The Crown Season 5 Review

For four seasons, Netflix‘s The Crown has pulled back the curtain to tell the story of the Windsors.

Season five premiered last weekend. Taking place in the 1990s, it dives into the personal and professional troubles of the late Queen Elizabeth II (Imelda Staunton) and her family. Standing stalwart beside her is her now-late husband, Prince Philip (Jonathan Pryce), and late sister Princess Margaret (Lesley Manville).

Among the issues that the Windsors are dealing with are the failing marriages of three of the Queen’s four children. As we all know now, the “happy” union of the former Prince Charles (Dominic West) and the late Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) has reached its breaking point. Returning to the arms of his ex, the former Camilla Parker Bowles (Olivia Williams), he is torn between duty and love.

This season is amazing. Among the main cast, Staunton and Debicki are the standouts. Staunton perfectly follows in the footsteps of her predecessors, Claire Foy and Olivia Coleman. Debicki’s performance as Diana is award-worthy. If I close my eyes and just listen to her, I almost expect that it is the real person, not an actor playing a part.

The only thing that we have to remember is that this is not a documentary. The show is fiction. Some of what we are watching has been made up and not based on actual events.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Crown is available for viewing on Netflix.

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The Serpent Queen Review

It is a truth universally acknowledged that for most of human history a woman in a seat of power has had a precarious position. She is either beloved (i.e. the recently deceased Queen Elizabeth II) or reviled as a temptress and viewed as unworthy of the title (i.e. Cleopatra).

The new Starz eight-episode miniseries, The Serpent Queen, tells the story of Catherine de Medici. Based on the book Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France, by Leonie Frieda, the first episode tells the story of the French Queen. Played by Samantha Morton, she tells her story to Rahima (Sennia Nanua), a servant girl who has been sent to bring the Queen her dinner. Through backstory, we learn about the young Catherine (Liv Hill) and her traumatic path to the throne.

What I like is that so far, is the younger Catherine breaks the fourth wall. She is also cheeky, intelligent, and driven. As an adult, she is also not above using underhanded methods to retain power.

So far, I have mixed feelings about the series. It’s compelling but has yet to completely suck me in as a viewer. As a character, Catherine breaks the mold in an unsettling way that makes me curious, but also sends warning signs to my brain. This woman is not one to be ignored to taken lightly.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

The Serpent Queen airs on Starz on Sunday at 9PM.

RIP Queen Elizabeth

There is a myth about women and power. We are weak and emotional. We cannot take the heat, it’s too difficult, etc. The truth is that we only need the opportunity to prove ourselves.

Queen Elizabeth II died earlier today. She was 96 and on the throne for more than seventy years.

Who could have expected that the young woman who accepted the crown all of those years ago would have become the longest reigning monarch in British history? In an era in which many women kept to the traditional roles of wife and mother, the late Queen stepped into a role that was meant for a man. In doing so, she became an icon and proof that male genitals are not a prerequisite for authority.

She was more than her title. She was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and public servant. Her life was given to her country and her family.

I remember watching her on television decades ago. My first thought was that she looked like she could be anyone’s grandmother. There was an air about her that made her seem like she was an ordinary woman first and a Queen second.

I hope that is how she will be remembered. May her memory be a blessing. Z”L.

Queen Elizabeth GIF by The Telegraph - Find & Share on GIPHY

The Rose Code Book Review

War is not always fought in the battlefield. For every soldier with a weapon in their hand, someone is working equally hard behind the scenes to ensure victory.

The Rose Code, by Kate Quinn, was published in March. In England in 1940, as World War II is about to explode, three women join the war effort. Accepting jobs as code breakers at Blectchley Park, they are responsible for cracking the codes that have been intercepted from Germany.

