The Complexity of Forgiveness in “The Crown”

the-crown

Season 2 of the hit Netflix original series The Crown centers on the many changes that Elizabeth experiences as she continues her reign. There’s a new Prime Minister, a new love interest for Princess Margaret, and the promise of more children for Elizabeth and Philip.

Amidst all the change, though, one episode caught my interest. “Vergangenheit” centers on the Duke of Windsor as he hopes to gain some kind of diplomatic/liaison position as he has grown tired of endless parties. However, information in regards to the former King Edward’s Nazi sympathies has also surfaced.

One interesting subplot from this particular episode is Elizabeth’s curious fascination with televangelist Billy Graham and actually seeks his advice in regards to forgiveness. Elizabeth examines her conscience as both head of state and head of the Church of England. She needed spiritual direction to figure out how to handle the situation with her uncle. It was utterly absurd to see the Queen of England seek spiritual advice from an American televangelist, but she stated that since she’s the head of the Church in England, there is nobody above her other than God Himself.

In the end, Queen Elizabeth decided that her uncle was still exiled as part of the agreement in his abdication. What was once rumors and hearsay became cold hard facts when she learned about how close England was to becoming a Nazi state. The Duke of Windsor claimed that he just wanted peace. The photographs that were shown at the end of the episode, however, showed that he was really being a coward. As much as he claimed to hold onto his individualism, he wanted to do so at the cost of millions of lives, casting all familial loyalty and love for his people aside. Although the Duke of Windsor initially denied his Nazi sympathies, claiming that he had no idea what kind of person Hitler would become. However, photographs from history show otherwise. If Hitler won the war, Edward and Wallis would’ve been instated as puppets for the Nazi regime.

The reason this particular episode fascinated me is because of how complicated the nature of forgiveness was for Elizabeth. She did the right thing by not allowing her uncle to have any of the positions he aspired to. He couldn’t be trusted with any sort of job that represents England given how he was willing to just lie down and let Hitler walk all over him. However, Elizabeth couldn’t forgive him on a personal level, either and it’s that inability to forgive that weighs down upon her at the end of the episode. Her husband, of course, assures her that she did the right thing and they share a moment of happily married bliss. And all is well for the British monarchy.

I don’t blame Elizabeth for not being able to forgive her uncle on a personal level. As the queen, she has a love for her subjects and was deeply affected by the war on a personal level. However, while she did the right thing in denying her uncle any liaison or diplomatic positions, she should have learned something about forgiveness: It doesn’t mean forgetting what has been done. It means letting go of her anger and wishing the best good for him. I don’t think she would’ve been able to let go after finding out the information, but forgiveness is a process, especially since the Duke of Windsor himself refused to apologize.

There are many actions people deem as unforgivable. “Being a Nazi” tops most people’s lists. Do you think that you can let go of the anger towards people who are fascist and racist? I’ll just leave this video from Bishop Robert Barron where he explains that the reason we forgive is because mercy challenges us to become saints. And I think forgiveness is part of that.

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