It’s taken me a while, thanks to the fact that it took so long for the DVD to be released, but at long last, I’ve seen The Crown! My sister Anna got Season 1 for Christmas while I got my own copy of Victoria‘s Season 1. We’ve been very busy “Queening,” as Matt Smith’s Prince Philip would say. And we watched them chronologically: Victoria first (a re-watch for us two, but our parents’ first time) and then The Crown (a first for all of us).
The two shows are very different. Victoria is lighter and brighter, the characters are (for the most part) endearing, and the early 19th century guarantees a fascinating mix of Jane Austen-esque romance and the thunder of social and industrial progress. The Crown, on the other hand, is far more gritty and far more serious, the characters are subtle and complex (and sometimes morally ambiguous), and shows in stark detail the fight for optimism and stability in post-WWII England.
That said, I love both series, and I think they compliment each other beautifully. And I can’t help but enjoy the comparisons and contrasts between the three most prominent characters in each series. Which is what this post is about. Enjoy 😀
The Queens: Victoria and Elizabeth
Victoria is opinionated and high-spirited; Elizabeth is soft-spoken and laid back. Victoria had a miserable childhood, surrounded by people who wanted to control her; Elizabeth grew up in a close-knit family and never had to wonder whether her parents loved her. Victoria becomes Queen before she marries. Elizabeth is married with two children by the time she becomes Queen.
Neither of them, however, were “supposed” to be Queen–yet they’re the longest reigning monarchs in English history (Elizabeth has reigned 65 years at the time of this writing; Victoria reigned for 63). Both women struggle to navigate the turbulent waters of court life, marriage, and Constitutional monarchies. Both women grow up and mature through their series.
I relate to Elizabeth in many ways: she’s the big sister, the reserved one, the hard worker who lights up when she talks about her hobbies and interests yet often fears she’s incurably boring. But I relate to Victoria too: very rarely do I have a lukewarm opinion about anything, I’ve had to defy my John Conroys, and I, too, have fought the lie that because I’m “small” I can’t make much of a difference. I’m inspired by Elizabeth’s calm common sense and determination when everything around her is chaos, and I’m inspired by Victoria’s strength and courage even when everyone else tries to tear her down.
The Consorts: Albert and Philip
I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of the Queens’ husbands. I find them exasperating. Here are two men who knew they were marrying Queens (or future Queens) and that they’d have to be subject to their wives to a certain extent…and they get all hot and bothered about it. I don’t get it. Did nobody prepare these men for those roles?
Philip infuriates me. He’s spiteful and immature, he rarely supports Elizabeth, he’s cruel to her, he ogles every waitress and stewardess within sight, and he almost loses his mind over the idea of kneeling to his wife in a centuries-old ceremony saturated with tradition and ritual. It’s. A. Ceremony. She’s not asking you to kneel when you sit down for dinner. “Wellllll he considers it an affront of his manhood–” Umm, no my dude, he’s just a big fat jerk. I hope he’s better in real life
Albert, on the other hand, is really and truly a good man. He’s principled, he genuinely loves Victoria, and he wants to use his position and influence as Prince Consort for compassionate and meaningful purposes. He still irritates me sometimes with his tactlessness, and he and Victoria argue a lot–BUT!! They both put a LOT of effort into making their marriage work. That’s something you don’t really see with Philip and Elizabeth. (Which is so sad because Elizabeth would absolutely blossom if Philip would be nice to her a little more often.)
The Prime Ministers: Lord Melbourne and Winston Churchill*
*any and all fangirling has been edited so as not to damage the reputation of the Authoress
Detach yourself for a moment, if you will, from Victoria and The Crown, and consider the actual history of these two queens. Both Victoria and Elizabeth were extremely vulnerable when they ascended to the throne. They had little to no idea of what they were doing. That’s why I don’t think it’s an accident (looking at history from a providential standpoint) that Lord Melbourne and Winston Churchill were their first prime ministers.
Historians have sliced their relationship in so many different ways it’ll make your head spin, but pretty much everybody who’s anybody agrees that Lord Melbourne did love Victoria, gave her her first real schooling in politics, and built up her confidence. Churchill, similarly, provided Elizabeth with a stable, familiar, and encouraging presence: she’d known him since her childhood, and even when they disagreed she knew he loved and cared about her.
Victoria and Elizabeth needed these kindhearted, influential figures in their early days as Queens, and (returning back to our shows) I think Victoria and The Crown both portray that very well. Their heartbreaking goodbyes are definitely the most emotional scenes for me–and I’m not at all ashamed to say that Churchill and Melbourne are my favorite characters.
Other Supporting Characters
The parallel situations and characters keep coming: difficult mothers, constitutional conundrums, intense family squabbles over who deserves what titles, villains (in Victoria, the Duke of Cumberland–and in The Crown, the Duke of Windsor), and outlandish siblings (Albert’s brother Prince Ernest, and Elizabeth’s sister Princess Margaret). Victoria also features a Downton Abbey-esque “upstairs-downstairs” element with her servants; The Crown doesn’t have an exact parallel here, but it does focus some on the secretaries of Elizabeth, Philip, and Churchill.
In conclusion, Victoria and The Crown should definitely be watched together. In spite of the inevitable instances of historical/artistic license, you get a good grasp of both Queens and what they faced in the early days of their long reigns. And if you want to be absolutely overwhelmed with historical feelings, listen to what Winston Churchill actually said at the end of his eulogy to Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI (and then watch the corresponding scene from The Crown):
“Famous have been the reigns of our queens. Some of the greatest periods in our history have unfolded under their sceptre. Now that we have the second Queen Elizabeth, also ascending the Throne in her twenty-sixth year, our thoughts are carried back nearly four hundred years to the magnificent figure who presided over and, in many ways, embodied and inspired the grandeur and genius of the Elizabethan age…I, whose youth was passed in the august, unchallenged and tranquil glories of the Victorian era, may well feel a thrill in invoking once more the prayer and the anthem, ‘God save the Queen!’ ”