Osla is the debutant who wants to be known for more than her status in society. She is also dating Prince Philip, who was still a few years away from marrying the future Queen Elizabeth. Mab climbed her way out of her poverty driven childhood in the East End of London. While she works furiously to save lives, she is looking for a husband to give her the life she did not have when she was young. Some might say that Beth is shy, but those who know her will say that she is incredibly intelligent and eager to see what the world has to offer. The war brings these women together before tearing them apart.

Seven years later, the country has united under happier events: the royal wedding. Osla, Beth, and Mab have not spoken to each other since the end of the war. When two of them receive an encrypted letter, the unspoken lie comes to the surface and they must work together to catch a traitor.

I loved this book. It is one of the best that I have read this year. The story is a thrilling rollercoaster of friendship, the sacrifices that war demands, and three women whose lives are turned upside down. It was half spy novel and half coming of age narrative with an undercurrent of early 20th century feminism that is sometimes forgotten.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Royal Governess: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth II’s Childhood Book Review

Sometimes, when we are growing up, those who influence us are not our immediate family. It could be a teacher, a coach, or a counselor whose teaches us lessons long after we have grown up.

Wendy Holden‘s 2020 novel, The Royal Governess: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth II’s Childhood, follows Marion Crawford as she worked as the governess for the future Queen Elizabeth II and her late sister, Princess Margaret. Born to a commoner family in Scotland, she was known to the royal family as “Crawfie”. Taking the job at the young age of 22, she spent 16 years of her life raising the next English Queen. While doing so, she tried to give her charges a sense of normalcy and a glimpse of what life was like outside the palace walls. As time passes, she watches the young girls grow into young women, King Edward III abdicate the thrown, and World War II forever change the fate of the western world.

This book is fantastic. I wish I had had a teacher like Marion when I was young. She is caring, compassionate, stern when she needs to be, and able to educate her pupils in a way that goes beyond what can be found in textbooks. I also appreciated that in the novel, Ms. Holden does not judge Wallis Simpson as other works of fiction have. Depending on the material and the perspective, she is either the wicked woman who tempted a king away from his throne or a romantic icon who followed her heart.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Elizabeth and Margaret: Love and Loyalty Review

If we are lucky, the people we are closest to we are our siblings. But even a relationship born and solidified in childhood can be altered by events that occur in adulthood.

The 2020 Netflix documentary, Elizabeth and Margaret: Love and Loyalty, is about the complicated dynamics between Queen Elizabeth II and her late younger sister, Princess Margaret. Before ascending to the Throne of England, their father, the future King George VI, was the spare. His older brother David, known during his brief time on the throne as Edward III, was the heir to the throne. When David chose love over duty, Elizabeth and Margaret’s life forever changed.

Their father and mother were now King and Queen. Elizabeth, as the heir presumptive and Margaret, the new spare, would have a completely different life. Elizabeth lived and breathed duty. Her life was on the straight and narrow. Margaret was the rebellious wild child, sometimes submitting to the responsibilities of being a working royal and other times living on her own terms.

I really enjoyed this documentary. What struck me was that underneath the titles, the jewels, and the castles was an ordinary relationship between two sisters who were trying to navigate extraordinary circumstances. Though that bond was tested many times over the years, it was never broken.

Do I recommend? Absolutely.

Elizabeth and Margaret: Love and Loyalty is available for streaming on Netflix.

The Crown Season 4 Review

Sometimes a writer does not need to look too far back into the past for inspiration.

The 4th season of The Crown premiered yesterday on Netflix. The season follows the lives of the British royals from 1979-1989. Coming back from season 3 are Olivia Coleman (Queen Elizabeth), Tobias Menzies (Prince Philip), Josh O’Connor (Prince Charles), Erin Doherty (Princess Anne), Helena Bonham-Carter (Princess Margaret), and Marion Bailey (the Queen Mother). Adding new levels of drama and intrigue are Emma Corrin (Princess Diana) and Gillian Anderson (Margaret Thatcher).

In addition to the internal family drama, there is political and economic upheaval beyond the walls of Buckingham Palace.

