The Royals, the truth, and The Crown Part 2

She does a marvellous job conveying the goodness, sincerity and intelligence of the Queen, but Claire Foy’s performance misses one thing – the Queen’s sparkling wit and flashing smile which lights up her whole face.

I was lucky enough to experience this wit and its quickness, and that wonderful smile at a reception on board her royal yacht Britannia. It’s an accepted convention not to repeat the conversations had with Royalty, one often ignored nowadays, so I won’t repeat my conversation with the Queen, any more than I will repeat the fun and intelligent talk I enjoyed with the Duke. Even at fifty he was still the good looking, charming man who married his princess, and quite unlike the charmless, bad-mannered person he was portrayed as in The Crown.

Since the series opens with their wedding I’ll go back there too, when Philip, who only had his navy pay to live on at that point, had enough innate self- esteem to be married in his old well-worn navy uniform, rather than borrow or cheat on rationed clothing coupons for the sake of looking smart for the in-laws, courtiers or anyone else.

The muttered conversation between Queen Mary and the Queen Mother denigrating Philip and his background could only have been a figment of the writer’s imagination, since Philip was far more royal than the then Princess Elizabeth. His pedigree goes back to the Tsars of Russia on one side (Nicolas II and the Tsarina attended his parent’s wedding in 1905 – the last big Royal wedding) plus a more direct line of inheritance from Queen Victoria than Elizabeth.

Of the two Queens who were supposedly bemoaning his background, Elizabeth’s mother was an aristocrat with no royal blood, and Queen Mary had been born a Serene Royal Highness, since her Hungarian father was not royal, though her mother, known as ‘Fat Mary’ (she was enormous, and no-one wanted to marry her until Francis of Teck was winkled out of Hungary) was George III’s grand-daughter.

Just as inaccurate were Churchill’s muttered remarks about Philip’s sisters being ‘prominent Nazis’ … One sister had been killed in an air accident that claimed her whole family in 1937, and a teenage Philip had walked to their funeral as he later walked with his grandsons at Diana’s funeral. Another sister’s husband had been a Nazi from the beginning, since like many others he thought Hitler would protect them from the Bolshevism which had assassinated their close Russian relatives – the Tsarina was his aunt.

But as time went on the relationships with Hitler and the Nazis foundered, this sister’s husband was killed in a mysterious air accident, while his brother was imprisoned in the concentration camp at Dachau, and his wife, Princess Mafalda had died in Flossenberg, another notorious concentration camp.

Liberal Prince Max of Baden – married to another sister – had funded Dr Hahn into his progressive Salem School. He lay low after the Nazis closed the school and Hahn escaped to Switzerland, and thence to Scotland via England. There Hahn had founded Prince Philip’s old school Gordonstoun. So that’s all the sisters and their husbands accounted for, and so much for that imaginary throwaway remark.

The apparently reluctant ennobling of Philip by the King was also very unlikely… the Royal family had known Philip even before he  was a frequent visitor to Windsor on his navy leaves, during the war. He always remained his own man, and when required to wear a kilt at Balmoral like all the royal family, curtsied to the King when he met him, causing great laughter all round.

As the years went by (with none of the marital aggro constantly featured  in the Crown) – no affairs – as Philip once famously responded to a reporter questioning him: “Good God, woman,” he thundered at her, “have you ever stopped to think that for the past 40 years I have never moved anywhere without a policeman accompanying me? So how the hell could I get away with anything like that?”

Pat Kirkwood, who had spent a night dining and dancing with Philip and her current boyfriend, the photographer called Baron, who’d brought Philip along with them, used to say that that one night in Philip’s company had ruined her whole life and even robbed her of a medal in the honours list. But as Philip wrote to her when she wanted him to issue a denial about a supposed affair, “Short of starting libel proceedings there is absolutely nothing to be done. Invasion of privacy, invention and false quotations are the bane of our existence”.

It’s true Philip was deeply hurt by the establishment opposition to his name, but his marriage remained the love match that it still is after seventy years. Staff tell of a younger Philip chasing Elizabeth up the stairs pinching her bottom, and her laughing and protesting before they disappeared into their bedroom.

Andrew Duncan, in his book ‘The Reality of the Monarchy’, tells of a fracas at a Brazilian reception, where he watched the Queen look miserably at Philip as he tried to restore order. ‘He smiled, touched her arm, and she relaxed, smiling nervously back, a tender look of tragic implications… theirs was a relationship… scrutinised everywhere, derided by critics, devalued by schmaltz’…  Andrew Duncan saw this ’non-public smile’ and wrote he was  reminded that ’this was a genuine love story and love match.’

Philip had resolved to support his wife while finding his own niche, which would lead in the following decades to the active patronage of more than 800 different charities embracing sports, youth, wildlife conservation, education, and environmental causes.

Within the family, Philip also took over management of all the royal estates, to “save her a lot of time,” he said. But even more significantly, as Prince Charles’s official biographer Jonathan Dimbleby wrote in 1994, the Queen “would submit entirely to the father’s will” in decisions concerning their children, so Philip became the ultimate domestic arbiter in their family.

