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- Nancy Bilyeau
We gave it a B+
Well, it happened. The royal family’s wild second child finally got married, and to someone totally unexpected. What’s that? Oh, no, not that one! The Crown has entered the ‘60s, and we’re talking Princess Margaret. The second season’s seventh hour, “Matrimonium,” was a bona fide whirlwind of arty sex and doomed romance that added not one but two new members to the royal family. So let’s get right to it, shall we?
PREVIOUSLY: The Crown recap: ‘Vergangenheit’
The episode kicks off with an apparently hungover Margaret waking up in Clarence House, barking at a servant to leave her alone. Once she’s dragged herself out of bed and over to the tray that bears her Alka-Seltzer, however, the princess finds a letter that’s arrived from Peter Townsend. He’s breaking their pact and getting married — to a 19-year-old. Margaret knocks a vase of flowers off the table, shattering it. From that point on, she’s on a mission to beat her ex-fiancé down the aisle.
Margaret shares Peter’s news with Tony as the latter prepares for a gallery opening, admitting she’s upset Peter should have found happiness before she did. “Don’t be,” Tony replies breezily. “He hasn’t found happiness, he’s found marriage.”
Poor Margaret! Always trying to play it like she’s so progressive and unconventional, when really, she’s only unconventional by royal standards, which isn’t saying a whole lot. She tries to turn the conversation by suggesting she and Tony could do marriage “interestingly,” but he’s too focused on his show, and too unambiguously, fundamentally opposed to the very institution of marriage, to be receptive to what is effectively a proposal. She storms out just as the gallery opens up and is flooded by journalists, all hoping for a glimpse of the oh-so-bohemian princess.
Tony begins to think differently about the prospect of marriage after a dinner with his mother, an imperious woman wearing a truly remarkable hat. She seems generally unimpressed by her son and is furious to find out he rejected Margaret. After this tense interview, Tony blows off steam the only way he knows how — with a lot of sex with a lot of partners. In a moment of post-coital frankness with his married lovers Jeremy and Camilla Fry, he admits to feeling like he must marry Margaret, despite their reminders that he once described her as having “thick ankles and the face of a Jewish manicurist” — which is more weirdly specific than anything, but the judgmental indifference of the remark certainly doesn’t indicate any sincere devotion to Margaret on Tony’s part.
Now, as we all do our best to ignore a whole host of red flags waving frantically on both sides, we see the pair reunite after their spat. Tony greets Margaret on his motorcycle outside Clarence House, revving his engine (literally but also figuratively). Back in his apartment, he presents her with a huge cardboard box filled with smaller and smaller boxes like a Matryoshka doll, the smallest of which holds a huge ruby ring. On the one hand, it’s such an artful, romantic presentation, it’s hard not to swoon a little over the idea of this attractive couple and their impending attractive nuptials. On the other, as Margaret digs deeper and deeper into the boxes, the fundamental dishonesty of this union makes it feel like she’s marching closer and closer to a sad fate.
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Margaret puts on the ring, and Tony has one request of her: Not to bore him. Margaret agrees, if he fulfills her single wish: Not to hurt her. My god, these two are doomed.
Margaret’s not the only one with a big change on the way. Turns out Elizabeth is pregnant again, so as much as I feel very cheated that we didn’t get to actually witness Philip, Tommy, and the Queen Mother getting wasted together at the end of the last episode, at least something good came of Philip’s enthusiasm for his wife’s banishment of her uncle.
The bad news, at least for Margaret, is that official protocol prevents the family from making any other announcements until after the birth of the child. The princess does not take this well, seeing it as further interference with her personal life. In an effort to reassure her sister that Tony will not go the way of Peter, Elizabeth offers to throw a party celebrating the engagement before making the official announcement. Annoyed, Margaret explains that her urgency is Elizabeth’s own fault: “Peter wrote to me. He’s getting married too. She’s 19. So my announcement must come first.” She’s trying to make Elizabeth feel bad, but the queen rightly takes this as a great big sign that Margaret’s rushing into marriage for the wrong reasons.
We receive more confirmation that she probably is when Margaret and Tony discuss their wedding plans. He jokes about eloping, but they both decide it would be a laugh to do the expected (and therefore unexpected) thing and get married in Westminster Abbey, like Elizabeth. “One half filled with your friends, one half filled with mine,” Tony muses. “New world, old world. Like an eagle with two heads, facing in opposite directions.” Margaret finds this notion thrilling, oblivious to his distaste for her “old world” and to the difficulties presented by the union of two people whose entire worlds are “facing in opposite directions.” Smirking, she expresses her desire to “eclipse” her sister and “shake this place to its core.” Tony frowns. Some royals just want to watch the world burn, I guess.
