The Crown as Vestige of Imperialism

Ian Harvey Claros

By: Ian Harvey Claros | Squeeze | Published January 9, 2018 | Updated January 9, 2018


The Neflix Series, The Crown Season 2 comes at an exciting time. The recent engagement of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry turns to be a good prelude for this ambitious British Royalty Series. Considering Markle’ status as an American and a divorcee, there is much anticipation on how the Windsors will receive her. Apparently, The Crown Season 2 offers a pretext on how things may turn for Meghan.

Last year, Jean Hannah Edelstein, in her Guardian opinion, said that the public should not rejoice with Mehgan’s inclusion among the Windsors as they are completely different from their fairy tale portrayal. Edelstein recites instances why it will not be a walk in the park for Meghan. It is in this same position of doubt where I wish to examine the series.

The second season rehearses Queen Elizabeth’s life set in the 1960’s post-war Britain, an era which royals (in the series) repeatedly refer to as the “end of deference” marking a decline of their world supremacy. It is further textured by an interplay of real historical events matched with unaccounted gossip and imagination. The Crown’s ten episodes feature key events such as Prince Philip’s possible yet unproven infidelities, the disintegration of the British colonies in Africa such as Egypt and Ghana, Princess Margaret’s marriage to an unconventional photographer, the rise of Soviet Russian influence in global politics, the leakage of King Edward’s treacherous alliance with the Nazis, the Queen’s insecurity being outshined by Jacqueline Kennedy, and the modernization of Great Britain. Suffice it to say that the recipes for intrigue, conspiracy and sensation are all prepared for an audience wanting and waiting for moment of royal voyeurism.

In its episodes, there is already a clear background of Prince Philip’s formation as a Royal Prince with a shaky and tragic family upbringing. Much of his portrayal provides us a schema why he has deep-seated insecurities prevalent in the two seasons. Also, this explains why Philip opts a rough formation for Charles who appears to be more fit for Eton and not Gordonstoun. Particular in the season about Prince Philip is his tour for the Commonwealth. There, he sauntered the tropics uniformed as a British Navy. The royal tour unravels a Western gaze to its colonies. The exoticism extends to imagining the tropics as a lush vegetation for the imperialist British economy to a wanderlust where the typical white male bourgeois enjoys dalliances with the natives.

Furthermore, one recurrent 1960’s question that haunts the Royal family is the essence of constitutional monarchy. With the rise of socialism and republican states, Britain and the world inevitably examine the worth and necessity of royalty in a world that antithetically gestures towards an egalitarian order. I must say that the entire length of the series does not really offer a justification aside from the divine rights. Sadly, the ancient concept of the royals’ divine prerogative has earlier been settled in at least two historic events – the French and the Bolshevik revolutions. It is not a surprise that the Royals repetitively label the 60’s as an “age of deference.” The catch phrase owns the idea of “respect” (as in respect to whom?) as a signifier of stability of the imperial rule. At the height of the Cold War, their ancient ideologies are put to test as the English people rethink their country’s political formation. Socialism’s antithetical posture uncovers the ignobility of what is paraded as noble and respectful.

The Crown performs a distinct repertoire of imperialism through the subtleties of the English language to the prim and proper techniques of the body. The monarchic presentation is clean and serene – almost configured as divine. There is always a deceptive sorcery in the presentation of the monarchy that even when rendered in the an almost documentary expression it still retains mystery. But one has to read this mystery as a mere trope of the resilience of imperialism – something inherently imbedded to Royalty. Note that Queen Elizabeth consistently despised national independence as she is heard describing it as “silly”. She is leery of the Other’s power to govern themselves. Thus, this circumspection should be reverted to the British monarchy. The artifice as irony is fully amplified when the Royals attempt to be egalitarian as it becomes an obvious defense mechanism and a survival tactic to suppress the classless thought.

There is danger in the what the series The Crown proposes: their humanity. It must be realized that their calculated humanity, presented before our screen, is artificial. It is a humanity that thrives at the expense of others suffering. The crown, as a metonymic sign for the hegemonic enterprise, utilizes violence to subdue anything contrarian especially with their colonial subjects. It is the impetus colonial and capitalist desire – ruling through imposition. In other words, their drama cannot simply be reduced to “Oh, they are humans after all.” There is no romance here, only apparatus.

In the final score, The Crown Season Two recounts the artifice and fallacy that collude for the continuation of the monarchy. The 1960’s is no longer an era where monarchs rule because of their ability to protect their subjects – a feudal arrangement. Nonetheless, the British crown prevails because it is a necessary binding emblem for the preservation of the hierarchies that forge capitalism and bureaucracy. It is a policing power that inspires people to merely courtesy at a time where they should demand for higher wages. I believe their opiate power still does the trick both in film and in reality. Though it is apt to say that after such realizations they still are impregnable, at least we should think twice before singing God Save the Queen.

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