Much Ado About Nothing
Titled after the Duke of the same name, travelling back from his American exile to attend his late brother the King’s funeral, episode 3 is all about palace intrigues and pet peeves. His Royal Highness is hated by his mother, his sister-in-law and part of the people alike since he abdicated to live in the New World with an American triple divorcee, she-the-name-of-which-can-not-be-told. The arrival of Windsor in London (including The best image of the series so far at the Southampton deck) further complicates the Buckingham Palace situation, as we now have three queens and two kings to deal with: it’s not a monarchy anymore, it’s a poker game.
Quite legitimately, the Prince Consort feels a bit out of his depth in this regal tournament. Following his scheming uncle’s advice, he pressures his wife to have the name Mountbatten officially attached to the Crown of England. This subplot allows an unvolontarily hilarious scene: after Lord Mountbatten, depicted as a old fart delirious with power, toasts a bit prematurely his success after one more hunting scene, the Prince Of Hannover rushes to his grant-aunt (or something), Queen Mary and spill the beans. Clutching her 45 rings of pearls, the Queen Mother asks, in shock “You were drinking champagne the day after my son’s funeral?”. Priceless.
Queen Elizabeth has grown far from the tomboy she appears to have been in a golden hued, corgi-ed flashback, climbing trees with Princess Margaret. She’s very much in love with her dashing husband and ready to fulfill his every wish, from the Mountbatten name to keeping residence in Clarence House instead of gloomy, chilly Buckingham Palace. She indeed, pardon my French, appears quite a scatterbrain in this episode, finally accepting, over luncheon, advice from the man she professed to despise thirty minutes earlier. The Queen, however, is not fooled by Churchill’s reluctance to accelerate her coronation: as long as she’s not officially on the throne, he remains in power.
Considering it takes half an hour to Sir Winston to extract himself from his Rolls-Royce, climb a staircase clutching his cane as if it were his last straw, then scoffs when the Sovereign invites the Prime Minister to have a seat, in ignorance of the customs set by her great-great-grandmother, do not expect bullet time action. The characters of the piece still exchange languishing conversations about the way certain breeds of dogs yap more they bark or find time, in times of national crisis, to fondly remember the duck à l’orange served in a particular castle. The Windsor more and more resemble the Adams family, all clad in mourning and in complete disconnection from reality.
The writers, if they have reasonable command of the English particular brand of venomous witticism, still rely heavily on their long, meaningful look trick. This time, when six year old Elizabeth listens to Windsor’s allocution on the radio (the ex-King’s speech, if you will), seems to be preternaturally able to see what the future has in store for her. She wanted to live a simple life, see, or so she confesses to Churchill, with all the “Yes I am a Queen, but I’m also a woman” proper trimmings. Yes Elizabeth, the Queen is a woman, but that woman is the Queen. How royally f***ed your life is.