Opinion and Editorial

The Crown puts forth a not so suitable match

ambica@khaleejtimes.com Filed on November 19, 2020

(PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo)

The Crown is a harsh reminder that a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry that commodifies ‘history’ is best left for mindless binge watching when sleep eludes you.

Ever since Netflix dropped the latest season of its lavishly mounted, exquisitely set period drama The Crown, based on the lives and loves of the Windsors, ‘royal commentators’ have gone into a frenzy, debating the veracity of historical events as portrayed in the series. Did Queen Elizabeth and her royal cohorts actually set up a Balmoral challenge for Margaret Thatcher, which she fails spectacularly when she embarks on a stag stalking expedition clad in her fashionable bright blue coat and court shoes? Did Lord Mountbatten send a missive to his ward, expressing disappointment at the wayward royal heir’s philandering with a married woman, before his tragic demise? Did Lady Di go roller-skating in Buckingham Palace, singing along to Duran Duran on her Walkman? Was Charles and Diana’s union as clumsy and lovelorn as made out to be? If tabloid reports are to be believed the royal family is aghast at the gross distortion of its members and palace aids are hopping mad at the manner in which the series have portrayed their king-in-waiting.

Unlike previous seasons, the current one set in the 80s, is familiar territory for many viewers who are disquieted by the marked disparity between the on-screen antics and how they recollect the actual events of the time. But like Peter Morgan, the creator of The Crown, says, “Sometimes you have to forsake accuracy, but you must never forsake truth.”

If you leave aside the drama about the rewriting of history that’s gone into turning real-life events into a potboiler of a script, the manner in which the royal match is conducted points to the universal nature of matrimonial unions.

Diana publically bemoaned that there were three people in her marriage. With the invaluable power of retrospection, rather than see one set as the perpetrators and the other as the victim, it is far more sensible to now see that all three were victims in the whole tragedy — victims of circumstances, victims of royal protocol, and perhaps the deepest cut of all — victims of personal choices.

But what really struck me while watching the episodes centred around Diana’s entry into the royal family was that if you peel away the layers of taffeta and frothy lace and the over 10,000 mother of pearl sequins that went into the making of her OTT wedding gown, marriage is often a relationship brokered between families. Whether it is a royal family from a tiny island nation or one from among the oldest civilisations in the world — Sima Mami (Indian Matchmaking duh?) would no doubt nod along sagely.

I went into The Crown soon after sitting through Mira Nair’s take on The Suitable Boy, and before that the cringe-binge worthy Indian Matchmaking, all of which intriguingly dropped on the same OTT platform.

At 29, Charles is seen as ripe for marriage, and Diana deemed a worthy bride by his mum who gives her tacit approval upon learning of her lineage. What’s the difference between the royals and the ‘common’ families portrayed in the modern Indian wedding reality series that was criticised for setting a premium on class and caste when searching for a suitable match for their ward?

And for those who keep harping on about love or the lack of it as reason enough to get married or divorced as the case may be, Charles’ infamous “whatever ‘in love’ means” quip to the media post his engagement to Diana is so apt. Love can be defined in so many different ways and duty is just one of them as Queen Elizabeth keeps reminding her family.

But the truth is that the tragedy that unfolded in the aftermath of the very public unraveling of the fairy tale romance between an awkward English Prince and a gauche, wide-eyed kindergarten assistant, could have been avoided if the family had paid heed to what is so obvious to us, common folks, peering through the chinks of Buckingham Palace, into the private lives of the very public English royal family.

The Panorama interview, which interestingly is in the eye of a storm right now, and is often described as the point of no return for Diana, is perhaps a reminder that history can never be written by those who shirk the limelight.

The Crown is a harsh reminder that a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry that rakes in its profits from commodifying ‘history’ is best left for mindless binge watching when sleep eludes you. But there’s no escaping that it is a travesty for those forced to watch silently as their intimate lives play out in screens across the world for everyone to gawk at. Truly, where’s the love?



Ambica Sachin

Armed with a double masters in English Literature, Ambica Sachin embarked on a career that has seen her straddle teaching, assisting an award-winning author, and reviewing books and movies, before finding her forte in critical writing and interviewing celebrities. She is currently Editor, City Times, the lifestyle and entertainment portal of Khaleej Times.

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