I binge watched a good chunk of the new season last night. It is nothing short of fantastic. I loved the new additions to the cast. Corrin brings a humanity to her role and adds to the mystique of the real woman behind the character.

If there is one actor among the main players who deserves an award for her work, it is Gillian Anderson. I am the first to admit that my knowledge of Thatcher’s work as Prime Minister is limited. But I know enough to know that then and now, she is a polarizing figure. As the character, Anderson plays a ball busting, glass ceiling shattering woman who is as formidable as the Queen.

The thing I really enjoyed so far is the complete 180 of how Charles is viewed. Last season, he was a young man trying to out who he was as a human being while dealing with burden of responsibility placed upon his shoulders. This season, he still draws empathy, but not as much as did during season 3.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Crown is available for streaming on Netlflix.

The Crown Review

Behind every icon is a human being with the same joys and flaws as the rest of us. But when this person becomes that icon, their humanity is often forgotten.

The Crown premiered in 2016 on Netflix. It tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy). The series starts with her wedding to Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh (Matt Smith) in 1947. It appears the young couple has many years ahead of them to live as ordinarily as they can. Then Elizabeth’s father, King George VI (Jared Harris) dies. Thrust into the role of Queen, she is walking the fine line that many working mothers do between the job and taking care of your family. If that was not enough, her younger sister, Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) can only be described as a rebel who has all of the luxuries and none of the responsibilities the sovereign.

I am only the beginning of the second season. To say that I am hooked is an understatement. As both a history buff and a feminist, I find this fictional Queen Elizabeth to fascinating. She wants to be an ordinary wife and mother. But fate had other plans for her.

I absolutely recommend it.

The Crown is available for viewing on Netflix.

The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel Book Review

It’s hard to be the younger sibling. Especially when your older sibling(s) are beloved.

The late Princess Margaret, younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, was quite the wild child back in the day.

Her story is told in the new novel, The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel, by Georgie Blalock. Through the eyes of Vera Strathmore, the daughter of an impoverished aristocratic family, the viewer is swept into the world of Princess Margaret. At the beginning of the novel, Margaret is young, spoiled, passionate and tempestuous. Vera, still hurting from the death of fiance during World War II, is a writer who dreams of moving to New York.

A chance encounter with Margaret changes Vera’s life and her priorities. Drawn into Margaret’s inner circle, Vera watches as she falls madly in love with Peter Townsend. Peter works for the royal household, is older and married. Despite the criticism, Margaret is determined to have her man.

While Margaret is cordoned into royal responsibilities, Vera begins to wish to be untied from a life tied to the Princess. Soon another scandal envelopes Margaret and Vera must choose how she wants to spend the rest of her life.

This book is brilliant. There is a perception when it comes to royalty, that living that life is akin to a fairy tale. But the reality of that is life far from the fairy tale that it is perceived to be. In telling Princess Margaret’s story through the eyes of Vera, the viewer is taken to a world that is essentially a golden cage. It is a cage that when perceived from within, can be unappealing.

I recommend it.

Charles III Review

Fairy tales often have what if quality to them.

The play, King Charles III, adds to the what if quality of the fairy tale. It is set in an alternative world where Queen Elizabeth II has died and Prince Charles has ascended to the throne. But his time as King is shaky and those closest to him begin to question if Charles can wear the crown.

Last night, PBS aired a television adaptation of the play. Several actors from the play returning to their stage roles; the late Tim Pigott-Smith (Charles), Margot Leicester (Camilla), Oliver Chris (William) and Richard Goulding (Harry). Stepping the roles for the first time were Charlotte Riley (Kate) and Jess (Tamara Lawrance).

While I did not see the play I found the television adaptation interesting. It was interesting because what’s behind closed doors is often more fascinating than the face that we put out for the world to see. Bringing the audience into a world that few of us will ever see added to the heightened drama and the suspense of what questioning if Charles could be successful as King Of England was the hook I needed.

I recommend it.

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