Another biographer has described Philip’s caring fathering. He was recorded for example, saying amongst many other useful parenting tips, that one should never immediately say no to anything children want to do, but to think it over, and if eventually you have to say no they will accept it more easily … for contrary to popular belief he was not an authoritarian father.

In ‘The Crown’  when the couple were in Kenya before her accession, much was made of the Princess claiming  that she knew all about cars as she’d trained on them in the army. This is a well-honed legend, which doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. I was in the army too, and know how such things work.

For six months the Princess was chauffeured to an ATS  (Auxiliary Territorial  Service) detachment near Windsor every day and collected to return to the castle in the late afternoon. In her well pressed uniform or clean fresh dungarees cleaned and ironed by a maid, she joined carefully screened army personnel like Mary Churchill, the Prime Minister’s daughter, but she never lived in an army unit, got close to ordinary soldiers, polished her own shoes, or actually experienced army life.

In those moments in Kenya when she became Queen, I wondered where were the staff – Lady Pamela Mountbatten, lady in waiting, Mike Parker, Philip’s aide, Ruby MacDonald, the Queen’s dresser, Martin Charteris, private secretary, the housekeeper, maids, butler, waiters and so on?  I blenched at the incredibly dowdy mac and chiffon scarf Claire Foy was decked out in on her way to the airport having just become Queen, looking like a fifties suburban housewife going shopping.

The Queen had a full bosom, a tiny waist and elegant legs, and she wore dresses that displayed them to advantage. She would have died of heat wearing that tatty mac in Kenya. Neither did she wear all those dowdy blouses and cardigans. Only at Balmoral did she wear tailored shirts with kilts and cardy, though in her young days she was photographed playing with Prince Charles and Princess Anne wearing an elegant suit with nipped-in waist.

And I felt for the ghost of Sir Anthony Eden, played by a grim faced Jeremy Northam. Eden,  the famously handsome, charming, well dressed foreign secretary, was sporting  in-appropriate town clothes when in-appropriately barging into the King’s shooting party. After a life-time as a tactful diplomat, he’d never have worn the wrong clothes or turned up at the wrong moment!

And with all this whimpering about the series, I loved it for the beautiful interiors photographed in stately homes, lovely furniture, fabrics, scenery, and play of character… though the history was rickety, the drama was fascinating. But as one of the commenters in my last blog said so cogently: ‘If characters are not strong enough to stand on their own history as the stuff of narrative, then find other subjects. If they are, then why not stick to the facts?’

Thank you for those words, good friend at https://colonialist.wordpress.com/

I’ll round off this series next week when I can’t resist covering Princess Margaret’s shenanigans…  pity the producers didn’t use that wonderful line from the inimitable Sir Alan Lascelles, who, when Townsend told him he was going to marry the Princess, replied using that famous phrase about the poet Byron: ‘Are you mad, or bad?”

Food for threadbare gourmets

I had enough pasta for two left over from supper with friends, but instead of preserving it in cold water a la advice from those who know, I mixed it with enough olive oil to stop the lasagne from sticking, and it was much tastier than if it had had a cold bath.

For a quick lunch the next day I sauted an onion in good olive oil, and when soft added a tin of Italian tomatoes, plenty of garlic, a squish of balsamic vinegar and sweet stevia powder to taste, to give it that tangy and sweet flavour. Salt and freshly ground black pepper of course.  When it had all bubbled up, and become a nice thick mixture, I sprinkled lots of grated cheese over the lasagne in a casserole, poured the tomato mix over it, and then tipped plenty more cheese on top of that.

Three minutes in the microwave, cheese melted, and lunch was hot and ready to eat…. with a glass of the Riesling from last night too…..

Food for thought

To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven… a time to keep silence and a time to speak. Ecclesiastes III verses 1 and 7

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33 Comments

Filed under army, british soldiers, cookery/recipes, fashion, history, love, Queen Elizabeth, royalty, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, uncategorised, Uncategorized

33 responses to “The Royals, the truth, and The Crown Part 2

  1. Thank you for all the tips on The Crown. What a fascinating topic, and series!

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  2. Thank you, I did enjoy that read and couldn’t agree more . I too enjoyed
    more out of watching the surroundings…..Cheers Denise

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  3. I’m so glad to hear it’s a true love story, Valerie. Makes those decades together all the more precious! 😉 xoM

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  4. I’m saving this to read when I have time to concentrate on it, but thanks so much for sharing more of the story. What a fascinating life you’ve led!

    janet

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  5. Thank you Janet, quite a compliment to think you are saving it to read at the right moment !
    So good to hear from you.

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  6. So much detail packed into this post, don’t know where to start, so will simply say my favourite royals are Philip, Margaret and Harry. Loved the pinched bottom anecdote: I reckon that relationship is true.

    Would love to know if Queen and Philip watched The Crown. How could you not? Although the castle thingy probably has rubbish internet for Netflix.

    Looking forward to Margaret’s instalment.

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    • Forgot to ask. Did the Queen Mother really buy that Scottish castle a) without power, and b) for one hundred pounds?

