The Sunday Mail (Queensland)
HOW A TV HIT MADE US LOVE THE DUKE
He was pilloried for his decision to let television cameras into Buckingham Palace for the ill-fated 1969 BBC documentary Royal Family, so it was ironic that another TV show — Netflix series The Crown — would make the world view the Duke of Edinburgh through a different lens.
Before The Crown, Prince Philip was best-known for his frequent “gaffes” and un-PC comments and memories of the dashing young war hero had all but faded for younger generations who only knew him as a gruff greatgrandfather. So it was a surprise that a TV series about his early years would prove both a smash-hit and real-life renaissance for the Duke.
As depicted on screen, Philip’s struggles to find a meaningful role in the Royal Family and life, made us understand exactly what it would have been like for an alpha male joining The Firm in the 1940s. It was also resonant of the difficulties the young brides Diana and Fergie faced – and later still, Meghan.
But it was the love for his darling Lilibet that was the real game-changer.
Despite the Queen saying, “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years,” on their golden wedding anniversary, “and (we) owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know,” it was the scenes between the newlyweds in Africa, that brought to life one of the world’s most enduring love stories.
They were the glamour couple of their day and actors Claire Foy and Matt Smith made us fall in love with them on-screen and for real. We watched as they navigated their marriage and their new, restrictive roles, when Philip’s naval career got beached and he began a new one, albeit anchorless.
We felt his fury when prime minister Winston Churchill insisted the royal family take the name Windsor not Mountbatten, saying, “I’m nothing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his children.”
We were there when the Queen dealt with Philip’s rumoured affairs and his membership of the Thursday Club with Australian pal Mike Parker. He denied it – once telling the Independent, “I have never moved anywhere without a policeman accompanying me. So how the hell could I get away with anything like that?”
Whatever the truth, it was no mean feat the pair kept their relationship steady, the Queen becoming the longestreigning British monarch and Philip, the oldest-ever male in the Royal Family. “(The Queen’s) serene acceptance of the man kept the marriage alive,” says biographer Ingrid Seward. “She has always been wise enough to accept his phenomenal energy and let him get on with things. He, in turn, has been her greatest support and has always protected her.”
Their evolution was brought to life as Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies took us through the next chapters of their life in seasons three and four of The Crown.
The on-screen depiction of Philip’s close relationship with Diana throughout her troubled marriage, came as a surprise to many, despite this being backed up by Diana to Andrew Morton and biographers Seward and Tina Brown. Tobias made us love the Prince all over again — but it will be down to actor Jonathan Pryce in the next season to take us through what was
Philip’s finest hour, when he walked with William and Harry behind Diana’s coffin.
William once described his grandfather as “a legend,” but it was The Crown that turned the legend into gold.