The Crown, the $100 million series which aims to chronicle the entire reign of Queen Elizabeth II over a six-season run, picks up with Claire Foy's Elizabeth on the eve of her wedding in 1947. Here are seven things we learned from the premiere, "Wolferton Splash."
1. THE CIGARETTE FORESHADOWING.
Even for those non-history buffs who may not know how King George VI's reign ended, Episode 1's opening—with the King (Jared Harris) ominously coughing up blood—gives you a decent idea of where things are heading. But the kicker comes a couple of scenes later, as Elizabeth admonishes her soon-to-be-husband Philip (Matt Smith) for his smoking habit. "You know how I hate it," she tells him, blissfully unaware her father will soon be diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Fun fact: Princess Margaret, Elizabeth's sister, also struggled to quit her smoking habit.
2. THAT DIRTY LIMERICK.
Just in case anybody was still worried that The Crown might be a stuffy, dour period drama, writer Peter Morgan wastes no time disavowing them of that notion. While being dressed for the Royal Wedding, the King gets agitated by his overly tight collar—and possibly also by a feeling of impending doom after coughing up a ton of blood. His manservant—seemingly used to his temper—cheers him up by reciting a dirty limerick, and the King responds in kind. As it turns out, King George's fondness for risqué limericks is well-documented.
3. "LOVE, HONOR, AND OBEY."
Some eyebrows are raised during the royal wedding as Elizabeth recites this boilerplate portion of the marriage vows, promising to "obey" her husband. According to John Lithgow's Winston Churchill, who's presented as being in the know on pretty much everything, Elizabeth specifically insisted on keeping this word intact despite its implications. But this conflict recurs throughout the episode, with Elizabeth taking on more and more royal responsibility and Philip being relegated to the role of smiling spouse.
The wedding also introduces the idea that Elizabeth already wields a quiet power in the court—nobody approved of her marriage, we learn, but she quietly made it happen anyway.
4) WINSTON CHURCHILL GIVES ZERO DAMNS.
Because when you've led England through World War II, you've earned some irreverence. From his meticulously timed entrance to his whisper-yelling about Philip's sisters being married to Nazis, Churchill is gold throughout the entire wedding sequence.
That attitude carries over into his political life; despite pressure to retire from everyone from his wife to his deputy, Churchill stubbornly refuses, instead securing a second term as Prime Minister later in the episode. As the King admiringly puts it, "They keep trying to count him out, and he keeps getting back up."
5. KING GEORGE'S LAST CHRISTMAS.
Though the King's cancerous left lung is successfully removed, the operation isn't enough to save him—there are tumors in his remaining lung too, and his doctor gives him less than a year to live. He keeps the news to himself, and attends a Christmas party which becomes the most heartbreaking scene of the episode. George tearfully sings carols with his family knowing this will be his last Christmas with them, and Harris sells the repressed agony of this moment beautifully.
6. PRINCE PHILIP IS QUIETLY BROUGHT INTO LINE BY THE KING.
The newly knighted Duke of Edinburgh is less than thrilled to be winning what Elizabeth describes—with some irony—as "the greatest prize on earth." He spends most of his time on-screen nitpicking and complaining, reminding Elizabeth of everything he's giving up for her in a faux-jokey passive aggressive way, until a hunting trip with the King changes his perspective. "She is the job," George tells him, explaining that Philip's own career and aspirations are now irrelevant, and that doing his duty as husband is an act of patriotism.
7. THE KING SYMBOLICALLY HANDS OVER POWER TO ELIZABETH.
Though Elizabeth is not yet queen, her father has gradually begun to pass on the torch by the end of Episode 1. After calling her to his study, he first gives her some tips on government paperwork (go to the bottom of the pile first, because that's where they put the stuff they're hoping you'll miss), and then he asks her to take his place on the royal Commonwealth tour.
This will effectively be her first act as Queen, though she doesn't know it yet—as far as she's concerned, his health is improving and he'll be firing on all cylinders again soon. The only person who does know what's going on is Churchill, who sees through the King's rouge and feigned good spirits, and it only bolsters his determination not to resign at a time when the country, and its soon-to-be Queen, needs him more than ever.
From: Harper's Bazaar
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.