On female monarchs: Diana, Kate and Elizabeth II Representation in Peter Morgan's The Crown and the media
In this essay, it shall be explored how Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom, is represented in the 2016 Netflix series The Crown. To do this, the series will first be compared to the film The Queen, both of which were created by Peter Morgan. Some critics' opinions shall be analysed, and a short comparison to the late Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince William's wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge shall be drawn.
In her 2009 article “Filming the Ineffable: Biopics of the British Royal Family”, Giselle Bastin explains that the reluctance of many to show the ‘real' Elizabeth II stems from the fact that there exists “a long tradition that saw the British Royals working to negotiate their place in the popular imagination on their own terms”. It is Bastin's belief that “the existence of the royal system depended on (...) its mystique” (Bastin 2009). It certainly makes sense that the royals want to have a little privacy for themselves. They are, after all, human and their roles are difficult: They are representatives of their country, and while the constitutional monarchy restricts their power, what they do still matters to the public. However, taking Prince Harry as an example, his willingness to lack any mystique has made him a person that the public likes, but does not take seriously whatsoever. It could thus be argued that the factor of ‘mystique' does do its part in keeping the royal family in favour of the general populace.
Contrary to the belief of mystique as a means to retain popularity with the public, in 2013 Mandy Merck stated in her article “Melodrama, Celebrity, The Queen” that the film The Queen“proved that tears could enhance the popularity of the British monarchy”, citing one critic who called the film “the most sophisticated public relations boost for the queen in 20 years” (Merck 2013). It is not this text's purpose to determine which way is correct; but it can be argued that both have their merit. While the mystique aspect differentiates the crown from the general populace, showing royals as human beings makes them less spectral, and more relatable; and a deep sympathy and liking for a ruler can surely be desirable. In her article, Merck calls Elizabeth II the ‘queen of a nation' and contrasts her with the ‘queen of hearts', the late Diana. While Elizabeth II was and is considered a role model for many due to her dutifulness, her dignity and her diplomacy, Princess Diana was the personification of many a girl's dream: She was born a princess, married to a prince and one day to be queen. She was also beautiful and very involved in charitable work, which made her the public's darling. Tragically, this very popularity may have led to her death: She died in a car accident that was induced by intrusive paparazzi, who did not let her rest. It can be said, however, that her tragic story is what manifested her as ‘queen of hearts' for many, and as a contrast to the supposedly less approachable Elizabeth.
Now, before going further into the topic of royals and the media, it should be mentioned that Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, has proven her worth as a possible ‘queen of hearts' successor. Kate was born into a wealthy, but non-royal middle class family, and personifies a different kind of dream: She came from normality and married into royalty. But Kate is not a scheming persona: She met William in university, and the two possibly fell in love before she knew who he was. The very fact that being a part of the royal family is not for everyone is another factor that makes her very pleasant to the public's eye. Kate is a fashion icon, and her wild sister Pippa may have helped the well-behaved Kate to even more success in contrast. The fact is, that if Charles should abdicate, William would be the next English ruler, with Kate as the royal consort. While she is no carbon copy of Diana, Kate has it in her to be just as beloved; and this love for her can be beneficial to the rest of the royal family. Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning ruler to date, and with Charles not being the youngest royal, giving their legacy to William and Kate would ensure that their legacy is in the hands of a benevolent young power-couple, an act that would both secure and refresh the positive image of the royal family in the eyes of the public.
In 2009, Elizabeth Ford wrote her article “Royal Portraits in Hollywood: Filming the Lives of Queens” about Elizabeth II, among others. She quotes the film The Queen, in which Elizabeth is quoted as saying: “duty first, self second; that's how I was brought up. That's all I've ever known.” This relates very much to the dutiful portrayal of Elizabeth in The Crown, as shall be explored later on in this text. As a reason for the renewed interest in female monarchs, Ford names “the scent of change” (Ford 2009). She explains this as a reflection of an “altered political reality”, in which “ equal might, at long last, mean “equality”, as glass ceilings shatter and women vie for high-ranking posts” (Ford 2009). One could argue that female rulers have always been a predecessor to today's career-oriented women; and while many may have been an unwanted alternative to a male ruler, some of them were respected and beloved: Mary, Queen of Scots would be an example of a ruler who even as she ruled in France, was much beloved by her people in Scotland. Ford comments that many of the “famous queens of the past (...) had little choice but to rule” (Ford 2009). It can be argued that this was the same for male rulers - no matter how young they were when they first sat on the throne, an abdication was seldom heard of. It is this fact that made female rulers quite equal to their male counterparts. But it is certainly true that kings had a slightly easier royal life. Another interesting point that Ford makes, is that “though these queens’ decisions shaped history, their lives followed the rhythms of most women’s lives”, since they had to focus not only on “appearance”, but also on “marriage, childbirth, and motherhood” (Ford 2009). While a king could choose to have children with as many women as he desired, since no one dared oppose his advances, and since he had the option to legitimize these children, he could focus on ruling for most of his time; a queen did not have this option. Elizabeth I’s decision to never marry and to stay a virgin, was a scandal; albeit understandable, considering what happened to her mother Anne Boleyn, who started as the king’s favourite mistress, became queen, and then later was beheaded when the king lost interest. Today, the royal family has many branches on their family tree; and it can be expected to stay this way in the future: It’s surely important to secure the throne for the next generations, since thus is the English tradition.
- Quote paper
- Michelle Blum (Author), 2016, Representation of Elisabeth II, Diana and Kate in Peter Morgan´s "The Crown", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1128293