an Anglophile like myself, it’s nice that there are so many options of shows to watch which tell the stories of the British monarch at different points in history.