The doors may have finally closed at Downton Abbey, but now, thanks to #Netflix, we'll be able to peer into the lives of fancy British people once more. This time, we'll delve into a retelling of the life of Queen Elizabeth II, the current queen of the United Kingdom and the longest reigning monarch in the history of the Great Britain.
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With a staggering budget of £100 million (about $125 million) — making it the most expensive show Netflix has ever made — #TheCrown is slated to have six seasons of 10 episodes each. Each season will follow a different time period of Elizabeth's life, beginning with her marriage in the late '40s and her coronation in 1953 in Season 1.
Show creator Peter Morgan told the Telegraph:
"[The Crown looks at] the terrible impact becoming queen had on her and all her relationships."
The queen herself is uninvolved in the project, despite Morgan admitting she is most definitely aware of its existence. Without her contribution, most of the scenes that take place behind closed doors must be largely speculation on Morgan's part. But in general just how historically accurate will The Crown be? To find out, let's take a look back on the early life of #ElizabethII.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born on April 21, 1926, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York, who would later become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother). She and her younger sister Margaret were educated by private tutors, and young Elizabeth — nicknamed "Lilibet" — grew up free of the pressures of being the heir presumptive to the crown.
After the death of her grandfather, King George V, in 1936, the crown then passed to Elizabeth's uncle, King Edward VII. Edward ruled for just 326 days before abdicating the throne in order to marry his true love, an American divorcee by the name of Wallis Simpson. Their scandalous romance has already been immortalized on the big screen in the 2011 movie W.E.
When Elizabeth's father ascended the throne, her life changed forever as she became the heir presumptive to the British crown. When World War II broke out in 1939, she served with the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the female branch of the British Army at the time.
A Royal Romance
Princess Elizabeth was 13-years-old the first time she met Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, the 18-year-old exiled prince, serving in the British Royal Navy. Smitten with one another from the very beginning, the two began writing letters to one another and continued to do so throughout World War II. The pair were distant relatives — third cousins through Queen Victoria and second cousins once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark.
Elizabeth's father initially opposed the match because, despite being of royal blood, Philip was not particularly wealthy, and some people found his outspoken personality to be abrasive. Nevertheless, the princess was steadfast in her decision. She told her parents:
“Philip is an angel. We behave as though we had belonged to each other for years.”
When Philip proposed in 1946, Elizabeth immediately accepted — without consulting her parents. The King and Queen required their daughter to wait and reflect on the decision, but their love was unwavering. Philip renounced his royal titles and became naturalized as a British subject, adopting the last name Mountbatten. They were married on November 20, 1947 at Westminster Abbey in London.
In the autumn of 1947, Britain was still recovering from the aftermath of World War II. The queen collected clothing coupons to acquire fabric for her gown. Women from all over the country even sent their coupons to Elizabeth as donations, but these were very tactfully returned, as the queen was lucky enough to receive a bonus of 200 additional coupons from the government.
Heavy Is The Crown
After their marriage, Philip was stationed with the navy in Malta, and the pair lived there quite happily from 1949 to 1951. It was during this time that both Prince Charles and Princess Anne were born. But when King George VI fell ill and passed away in February 1952, Elizabeth's life was forever altered.
Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953, at just 27 years old. As shown in the trailer for The Crown, her coronation and status did put a strain on the marriage between Elizabeth and Philip. He abandoned his military post in order to stay by her side as prince consort. Among other complaints, when the royal children took Elizabeth's surname Windsor, he reportedly whined:
"I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children."
When Elizabeth acceded the throne, her younger sister — the beautiful and outgoing Princess Margaret — was 22. After the war, Margaret had fallen in love with a man named Peter Townsend, who had recently divorced his wife. Townsend proposed to the princess in early 1953, but like with her uncle King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, most of the government disapproved of the princess marrying a divorced man. Eventually, Margaret decided not to go through with the marriage.
Despite having the limited political power of a constitutional monarch, the queen is nonetheless expected to confer with members of the government, particularly with the prime minister. At the time of Elizabeth II's coronation, Winston Churchill was serving his second term as Prime Minister (1951 – 1955), with his first having taken place during WWII (1940 – 1945). The legendary statesman had had a close friendship and working relationship with Elizabeth's parents.
While The Crown trailer shows a particular tense confrontation between Churchill and the young queen, historically, the two had a famously favorable relationship. When later asked which PM had been her favorite to meet with, the queen replied:
"Winston of course, because it was always such fun."
The Crown is available for streaming on Netflix now.