The first time we see Prince Philip on The Crown, he's renouncing his identity to marry Elizabeth Windsor. By the end of the season, he's desperately struggling to wrestle it back from Queen Elizabeth II.
Netflix's gorgeous drama about the early days of Queen Elizabeth II's reign, which premiered on November 4, focuses a great deal on the monarch's relationship with her husband as he strives — and often fails — to adjust to life in his wife's shadow. It couldn't have been easy for a royal man raised in the early 20th century to bow to his wife. Philip had to give up his career, freedom, and even his name when Elizabeth ascended the throne. But to be honest, he's kind of a dick about it. He gets drunk and parties a lot, conducts his royal duties under protest, and generally acts like a petulant child, despite, as he is reminded by the Dowager Queen Elizabeth, having the most freedom of any consort in history. Philip has also gained a bit of a reputation IRL for his lack of, ahem, political correctness, something the series, to it's credit, has not shied away from. For a complete list of his many many social transgressions, check out this list of his top 90 gaffes.
Fans of the show have already taken to Twitter to sound off on what they think of the young Prince Philip.
So...not great. We asked Matt Smith, who plays Philip so masterfully on the show, what he thinks of fans perceiving Philip as an asshole. “He's not!!" the actor exclaimed in an interview with Refinery29. "He's a rock star. He's a maverick. He's kind, he's witty, he's groovy. He's the sort of alien of the group who says everything and he does say things that he shouldn't." Claire Foy, his co-star, agrees. “I don't think anyone could think he's an asshole from the show," she says. Gesturing at Smith, she added: "You can completely see where your frustration and your pain comes from.”
It's true. The show does a stellar job at showing us how difficult it must have been for a man of Philip's generation — and let's be honest, even this one — to give up his own hopes and dreams for his wife. The perception that he's an asshole stems from a very modern belief that men, like women, should be able to step back to support their partner in career endeavors. But that doesn't mean it's easy.
In the last scene of the season's first episode, King George VI takes Philip duck hunting in order to give him some real talk about what it will mean to be married to a royal. "She is the job," he tells Philip. "She is the essence of your duty. Loving her, protecting her. Of course you’ll miss your career, but doing this for me, doing this for her, I know no greater act of patriotism or love."
The season ends on a strained note for Philip and Elizabeth. Yet, almost 70 years after their wedding day, they're still going strong. He has been there for her and supported her through everything — even if he's been a bit of a bad boy along the way.
“He's not an asshole," Smith stressed in our interview. "He's great. We met David Attenborough, who's one of our legends of the British empire, and he said to us what a sort of concise, intelligent, and actually brilliant man he was. And if David Attenborough says that — ” “Then, it's fact," Foy concluded. “So that's what I'd say," Smith said. "I'd say, ‘David Attenborough said he's not, so you're wrong, people that think he's an asshole.'" Smirking in a way his character would definitely approve of, he added: “And even if he is — so what? I love him. I love Philip."