In a telling scene with the Frys, Tony observes that with his marriage — and the earldom he will soon be granted to make it appropriate — he will rank above his stepfather and half-brother, in whom his social-climbing mother has always been much more invested. He recalls riding trains in third class, with this stepbrother in second and his half-brother in first, the pain evident in his face. When Tony calls himself “the runt son from the unsatisfactory first marriage, with no title and a polio-twisted leg,” it’s some of the most important background information we’ve ever heard about him — and I’d be willing to bet it’s a lot more than he’s ever told his fiancée.
But who cares that their marriage will be built on lies, it’s time to party! As Elizabeth gets ready, Philip admires her changed figure and flirtatiously calls her a “barmaid,” asking her to “pour me a pint.” She mimes filling a glass, maintaining eye contact with him in the mirror, before bursting out laughing. They’ve had their ups and downs, but the sincere affection and familiarity between Elizabeth and Philip here is really touching, especially in contrast to the admittedly glamorous but hollow relationship that has taken the spotlight all episode. (Next: Here comes the bride…and a baby)
Margaret appears at her engagement party wearing a truly sensational caped and bejeweled pale pink gown; Elizabeth, monopolized by Tony’s mother, wears a modest white dress and watches the room with disapproval — taking note in particular of Camilla Fry, speaking quite seriously to Tony. The queen is bothered enough by the sight of them, so it’s a good thing she can’t hear what they’re saying: Camilla is pregnant, and she’s 99 percent sure it’s Tony’s. He’s hopeful for that one percent.
“If you needed any further evidence to prove that we are a changed country, then this is it,” Philip snarls to his wife as he takes in the lively soiree, glaring at the conga line as if it were made up of frat boys wielding Solo cups. “It’s all changed so quickly — within a generation.” The dialogue does feel a little contrived as historical context, but it’s forgivable as a key reminder for us to really pay attention to how quickly things are changing — a huge theme this season, especially following that Lord Altrincham debacle in episode 5.
Though annoyed that he’s making a bit of a scene, Elizabeth agrees with her husband, and implies to Michael Adeane that she’d like him to look into the habits and history of her future brother-in-law. So who does Adeane call when he needs some “discreet reconnaissance work” done? Tommy Lascelles, naturally! Though he may invite the occasional vampire comparison, I must say I am nothing short of delighted every time Tommy shows up to spill some scalding hot English breakfast tea — and he doesn’t disappoint here, delivering the salacious news, as always, by dancing around the issue with polite euphemisms until the queen gets the gist. “What makes his work notable is his willingness, his appetite to break barriers and conventions,” Tommy explains, most elegantly, about Tony’s photography. “And as in art, so, it could appear, in life.” In short: He has many lovers, of both sexes.
The shock of this revelation appears to be too much for the queen, who promptly goes into labor. She delivers Prince Andrew while Philip plays what appears to be a very intense game of racquetball. Following the birth of the baby, Margaret comes to see her sister and meet her nephew, but things turn sour quickly when Elizabeth asks if Margaret is only marrying Tony for “some kind of revenge.” The princess argues that Tony sets her free — “to live, to love, to break away.” Elizabeth calls out this bullsh— immediately, saying Margaret will never break away because she loves the glamour and status of being a royal too much, whereas she, Elizabeth, is the one who wishes she could be invisible.
“Well, in that case, your achievement’s all the more remarkable,” Margaret fires back. “You’ve managed to become invisible while wearing the crown.”
So with all this really, really bad feeling existing between the sisters, it, um, seems like a good time for a wedding, right? There’s a distinct coldness to the final sequence, in which everyone — including a very pregnant Camilla Fry and Tony’s lover Jacqui — gets ready for the royal wedding, which was the first to be televised. The bride looks lovely, and Philip, tasked with walking her down the aisle, is charming and affectionate toward her as they ride to the Abbey.
It is the exchange in the groom’s carriage that sticks the most, however. “Well, not bad, you’d have to say,” Tony says to his mother, unable to resist. “For the son that always brought you shame, the son that you rejected, who was never good enough. I suppose I always thought you’d eventually find it in you to admit you’re proud of me. Perhaps even that you love me.”
The mother of the groom, waving as she looks out the carriage window, pauses briefly before replying. “Darling, I hope you haven’t done all this for me.”
With that, Princess Margaret and Tony Armstrong-Jones get married.