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A Christian Review of "The Crown": Part 1

the crown - a christian review

Episode One – Wolferton Splash

Blood in the water. At Buckingham palace. The King being dressed. An outsider brought into the royal family. A bride preparing for her wedding. These are the opening scenes from “The Crown,” a lavish Netflix production, critically acclaimed.

I was enchanted as I watched all these elements unfold. What I realized at once was that this was about a king, a kingdom, and a sacred calling. Death and danger were hovering in the background. It is, of course, about a young woman’s preparation for the crown, the throne and governing her people. It is also about leaving the comfort of her former life and learning to live worthy of her royal calling.

Preparing for the Kingdom and the Throne

Queen Elizabeth is one of my favorite people, a faithful Christian, and the most significant woman of the 20th century. The Crown begins in 1947 as the 21-year old princess prepares for her wedding with Philip Mountbatten, a Greek prince who has had to renounce his own titles and country to marry the heir to the English throne.

After George VI ennobles his soon-to-be son-in-law, the scene moves from the palace to the cathedral, the secular to the holy, and we sense we are a part of a metamorphosis, the selection, transformation, and discipline of a queen.

All is noble and majestic, stately, and godly. “Praise My Soul the King of Heaven” lifts our spirits as the princess walks to the altar where her father gives her to the man she has chosen (and he affirmed) as her husband, consort, protector, and “liegeman” for life. A silent power has been at work; without a word the princess has orchestrated her marriage to the man she loves and vows to obey, a man disliked and resisted by her mother and the whole royal establishment.

Her father gives Elizabeth a movie camera so she can record the events of her life, and she begins at once when she and Philip move to Malta. Their life centers on his naval career and family, and their children Charles and Anne are born. Elizabeth captures all of this in home movies, full of fun and the things young families do.

The focus so far is on the elegant, royal, and lovely, but silently in the background lie the blood in the toilet bowl, and the machinations of courtiers, politicians, and other outsiders. The tensions rise between personal home and family and the royal anointing. Danger quietly surrounds the newlyweds and their burgeoning family. Within the palace, a taboo relationship begins between the other princess and a commoner.

The Shadow of Death

These threads meet in 1951 on an operating table at the palace, where the royal family waits for the results. As the king’s recovery begins, we learn he is dying of a mortal disease deliberately hidden from him and his family. Only the newly elected prime minister knows, and he holds it close but attunes himself at once to his responsibilities to turn this young wife and mother into a queen.

George VI keeps all this to himself and begins preparing his daughter to reign as the family celebrates Christmas together. The scene is one of tenderness and beauty as visiting carolers sing “what shall I give Him?” and the dying king answers “Give my heart.”

Preparing the Heir

The next day he meets with the princess royal to teach her to manage the paperwork of the monarchy and gives her a tip on how to proceed. Knowing she will need firm support from her husband, the king encourages her to pay more attention to Philip. He quietly induces her to take his place on a worldwide royal tour, giving himself time with his wife, mother, younger daughter, and grandchildren.

Before they go, King George takes his young son-in-law duck shooting at Wolverton Splash. As they load up in the boat, the old man explains to the young that the dukedom and other honors are not the most important thing about his job. “She is the job,” the king explains, and protecting, loving, and supporting her is the most patriotic act he can do. “Do you understand, boy?” “I think so, sir.” And so, the first episode ends, with the king’s fate uncertain, his daughter longing to return to their private home in Malta, and her young husband wondering if he really does understand this “job.”

What Happens Next in The Crown?

What will happen to the king, these young people, and their families? What will happen to the kingdom?

As I saw young Elizabeth called and prepared for the kingdom, I could not help but relate it all to our lives as Christians. Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom, and each one of us has been chosen to occupy a place there. What will it be? Are we getting ourselves ready? How? Perhaps Princess Elizabeth will show us. Find out in my second article within this series, THE HIDDEN GOSPEL IN “THE CROWN”: PART II

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