PREVIOUS: Episode 2, “Hyde Park Corner”
What’s in a name? Well, in the case of the royal family, a lot. And, between “Mountbatten,” “Cookie,” and “Shirley Temple,” such was the hottest topic of The Crown‘s third episode, “Windsor.”
We open with a rather telling flashback to Dec. 10, 1936, the day King Edward abdicated the throne so he could marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson and the day he addressed the British people to explain his choice. We hear him say, “This decision has been made less difficult to me by the sure knowledge that my brother has one matchless blessing enjoyed by so many of you and not bestowed on me: a happy home with his wife and children,” as young Elizabeth and Margaret happily join their mom and dad, new King George and his Queen Elizabeth, to listen.
We also got a glimpse at how the rest of the family felt about Edward’s actions — Queen Mary gave him the ultimate dressing down when she reminded him he was just a “private individual” now and said no one wanted to hear from just a “private individual.” “The best thing for everyone would be if you said your goodbyes quietly, privately, and disappeared into the night.” ICE. COLD.
Fast-forward to 1952, and we quickly learn that things haven’t exactly been warm between Edward and the rest of his family. Elizabeth meets with her mother and grandmother to discuss funeral arrangements and the subject quickly turns to where to seat Edward. Queen Mother Elizabeth doesn’t want him anywhere near her: “I’m sorry, I know he’s your son,” she says to her mother-in-law. Mary hastily replies, “A son who gave up the throne and effectively killed my other son.” I am officially feeling more grateful for my own family.
The subject soon changes to Elizabeth’s mother taunting her about Edward and his wife’s “nasty little nicknames” for the other members of the royal family. Our heroine’s is Shirley Temple, which, frankly, is pretty much perfect. Score one for ol’ Eddie.
He and his mother soon meet again, and it’s no less icy. “One can only be thankful for all the years one had him,” she says of George. “So wonderfully thoughtful and caring, an angel to his mother, wife, and children. I honestly believe he never thought of himself at all. He really was the perfect son.” Her comments about Edward’s wife don’t get any warmer.
Later, after Edward has met again with Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and Margaret, he sends his wife pretty much one of the nastiest letters ever sent, calling his family “a bunch of ice-flamed monsters,” “dumpy and plain,” “joyless and loveless,” and admitting his own temptation to punch the Queen Mother. Still, he says, he’s following Wallis’ advice and keeping the clan close to try to see what he can get out of them. That’s not going to work out so great for him, as we’ve already learned that the Queen Mother has begun to make moves to turn that financial faucet off.
Apparently, the letter wasn’t enough for Philip, so he went running to his royal mommy to complain about “Cookie” (the name he’s given the Queen Mother because “she’s fat, common, and looks like a cook”) turning off the tap. “Now we barely make ends meet,” he moans. “Every day is a struggle.” Something tells me the struggle, in this case, is not real.
NEXT: Elizabeth and Churchill discuss the coronation
After receiving her symbolic red box, it’s time for Elizabeth to meet with Churchill for the first time. Philip gives her a pep talk and reminds her of two issues that are going to be the source of much conflict going forward. “Don’t forget the two things we discussed: The children keeping my surname, and us staying here in Clarence House, not moving to Buckingham Palace. Both very important.” We see that importance further when Philip discusses the Mountbatten name becoming royal with his father.
Of course, those issues don’t even get discussed in this first meeting. Instead, we soon learn the two leaders don’t see eye-to-eye on Elizabeth’s coronation. “A long period between accession and coronation was of great value to your father,” Churchill says. Elizabeth responds, “He had five months — you’re proposing I have 16 before I’m crowned.” Ooph.
Remember that thing we said about names? Well, Philip’s father has already begun celebrating “The Royal House Mountbatten,” just a day after the king was buried. And if you thought, “Oh man, this is going to come back and bite him in the ass,” you thought right. Soon, the Prince of Hanover, who was a dinner guest, is relaying the evening’s comments to Queen Mary. Mary, brutally honest lady that she is, just called the concept “nonsense.” Yes, yes, pish-posh, indeed, your highness.
“Word has reached me that it is your desire that you and your children keep your husband’s name, Mountbatten,” Churchill tells Elizabeth. “You must not. It would be a grave mistake. Mountbatten was the adoptive name your husband took when he became a British citizen. His real name, you’ll not need reminding, was Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg of the royal house of Denmark and Norway and of Greece. I am an old man. Many have questioned my relevance, whether I still have something to offer in public life. The answer is I have, which is to leave in place a sovereign prepared for office, equipped, armed for her duty.”
Sassy Elizabeth wasn’t about to take that lying down, and replies, “Yes, I am queen, but I am also a woman and a wife to a man whose pride whose strength were in part what attracted me to him. I want to be in a successful marriage. I would argue stability in the national interest.” Scepter drop! She continues to try to bargain with the prime minister, sharing what she knows about people trying to unseat him to make way for younger men in exchange for his support on the name thing. She also notes that no one would be suggesting his resignation while he plans her coronation, which also explains the delay… “in which case, I would suggest you are somewhat in my debt. So if I agree to the delay, perhaps you will consider supporting me in the matter regarding my husband’s name. And perhaps you could also inform Cabinet that my husband and I intend to stay here in Clarence House.” Well, who could argue with all that?
Well, apparently Cabinet. They turned down both requests… and Churchill pawned off breaking the bad news to Edward. In exchange, Churchill vowed to push Elizabeth for Edward’s allowance to be reinstated. But Edward doesn’t know when to stop, and asks Churchill to help get Wallis a title, much to the P.M.’s dismay.
When Edward meets with Elizabeth, she’s dressed like a young girl, complete with a Peter Pan collar and silly smile, but she keeps the digs flying, starting with her distaste at his love of pugs (and their gassiness — the Queen of England talked about dog farts!) and continuing by confronting him about his “cruel nicknames” like Shirley Temple. And then she dropped the hammer: “You never apologized… to me. You don’t think I’m deserving of one? You don’t think I would have preferred to grow up out of the spotlight, away from court, away from the scrutiny and the visibility, a simpler life, happier life, as a wife, a mother, an ordinary English countrywoman?” But, shocker of shockers, once the apologies were delivered, Elizabeth offers to have Edward as an adviser. This opens up the discussion of the royal surname and home.
Finally, Elizabeth breaks the news to Philip, who doesn’t exactly love it. “What kind of marriage is this? What kind of family? You’ve taken my career from me, you’ve taken my home, you’ve taken my name.”
Cue formal announcement: “My lords, I hereby declare my will and pleasure that I and my children shall be styled and known as the house and family of Windsor. And that my descendants, other than female descendants who marry and their descendants, shall bare the name of Windsor.”
Some final papers in this box (which now says “The Queen”):
Episode grade: B
NEXT: Episode 4, “Act of God”