Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Crown: Episode One of a New Series on Queen Elizabeth II

Ever since Elizabeth Windsor was 10 years old, she knew that one day she would be queen. In a speech given on the event of her 21st birthday, while in South Africa on a tour with her family, she pledged her life to service of her people.

Even at that young age, Elizabeth knew what her duty would one day be and accepted her fate.
She has got all Princess Mary's solid and endearing qualities plus a perfectly natural power of enjoying herself without any trace of silence. Moreover, when necessary, she can take on the old bores with much of her mother's skill, and never spares herself in that exhausting part of royal duty.
- Sir Alan "Tommy" Lascelles
Private Secretary to King George VI

Shortly after the Royal family's return, the engagement of Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten was announced. Like the event Royal wedding of Kate Middleton to Prince William, this was exciting news for Great Britain. This dress from one of the engagement photos is very similar to the first outfit we see Elizabeth wearing in episode one of The Crown, a new series by Netflix:

Norman Hartnell, who designed the wedding gown, was besieged with reporters wanting to know details about the dress and the Palace Press Secretary was asked by the Women's Press Club what cosmetics Elizabeth would be wearing on her big day (some things never change). As fabric was still being rationed at this time, so soon after WWII, the Princess received over 200 ration coupons from women all over the country toward her wedding gown, which of course had to be returned.


The wedding took place on the 20th of November, 1947, at Westminster Abbey. It is this event, as well as the failing health of the King and the electing of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister once again, that is the predominant subject of the first episode.

Starring Claire Foy as Elizabeth, Matt Smith as Prince Philip, and Jared Harris as King George VI, the series has been highly anticipated by Royal Fans everywhere and so far has not disappointed. One of the highlights of the first episode, and indeed of the entire series, is the replica of the wedding gown originally created by Hartnell. While there are many photographs from the Royal Wedding, not to mention the gown itself being on display this year in London, there is something special about seeing it as it would have looked new, and in motion. Just reading about the time and care taken to recreate this special gown is remarkable.

In this article from Vogue, we learn that the original gown design was approved only three months before the wedding and was made of "ivory silk and featured flower designs of jasmine, smilax, lilac, and white rose–like blossoms, supposedly inspired by Botticelli’s Primavera painting in 1482," and that her "13-foot train was also supposed to be symbolic of rebirth and growth after the war." The replica took nearly two months to make and had six embroiderers to work on it. The result was well worth the time and effort. Read more about the dress on the Royal Collection site.

There's also an interesting story about the Queen Mary Fringe tiara, which was Elizabeth's "something borrowed" (it can also be worn as a necklace but has never been seen in public as such). The earrings, of diamond and pearl, were a 20th birthday present from Queen Mary, who had inherited them from her mother.

I was especially excited to see the bridesmaids dresses, as I love the ethereal quality of them, with the glittering stars sprinkled over the full tulle skirts and the wreaths of delicate flowers in their hair. This photo of Margaret in her bridesmaids dress my favorite of her: 

One thing you might notice different from the actual photos versus the show is the backdrop of the official wedding portraits. The real photos were all taken in front of a crimson velvet curtain, while in the episode different backdrops are used. 

Another incident shown (that I could not find a photograph of) is Prince Philip's mother dressed in a habit at the wedding. Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece, had been taken to a sanitarium when Philip was 9 years old and spent two years there (Philip's father moved to the Riviera where he lived with his mistress). Later, she began the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary and opened and orphanage in Athens. She died in 1969. You can read more about her here.

Just before they wedding party goes out on the balcony, King George VI gives his daughter a moving picture camera. Later in the episode and in the next we see her using it to record memories.

After the wedding we get a montage of their early married life in Malta and the arrival of Prince Charles and Princess Anne (1948 & 1950). Then they get the call that His Majesty is undergoing an operation, sending Elizabeth and Philip hurrying back to London. The King has had a lung removed (he has cancer but isn't told). E & P renovate Clarence House to be their home. The King, sensing he hasn't much longer, attempts to show Elizabeth what being a monarch is like.

Stay tuned for more posts!


Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch. Sally Bedell Smith. 2012
The Queen Mother: The Official Biography. William Shawcross. 2009.
The History Behind The Crown's Most Incredible Looks
The Crown Style Archives (photos of all the costumes)

More Interesting Articles:

Vogue on The Crown and Our Fascination with the Royal Family
Get Claire Foy's Look in The Crown so you too can look Royally Gorgeous
Unpicking the Costumes on The Crown with Michelle Clapton
The History Behind The Crown's Most Incredible Looks
Queen's 1947 Wedding Cake Recreated for TV Show


Peter Morgan Serves the Queen, Again
Claire Foy in Wedding Gown Costume.. Plus Sling
Matt Smith on Prince Philip
How Accurate is Netflix's 'The Crown'?
Why Should I Watch a TV Show About Queen Elizabeth II?
These Rare Videos Inspired The Crown's Portrayal of Queen Elizabeth
Claire Foy on Playing Queen Elizabeth II
Why the Queen is sure Prince Philip never cheated


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