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      • Good morning again, Mark… I think you’re right on both counts… she rescued it as it was actually just crumbling away up there so far away from anywhere..
        And then having spent huge amounts of money restoring it and making it as luxurious as all her other dwellings ( seen the pics!) she only spent a couple of months a year there, during the Royal family’s summer holiday when the Queen would sail past in her yacht with all the royal gang, and they’d come ashore to visit the Queen Mother for lunch !!!!
        The Queen Mother was notoriously extravagant, and the Queen had to rescue her when her overdraft became too large !!!!

        Liked by 1 person

    • I would think that after the first episode caricaturing Philip and denigrating him in so many ways, they probably switched off, if indeed they had switched on !
      If they were doing that about my husband I would certainly switch off!!!
      Very encouraging that you’re looking forward to the next instalment… I feel rather self -indulgent about possibly boring so many people with my love of facts !

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I very much appreciate you filling us in on the facts of the monarchy. It is one of the more frustrating things I find about reading or watching docu-dramas or non-fiction accounts. One never knows if they have decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story. Very well told, Valerie.

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    • Thank you so much Ardys, it’s so encouraging to know that some readers like you don’t mind me boring on with the facts !!!
      One of the things that bothers me when writers don’t stick to the facts is that good people – like Philip – have their characters distorted, and it always seems so unfair to me….

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  8. How nice to see the unvarnished truth in print for a change.Thank you Valerie.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

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    • Thank you so much David… it’s so encouraging that discriminating readers like you enjoy what I’ve written… When the facts get distorted too often good people find their characters are being blackened, like the portrait of Philip in this series… that always bothers me !!!

      Like

  9. Margot Wilson

    So interesting to read

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  10. I really like the Queen Mum–like you say when she smiles her whole face lights up. Thank you this very interesting read. I always enjoy your posts and this was right up there with the best of them!

    Linda

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  11. Interesting post. I haven’t seen the show but these things never go as they really happened.

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  12. You really are an expert in this historical family! Wondering…are you as well-versed with the more current Royals?

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    • Hello Lorna,
      Thank you for taking the time to read this long spiel, and for your compliment about the Family !1
      I dunno… I keep up- to-date on everything… simply because I’m fascinated by personalities, heredity, character, and in the case of Diana and Kate, I love fashion !!!! Loved Melania Trump’s outfits for the in-augauration, though I may be unpopular for saying so !!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Dear Valerie,

    I would love to hear the details of your conversations with Royalty but have the utmost respect for your doing the right thing. It must have been very painful for you to watch The Crown which I now have no desire to see.

    I had no idea about Prince Philip’s sisters. Interestingly, when we think of concentration camps Bergen Belsen, Auschwitz and Dachau come to mind. Most people don’t know that there were 40,000 between the Nazis and their allies.

    I’m late to read this week because I wanted to wait until a time I sit and savor. I so appreciate your sharing your vast knowledge.

    Sending warm thoughts and hope your recovery from your accident continues ahead of schedule.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

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  14. Dear Rochelle,

    What a lovely warm comment, thank you… how sweet of you to want to savour my blog… a great compliment and much appreciated…

    Don’t let me put you off The Crown – it’s beautifully produced, very entertaining, and a good story if you don’t mind facts being re-shaped !!!!

    Not sure what you meant about 40,000… I understood there were three hundred concentration and extermination camps in Germany and their conquered territories, where eight million people perished as well as the six million Jews … The sufferings, for example of Arch Duke Ferdinand’s innocent children (he who was shot at Sarajevo and unwittingly -sparked the First World War),sent to camps by Hitler because of who they were, make dreadful reading, as with so many others, starved, tortured and killed just because of who they were…

    Thank you re leg – slow progress actually, because of the numb foot and shin… on painkillers for the nerve pain all the time, but feeling upbeat,
    having good care taken of me !!!

    So good to hear from you,
    Love Valerie

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  15. Dear Valerie,

    The number 40,000 came from the United States Holocaust Museum organization which states that between 1933-1945 there were that many camps and incarceration sites established by the Nazis and their allies. No matter…even one is unthinkable.

    Glad you have good care.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

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  16. Hello Rochelle,
    thank you… your reply cause me to go into a frenzy of research, as I never accept a single source as unbiassed, – particularly if they have an axe to grind !!!
    I find that figure includes all camps between 1932 and 1945, many of which were very short-lived, and which also included all the different types of POW camps ( including the ones where hundreds of thousands of Russians were just left in the open to starve to death), plus all the satellite camps – Auschwitz for example had forty-four … accurate figures on such an emotive subject are very difficult to assess of course.
    Thank you for sending me off on a useful chase for facts – I can never know enough about the Second World War that I lived through so unknowing of so much that happened.. Valerie

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  17. Dearest Valerie,

    I appreciate your digging. No one was safe from the Nazis–gypsies, homosexuals, and those who had mental disorders (anyone not ‘perfect’ by Aryan standards.)
    I have also found in writing historical fiction that not all of sources agree on an event.
    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    Like

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