Why The Crown Is Way More Than A Disney Fairy Tale Love Story

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
The Crown, Netflix's upcoming glittery binge-watch about the early days of Queen Elizabeth II's reign, begins with a wedding. Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark renounces "his Greek nationality and all foreign titles," becoming Lt. Philip Mountbatten, in order to marry Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth, heir to the British throne. It's an obvious love match. Elizabeth started corresponding with Philip when she was just 13 and he was an 18-year-old naval officer. No one wanted her to marry him — he was poor, exiled royalty, and considered an unfit consort for one who would be Queen of England. But she put her foot down, and the two wed on November 20, 1947. Five years later, in 1952, King George VI died suddenly after a brief struggle with lung cancer, and Elizabeth ascended the throne, much earlier than either she or Philip had planned. The Crown shows the strain her coronation places on their relationship, as Elizabeth struggles with wanting to be a model 1950s wife to her strong-willed husband, while having to also be his monarch. Philip, on the other hand, must come to terms with the idea that he won't be able to have the career or life he's dreamed of. He must give it up to support his wife as royal consort, a role traditionally associated with women. So, while The Crown begins on a happy occasion, it ends on a pretty tense note. We sat down with Claire Foy and Matt Smith to discuss the royal relationship, and whether or not this is actually a love story.

One thing that comes up throughout the series is Elizabeth's struggle between her life as a wife and mother, and her duties as a queen. What was that like to play?
Claire Foy: “I think it takes a huge amount of forgetting how easy it is for us now. I know it sounds silly, but...just to have an opinion. Looking back, you forget that at that period of time people weren't quite so in control of their own lives. They didn't have the expectations of their life that we do now and so I think for Elizabeth, it's a very different scenario, because obviously, she knew she was going to be Queen. But I think her ambition was her family and her husband. And you very clearly got that from what she did. That she really, genuinely, very eagerly went with [Philip] to Malta and supported him in his career and just stayed at home and went to the shops, had her hair done — loved it. [She] wanted to put on the parties; wanted to be the dutiful wife and wanted to support his career. Then, all of sudden, that's taken away. And you sort of don't have an option. Now, we have a choice and we can say, 'I want to do this, and I want to do this,' but then, there was no choice.”
Philip lost his chosen career and his identity (in a way) when she was crowned. How do you think he lived with that kind of strain? Matt Smith: “I think he found it difficult. This series explores conflict, and it makes him really interesting. [He has] great love and affection towards her, but also the difficulty of being emasculated in his role as husband and head of the family. [He] lost his name, lost his job. He lost everything that defined him, in many ways; I think he became undefinable to himself. So, you know, I think it made him reactionary. Which makes him really interesting to play. I think he found it really hard, but he's been very dutiful, as well." The series ends with them in a very difficult place. C.F.: “Yeah, it does. It doesn't get any better." M.S.: “I really hope by the end of it, you sort of really engage in that love story about them, and you want them to sort it out and get together."
Do you think this is a love story? MS: “Yeah, I do. I think at its heart, there is a great love story there.” C.F.: “It's a real one. It's not an imagined, Disney version because, actually, that is not reality. As much as we all think it is, that's not real. This is a real love story of people who deeply, deeply love each other. And hate each other. And respect each other.” M.S.: “And find it really hard to love each other, as well.” C.F.: "Yeah, it's a marriage. It's trying to have a marriage, and a family, and a life. That's why we don't behave perfectly. You can't sympathise with both characters all the time. There are some scenes where you're just like, 'Oh, shut up,' about either of them, or 'Why did you say that? What are you doing?' And knowing that that's the impact it's gonna have. You can just see the erosion of their relationship when you watch it — especially after Episode 7. You just watch it and go 'Oooooh.'" M.S.: “Really.” C.F.: “But you can't stop it — because that's the evolution of it. And it has to go that way for it to have a renaissance, I suppose. But, yeah, it's a real story. Which is why it's so amazing to do the scenes.” The Crown premieres on Netflix on November 4th. Grab a plastic tiara, brew some tea, and get your royal on.

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