Mike and Eileen's divorce put all eyes on Elizabeth and Philip's marriage
Credit: Alex Bailey/Netflix

If you needed any indication we were going to catch back up to the events of the premiere this episode, the title was your first clue. By the end of “Lisbon,” we’re back on the royal yacht in Portugal, watching Elizabeth and Philip try to work out how to keep their marriage together — because, as we’ve heard numerous times now, divorce is not an option.

Before that, however, they’re still separated by oceans and all the issues between them, but Elizabeth needs to soldier on at home. So she points out on a globe for Charles and Anne all the places that Philip is traveling to and sits everyone down to watch the film reels he’s sent back of the journey, reading the commentary he sent to accompany them, and looking/sounding like the perfect family man. She seems to be enjoying it, but — and perhaps it’s just me — I thought I saw her face falter once or twice, which could be reconciling this man with the one who had the portrait of a ballerina in his briefcase. But she writes him a sweet letter in return, filled with things he can’t read to his fellow bros on board.

The other bit of on-shore/off-shore marital drama continuing to roil the palace (and the newspapers) is Mike and Eileen Parker. Armed with the Thursday Club letter as evidence, Eileen does intend to go through with suing Mike for a divorce, and when her attorney gives the palace a heads up they are none to happy about it. For this, Michael Adeane goes for the big guns — bringing longtime royal private secretary Tommy Lascelles out of retirement to assist with the damage control. But his attempt to “run into” Eileen Parker in a local park (casual, dude) doesn’t deter her from wanting to move forward.

There’s also the issue of Prime Minister Eden … or, should we say, former Prince Minister Eden. His return from those three weeks he spent in Jamaica for his health (I’d love to try that, please) is met with a cold reception from his cabinet and party, who want him out for damaging the country’s international reputation and cutting out in the middle of an economic and diplomatic crisis. Soon enough, he’s informing the queen of his resignation, and while she admits to thinking he made some missteps (that’s putting it lightly) she’s also sympathetic to him spending so long in Winston Churchill’s shadow and wanting to do something big to step out of it. Next up? His successor, a man named Harold Macmillan, who tries to pass off any blame for the Suez Crisis and is promptly shut down by the queen, who reminds him he was a loud voice in favor of the way. “One always has to accept one’s own part, I believe, in any mess,” she observes. Well said, your majesty.

The task of telling the queen about the split goes to Michael, who warns her that no matter how blameless she and Philip are, because of Mike’s close proximity to her and the duke, they should expect some newspaper headlines about the state of their own marriage. He also drops that loaded word — “adultery” — as one of the reasons Eileen is seeking a divorce. It’s another blow for the queen and her suspicions about her husband’s own infidelity. When she drops by Eileen’s for a visit and asks if there’s anything she can do to help, Eileen shows her the Thursday Club letter – proof her husband was unfaithful. And she refuses to delay the announcement when Elizabeth asks, telling her she’s through living her life through favors for the royal family. “You people aren’t even remotely aware of the cost of the damage to families and marriages in your service,” she tells her. (Next: Philip makes an offer)

The announcement does go public, with numerous front pages splashed with news of the Parkers’ divorce, and Elizabeth is left to deal with the fallout without a partner beside her. Meanwhile, it’s fitting that Mike — who was writing all these letters he shouldn’t have — gets news of his own divorce via telegram, which means he has to tell Philip about it and the letters, and now Philip knows that his wife knows about it. After the news officially breaks, Philip demands his friend’s resignation right there on the spot.

The headlines soon die down in local newspapers, but speculation is growing abroad, and the royals know that cutting Philip’s trip short would only fan the flames. Instead, they decide to send Elizabeth to Lisbon a day early to meet him for a reunion photo call. Philip gets specific instructions (obviously, the beard has to go) — there’s a pre-selected tie and mandate he wear a hat, so he can remove it before walking up the stairs of the airplane. But their reunion isn’t a warm one: Elizabeth stares him down, rebuffs a kiss, gives a “shall we?” before they go out to face photographers, which still doesn’t quell rumors of a rift between them.

This brings them back to the beginning of the season premiere, and Elizabeth’s question — Philip needs to name his price for what he needs to stay in this marriage. The answer basically boils down to respect and wanting more of it. He feels the palace staffers (the “dreadful mustaches,” as he calls them) don’t respect him and resents that his 8-year-old son has higher standing than he does. So Elizabeth grants him the Letters Patent that give him the title of prince, providing him higher standing within the palace. And, as a final jab, Elizabeth gets Michael to shave off his own (dreaded) mustache.

Will being an HRH be enough to make Philip happy? Probably not, but it’s the demand he gave and she met it. He also mentions during a final meeting with Mike before he goes back to Australia that Elizabeth wants more children (Mike’s understanding of why is interesting, and a point that didn’t seem to occur to Philip before — that Charles is her heir, and therefore a relationship with him is more complex, but younger children could simply just be her children) — and because we know they do (see you soon, Princes Andrew and Edward), we know that’s another point they’ll eventually agree on. Compromise is essential in marriage, even when you’re royal, right?

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The Crown
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