We open episode 5 on a normal, nay average, morning scene: a man reading the newspaper over his morning cup of tea. The front page of the newspaper reveals that “a peer” of the queen has been slandering her, calling her way of speaking “a pain in the neck” and saying that “her utterances convey a priggish schoolgirl.” Not a lovely start to the morning for Her Majesty or this unnamed gentleman.
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The yet-to-be-named man is angry enough about the whole thing to turn down the boiled egg and toast his wife brings him for breakfast. He then gets dressed in his best suit — all the time gazing at a framed pic of Her Majesty on his wall — fastens his LEL (the League of Empire Loyalists) pin and his military medals to his lapel, and sets off to catch the bus. Unidentified man then approaches the ITN television studios, where he waits for somebody to exit. After confirming that the exiting man is one Lord Altrincham, he punches him in the face, spits on him, and calls him a traitor as the paparazzi snap pics around him. What is going on here…
We then transition to Balmoral, where the queen is in residence. Michael comes to tell Elizabeth that Lord Altrincham has been struck in the face, and considering he’s the peer saying cruel things about her in the press, they all feel very gratified — that is, until they sit down to a segment he’s recorded for a TV show called Impact. The interviewer asks Lord A. why he hates the queen so much when she is loved and respected around the world, but before we can find out his answer, we’re heading back in time to the beginning of this nuisance of a situation to find out Altrincham’s reasons firsthand.
One month earlier, Lord A. is having a staff meeting at the publication he runs, where everyone is far more interested in the toffee his secretary Patricia shows up with than writing 1,000 words on introducing female priests into the Church of England or reforming the House of Lords. Can’t say I really blame them!
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Over at the palace, the queen’s private secretary Michael is running through a speech he’s written for her next engagement at a Jaguar car factory. It’s pretty much insult after insult. To quote a particularly stinging passage: “Perhaps you don’t understand that on your steadfastness and ability to withstand the fatigue of dull, repetitive work, and your great courage in meeting constant small adversities, depend in great measure the happiness and prosperity of the community as a whole.” It also goes on to call the people “average men and women.” One rather astute (and younger) aide suggests changing it to “working men and women” to add some dignity, but when Michael looks at him like he just suggested the queen invite Wallis Simpson over for crumpets, he quiets down and takes his grievances to Martin instead.
Obviously, Martin, being a more in-tune-with-the-people kind of fellow, agrees it strikes completely the wrong tone in this post-Suez climate and will leave the queen open to attack from the papers and people. Unfortunately, Michael — with the support of old, stick-in-the-mud Tommy — think it’s fine. He goes on about the people loving their sovereign and is adamant the papers have nothing to attack, and even if they wanted to, they wouldn’t out of fear of a royal boycott. And so the speech stays as is. If only propriety allowed for a big old “I told you so!” from Martin in a month’s time. (Next: Lord A. is unstoppable)