This series is generally superb. It is beautifully shot. The cinematopgraphy is breathtaking. The angles, the lighting, the interiors and the costumes are all well thought through and flawlessly presented.
The virtuousity of the cast is second to none. With a slowly emerging facial expression Claire Foy can say so much. These actors and actresses have got inside their roles so effectively that their portrayal of their characters is utterly convincing.
Claire Foy’s bravura acting captures the queen’s persona perfectly. She is eminently respectable. If we are being bitchy she is on the bland side. That is a virtue for a monarch. Her Majesty is at pains to avoid controversy. Was the queen born this way or did the weight of responsibility make her grave beyond her years? Perhaps the knowledge that she would inherit the crown made her become very staid and reserved.
The film humanises the queen. It shows Prince Philip desiring her and implying that when a state dinner is cancelled they will bonk.
Vanessa Kirby gives a marvelous performance at the mercurial and impetuous Princess Margaret. This character is a ‘princess’ in the less flattering sense of the word. She is a diva: self-obsessed, shallow, volatile, demanding and unreasonable. She is an exhibitionist with little sense of public duty. Her Royal Highness’ cigarette is her ever present prop. It symbolises her flighty, incautious and risque outlook. She does not have the temperament to be queen. Thank God she is the younger one. She is spiritually the daughter of Edward VIII .
Tommy Lascelles is l’eminence grise. He is cold, calculating and ruthless. He is a dislikable character who does what he feels he needs to do in order to avoid scandal.
There are some gripes about the casting. Group Captain Peter Townsend is supposed to be a heart throb. They could have cast a more physically prepossessing actor to play him. Bear in mind after Townsend’s relationship with Princess Margaret ended he went on to marry a 20 year old. He was 45 at the time.
The actor playing George VI is too full bodied. The king was a slender man. In the last few years of his life he was drawn and painfully thin.
Sir Anthony Eden is at Balmoral in 1955. The queen advises him to put on outdoor footwear. He says he only has galoshes. No Britisher would use this word. He would say wellington boots. This word was used for the sake of the American viewership. Perhaps the script could have settled on ‘boots’ or ‘rubber boots’.
Eden was taking amphetamines and benzadrine. So far as I knew he was taking pills and not injecting himself. These uppers and downers were bad enough for his health.
The script played fast and loose with the truth. Princess Margaret was not forbidden from marrying Townsend. Her Royal Highness would even be allowed to keep her royal title and privy purse. She was permitted to do so but it would be a morganatic marriage. This would entail her losing her right of succession for herself and any children she might bear. This is why HRH turned down her chance to wed the group captain. Did she hope that her sister, niece and nephew might predecease her ? Was her 10 year relationship with this man cooling? Why else did she pass up the chance to marry this man?
In some places the script is over written. Occasionally it is too recherche. The repartee is too high brow. The queen and Princess Margaret cross swords. They quibble over the connotations of words. This is not colloquial and in the heat of the moment it is unlikely that they were so eloquent. The theme that is constantly returned to is private happiness versus public duty.
Necessarily much of the dialogue is imagined. The audiences between the queen and prime ministers are not recorded. No notes are taken. They are strictly confidential. Tony Blair was the only one to ever reveal the content of such conversations. Buckingham Palace released a statement to say that the queen was bitterly let down that Blair had breached her trust. This allows scope for the playwrights to imagine what was said. Certain facts are known. Apart from that there are well substantiated rumours. Then there are other rumours about which no one can be sure. This gives those who wrote the screenplay room to invent much of the tale.