The first thing you hear when pressing play on the new Netflix original series The Crown is the repeated coughs of a dying king. He isn’t aware of the seriousness of the blood on his handkerchief, but the implications of the scene aren’t lost on the viewer. King George VI, the stammering monarch who helped bring Britain through WWII (as dramatized in The King Speech), just began his final chapter, setting the stage for his daughter, 25-year-old Elizabeth, to ascend the throne.
The Crown is the most expensive television series ever produced, and it’s not hard to figure out why. While covering the early adult life of Great Britain’s longest living monarch, Netflix pays top dollar ($130 million) to take us back in time to the halls of Buckingham Palace.
And you may even find yourself convinced its real.
As the story gets going, we are introduced to a quiet Elizabeth who seems drastically unprepared to begin rule. Surrounded by so many others telling her what to do and how to do it, it takes several episodes for Elizabeth to gain Her Majesty’s queenly presence.
The show runners are sympathetic to some of the controversies and gossip about her marriage to third-cousin Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh—but the series doesn’t shy away from it either. Though his eyes seem attracted to waitresses and flight attendants, don’t expect to see a steamy royal affair.
Throughout the series, Prince Philip struggles to acclimate to his role the background while his career, surname, and freedom seem to be sucked into the Queen’s shadow. As King George VI tells him in episode 2, “The Crown must take precedence.” But he also becomes the voice of modern reason in the series, which comes in contrast to the unending advice of an aged Winston Churchill, who rigorously guides and counsels the Queen to uphold the rich royal traditions.
But the most striking element of this 10-episode series is watching Elizabeth take on the soul-crushing weight of becoming Queen. The series is aptly named “The Crown” because the drama unfolding is no longer about Elizabeth herself, but the goddess-like queen who must shed all traces of human weakness and fragility to ascend the role of Great Britain’s sovereign ruler.
Her relationship with her sister, mother, children, husband and everyone else must eventually transform into the simple, impersonal interactions of a queen and her royal subjects.
In episode 4, the Queen mother, Mary of Teck, offers one of the most poignant mini-speeches of the series, which helps define the purpose of the pomp and pageantry of the office Elizabeth has been forced to accept. As a terrible fog takes over London, Elizabeth asks the Queen mother (her grandmother) about whether she really believes being queen is a calling from God. Mary’s answer:
“Monarchy is God’s sacred mission to grace and dignify the earth, to give ordinary people an ideal to strive towards, an example of nobility and duty to raise them in their wretched lives. Monarchy is a calling from God. That is why you are crowned in an Abbey, not a government building. Why you’re anointed, not appointed. It’s an Arch Bishop that puts the crown on your head, not a minister of public service. Which means you are answerable to God in your duty, not the public.”
No matter what you believe about the role God plays in monarchy, this speech offers a meaningful perspective on how Kings and Queens are supposed to rule—in total submission to God.
Though the series doesn’t get into it much, we can know from what Queen Elizabeth has said throughout her 63-year reign that Christ plays a crucial role in how she carries out her duty. In a recently published book, The Servant Queen and the King She Serves, we get an inside look into the faith of a woman who has learned to depend on Jesus in the good times and the bad.
Whether you enjoy the dramatization of Elizabeth’s early life as Queen or read about her faith in a book, we can all be encouraged that there is a world leader out there who unabashedly proclaims Christ as she seeks to serve her people.
“I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God!” (Queen Elizabeth II, 2002)
Corum Hughes works on the production team for HAVEN Today and is the managing editor of the All About Jesus blog. His passions include running, biking, reading, watching movies, and seeking Jesus in places He is seldom sought. Corum lives with his wife in Idaho.
The Servant Queen and the King she serves
Now in the hands of over a million people, this is one of the most popular books in Britain. The Servant Queen and the King She Serves takes a closer look at the Queen’s personal faith in Jesus and the impact it’s had on her long life of service to the nation.