The Complexity of Forgiveness in “The Crown”

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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.

The Crown: Elizabeth’s Vocation

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One of Netflix’s latest hit original series is The Crown, a historical drama centering on the life of Queen Elizabeth II as she deals with the loss of her father and transitions into her new life as the Queen of England. There are many things that I liked about this series, but this post will look into how the duty of being queen reminded me of having a vocation and how that vocation affected Elizabeth’s relationships with her husband as well as her sister.

The Queenly Vocation

The word “vocation” in Catholic circles often calls to mind people who become priests or nuns. Some people believe that God created us with a certain vocation in mind. In Elizabeth’s case, she knew that she would be queen eventually because it’s a duty inherited by her birthright and bestowed on her upon the death of her father. The coronation ceremony shown in “Smoke and Mirrors” reminded me of the sacrament of Holy Orders or Confirmation, as Elizabeth is anointed with oil on her hands, chest, and head.

One aspect to having a religious vocation is that sometimes, a person’s name is changed. This was the case for Elizabeth’s father and her uncle, who took on different names upon becoming king. Elizabeth chose to keep hers. However, she still goes through a different sort of change in her identity. Towards the end of the 2nd episode “Hyde Park Corner,” Elizabeth receives a letter from her grandmother, Queen Mary. In that letter, Queen Mary tells Elizabeth that “Elizabeth Mountbatten” has been replaced by “Elizabeth Regina,” her persona as Queen and tells her that “The crown must win, must always win.”

This brings me to the third aspect of the show that reminded me of having a religious vocation: the vow of obedience. While Elizabeth is both married and rich, she was still expected to obey the duties given to her. Upon her coronation, Elizabeth vowed to maintain and preserve the traditions and laws of her country as well as the Church of England. The vow of obedience to God and country is what provides the main conflict between Elizabeth and her loved ones, particularly her husband and her sister.

Queen, Wife, and Sister

The main reason I decided to watch The Crown was because I wanted to see how Matt Smith would be outside of the world of science fiction. Prince Philip Mountbatten aka The Duke of Edinburgh is Elizabeth’s husband and for a while, it’s clear that the two of them love each other. However, Elizabeth’s duties as queen put major restrictions on Prince Philip’s life. Gender roles have been reversed as Elizabeth is the one with the “breadwinning” career while Philip is stuck trying to make the most of his life as the “homemaker” and is often seen playing with the kids.

The marriage takes a great strain towards the latter half of the first season as Philip has to give up his surname, the house he and Elizabeth bought and had renovated,  and was extremely limited in what kind of leisurely hobbies he could pursue. He was still allowed to socialize, but he still wanted to be the head of the household, even if Elizabeth was Queen. By the time the first season ends, Philip is heading to Australia to help out with the Olympics, feeling like his role of husband has been erased.

Worse still, however, is how Elizabeth’s role of queen affects her relationship with her sister Margaret. From the beginning of the season, Margaret is in the midst of an affair with the married Peter Townsend. Even though Elizabeth wants her sister to be happy, she couldn’t allow Margaret and Peter to marry.

While I understand Margaret’s desires to stand out from her older sister’s shadow, I honestly think that her relationship with Peter is foolish, even if you consider him to be the “innocent party” in his divorce. Margaret is a woman in her early 20s and is already set to marry when most women her age with her personality would be playing the field in terms of dating. I’m not saying she should play fast and loose with her heart, but her belief that she will never love someone as much as she loves Peter is a foolish one. I also didn’t like how she treated her sister and undermined Elizabeth’s love for their father.

While I don’t think I’ll ever be an Anglophile the way that others are, The Crown pulls me into the drama of Elizabeth’s life because it shows how being the queen is a unique, Anglican version of a vocation and how that vocation will affect the lives of Elizabeth’s family, for better or for worse. I can’t wait to see Season 2 and I hope that Elizabeth and Peter will make an effort to keep their marriage strong.