Just got through a bingewatch of The Crown, season 4 -- transfixing, it was, into the tiny hours of the night. Wow! What great soap opera. What great casting. What great scripting. What great acting. What great stories. What great drama. What great evocation of royal common humanity: the human frailties, faithlessness, fripperies, foibility, fallings-down, flaps, farcicality, damned-foolness....
-- What, great god, and by all that's great and germane, are we doing, allowing this bizarre institution of do-nothing neurotic no-purpose nonentities, so very much like ordinary old us, to continue to exist, nay flourish, unto eternity, on our dime -- how many palaces? retinues? king's ransom of tax-free remittances?
The way it hits you is that the more human-ish they appear -- and, going into the fourth generation and season, several are slipping so far down the only-human scale as to border on the sub-human -- the less sense they all make.
I mean: as monarchs, so called? I mean, like, a king/queen? Rulers, over us? By Divine Right? Power second only to the Almighty; in fact, His/Her/Their earthly representatives -- forget Jesus Moses Mohammed etc. etc. -- and yet, not only with nix real power, with niente real responsibility? Or taxes to pay?
(And, as for their taste in clothes -- don't even start.)
Here's one of the more gripping sub-plots this season, with mind-blowingly wonderful acting: A tangle between Queen Liz and PM Margaret Thatcher.
The sticking point, we're told, is Liz's disapproval of Thatcher's opposition to sanctions against South Africa, over apartheid; sanctions approved by the other 47 Commonwealth nations.
Talk about a great story, fascinating history, and acting to knock your socks off. Gillian Anderson, one of the acting giants of our time, is mesmerizing as Thatcher. The power of the portrayal is the way she takes her, so subtly, just over the edge, brilliantly revealing the lady's true iron, while never caricaturing. Olivia Colman as the Queen is perhaps even more brilliant, considering that the creation of a credible inner-Elizabeth had to be mainly speculative, given virtually zilch direct private access.
And yet, while the PM-HRH briefings are regularly scheduled events, all HRH can do is listen, and nod her brittle bright-eyed Olivia Colman nod. Seven years of such briefings, of what we are led to believe is the growing Royal unease, as the Iron Lady systematically dismantles the social net, and powermongers for the rich.
Because: Despite what's presented as her less and less concealed dismay over Thatcher's intransigence about sanctions, Her Queenship is constitutionally forbidden even to voice an opinion, much less make anything like a directive.
Yes: Constitutionally. Because the PM is elected by taxpayers, but HRH is merely there by the grace of Jehovah -- although, like Him/Her/Them, also funded by taxpayers.
So, what exactly are Their Monarchships there for? Why brief? Why the audiences? Why ever interrupt their fox-harrassing or polo or touring or canoodling -- or, of course, their allowances...?
All of which is not even to mention --as the series also doesn't, but of which the admirable Fred A. Reed has reminded me -- the forced abdication of HRH Edward VIII, ostensibly for love, but actually due to his and his divorcee-doxy's embarrassing fawning over the Führer. (She called Hitler "dear Uncle Wolf," and may have been a Nazi-Secret Service double agent, since certain UK powers also backed Uncle Wolfie, as a frontliner against the Soviet Menace.) Moreover -- unlike Hitler, who croaked in his bunker, or dead Mussolini, whom partisans hung up by the heels alongside his mistress -- good ex-King Eddy, alongside his lady, croaked cushily on the French Riviera, called HRH, and UK-stipended, to the very end.
But I digress. Return to the awesome human-ness of the current crested ones; and boy, do we see human. Charles, annoying whiny pussywhipped jug-ears. Philip, hunky bored and boring wandering-eyed househusband. Margaret, randy rambunctious party girl. Queen Mother and Queen Granny, fattening freely on endless vinous lunches. And, the putative breath of fresh air and free spirit, bulimic baby-blue-eyed spotlight-savvy clotheshorse Diana....
So very much like you and me and our families -- except that if people in our households carried on anything like these purposeless royal roustabouts, they'd be out on their keesters; or at the very least, have their allowances cut off.
That's not to mention, further, the secret not-quite-fully-with-it royal relations, officially listed as deceased, but in fact, tucked quietly away in (public) institutions, lest revelation of such inbred deficiencies shake public faith in the congenitally-Divine Right of Kings.
More seasons to come, of course. Brilliant, to recast them at different ages. Who will play Queen and Consort approaching centenarian status? -- aging in palace(s), of course, unlike hoi polloi in Covid-ridden eldercare...
But let's not get too Bolshie about this. After all, into dotage, they can no longer polo, tour, eat or drink as much, or play footsie so freely with their married relations, footmen, and foot-ladies. They are, still, a decent tourist attraction. Plus, great material for a media sector badly in need of hits, not to mention jobs.
And, heck: With all that inbreeding, they can't last more than another couple of generations. Tops. We can afford that. Can't we?