This episode is all about Elizabeth’s coronation, which made for great interpersonal drama between Elizabeth and Philip, interesting facts about the logistics of coronations, and of course, the magnificent visuals of the ceremony itself. As in the third episode, this episode opens with a flashback that sets the theme of the episode as a whole: Elizabeth as a child helps her dad rehearse for his own coronation. In all honesty this episode is occurring much later in the season that I had expected, but I think it works given that it has become clear that the show is interested in the monarchy and ruling, more than in Elizabeth as an individual. I enjoyed the flashback because Jared Harris is a gem.
We then see Elizabeth trying on the crown whilst her children watch. Having her ask to borrow the crown is a great moment, both in terms of humour and as a way to show, yet again, that she is still finding her feet. Neither is she secure in her relationship with her husband – Philip is spending all his time learning to fly, and when Elizabeth asks him to chair her coronation committee he assumes her motive is pity, rather than, as the show suggests, loneliness. She’s just trying to involve you! He insists on full control if he is to be involved at all, and his whole attitude here is very kind of irritatingly selfish. He can’t seem to look past his own nose far enough to understand that Elizabeth needs his love and support and wants to involve him.
Our window into the Elizabeth-Philip relationship is interrupted so we can spend time with Edward and Wallis, who are doing a magazine feature about their house and hostessing skills. Yawn.
Elizabeth insists with a sunny smile that Philip will be heading up her coronation committee, to the horror of the Queen Mum and Tommy Lascelles. Their reaction reminds us that other than Elizabeth everyone is pretty mean to Philip, but I still don’t feel sympathetic for him in this episode because whenever Elizabeth stands up to the establishment – as embodied by Tommy, her mother, and the government – it seems to always be on Philip’s behalf, whilst his behaviour towards her is always petulant and critical.
I find Edward irritating overall despite his deep sadness, his petulance is completely off putting -it is kind of like the evil butler on Downton Abbey – every now and then you are like ‘I might be feeling…sympathy?’ and then the character does something else awful and you are like ‘nah, actually i don’t care.’ He is visiting his mother on her deathbed, the ideal set-up to generate sympathy, but then the show provides us with a voice over of his bitchy letters to Wallis, and it’s like…ok, please GTFO back to France. He literally takes the immediate aftermath of his mother’s death to ruminate on how she had ‘ice in her veins’ and was unforgivably rude to him.
Mary of Teck’s death, in addition to highlighting how despicable Edward is, provides an opportunity for Philip’s insensitivity. He decides to spend the funeral bitching to Elizabeth about how boring Royal Family funerals are, and although the next scene shows him studying up for his big committee meeting, his behaviour at the funeral underscores a growing gulf between him and Elizabeth, at least as far as their understanding of one another goes.
Philip’s proposed changes to the coronation, e.g. televising it, returns us to the theme of whether the monarchy should be seen as an untouchable, god-given right that puts the Queen on a plane above both her subjects and the workings of government. Should the Queen be more involved in the governing of the country, or more accessible to her populace? I appreciated Philip’s keenness in planning the coronation, and I agree with some of his points. I did NOT appreciate his pathetic tantrum about swearing fealty to his Queen, although the scenery and acting and just everything in the part where Philip and Elizabeth have a fight in the abbey made GLORIOUS television.
We close out the episode with the ceremony itself, which was sumptuous and stunning visually. On an emotional level, the director chooses to focus us on Edward’s experience of narrating the ceremony to his friends in France at some kind of viewing party. Which…I already said I don’t care for Edward. Foy brings a certain dead-eyed zombieness to the ceremony, and I’m at a loss as to what they were going for there. Although we have seen a lot of Philip and a lot of Elizabeth, I still feel at arms length from their relationship. We don’t see if Philip and Elizabeth resolve their fight before or after the ceremony – simply, we see that in the end Philip does swear fealty to Elizabeth, but whether this resolves any of the tension between them is left unclear. I have to say it was a bitter moment to hear him swearing to support her in his oath, just as he promised her father, when he hasn’t really been doing so at all.
All-in-all, I enjoyed this episode, although I continue to be frustrated by various aspects of the show. What can I say, I’m a very character-focused viewer, and this is not turning out to be a very character-focused show? Also, as much as I enjoyed the previous episode, I think I’d much prefer it if the episodes felt more interrelated.