“The crown must win, must always win” – The Crown
As the first season of Netflix’s lavish new series The Crown drew to a close, it did so with a blowup between sisters, Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) and Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby). The issue stemmed from Princess Margaret’s desire to wed Group Captain Peter Townsend, a divorcee with whom she had an affair, while he was still married to his first wife, and the mother of his children.
Margaret conveniently leaves that fact out, when she gives her revisionist telling of how their relationship evolved, to Elizabeth in Episode 6 (“Gelignite”). According to Margaret, she and Peter started seeing each other after, he and his wife divorced. A divorce she claims was prompted solely by his wife’s adultery, and not his own.
Operating under this false notion, Elizabeth bends over backwards trying to sway the powers that be, to allow Margaret to marry Peter (Ben Miles). Given the cultural climate of the times, Elizabeth is not able to acquire a blessing for the couple to marry.
Elizabeth must then decide whether she will take matters into her own hands, and defy the church, and the establishment, to make her sister happy. Conflicted, she reaches out to her and Margaret’s Uncle David (Alex Jennings), who persuades her to put “the crown” first. A decision he failed to make, years ago.
In the Season 1 finale (“Gloriana”) of The Crown, Elizabeth is haunted by a promise she and her sister had both made to their late father, when they were children. When their uncle abdicated the throne, their father (the new king) made a young Elizabeth and Margaret promise to always put each other first. It is a promise they both made, and The Crown and Margaret insinuate Elizabeth breaks, by refusing her sister’s plight.
In the Season 1 finale, Elizabeth tells Margaret that she can be with Peter, but she will have to leave the country, lose her title, the allowance that comes with it, and therefore forfeit her relationship with her family, to do so. The exact penalty her uncle faced, when he made his decision.
Margaret refuses, choosing to drop Peter instead. It is left open to interpretation as to whether Margaret makes her decision because she does not want to lose her family, or the benefits that come from being a princess.
For his part, Peter seems freshly disillusioned with the idea of marrying a former princess, and all that goes along with it. How deep his love for Margaret truly is, is questionable at best.
Regardless, The Crown and Margaret intimate that Elizabeth has broken her vow to their father. That Elizabeth has betrayed her sister by refusing her request. The thing is it is not Elizabeth, who has betrayed a sister. It is Margaret.
By making this impractical request of her sister, Margaret is asking that her personal interests be put above her sister’s duties as queen. Not exactly the behavior of a proper princess, or a thoughtful sister. She knows she is putting Elizabeth in an awful position. It is Margaret who is not putting her sister first.
When their father asked them to make their “sisterhood” promise, it was because David had done the exact same thing his niece, Margaret, attempts to in do in Season 1. How could she expect it to play out any differently? Why should it? Because she is Margaret, and that somehow exempts her from the fate of her uncle?
The truth is Margaret only has herself to blame for hers and Peter’s unhappiness. When Margaret enters her torrid affair with the married Peter, she knows it will be frowned upon. When she announces that she wants to marry him now that he is divorced, she knows it will be next-to-impossible to secure her sister, and their country’s permission.
By asking Elizabeth to move heaven and earth so she can marry her lover, she is breaking the promise she made to their father. Margaret’s conscience is not pricked or bothered by it, one bit. She wants what she wants.
The “sisterhood” promise was born out of the conflict, and controversy their uncle had wrought on the family with his identical impasse. David threw away the crown so he could marry a two-time divorcee. A marriage, he was denied for the same reason Margaret is denied hers.
Margaret crying and carrying on as the injured party, when she threw herself on the train tracks is ridiculous. The final scene of Season 1 shows Elizabeth having her picture made, all alone.
Whether purposeful or not, the insinuation is that Elizabeth has turned to the “dark side,” pushing her family’s happiness aside to maintain her personal power, when the exact opposite is true. She is only abiding by her duty as a queen, and the daughter of a king.
Elizabeth is not the bad guy in this scenario. Margaret knows when she embarks on her relationship with Peter that she will face the same resistance her uncle did.
Her only hope at avoiding the same outcome is to successfully manipulate her sister’s affections. While, The Crown seemingly tries to shame Elizabeth for denying her sister’s romantic idealism, it is clear that Margaret has only herself to blame for her pain.
[Featured Image by Alex Bailey/Netflix]