"If you want to read a blog to get a sense of what is going on in Hong Kong these days or a blog that would tell you what life was like living in colonial Hong Kong, this blog, WALTER'S BLOG, fits the bill." Hong Kong Blog Review
"Charles continues to come across as a lost boy with mummy issues"
'The Crown,' Series 4, now playing on Netflix, has finally caught up with my era. After a flu vaccination knocked me sideways for a day, a binge session got me through the fever and muscle soreness.
Spoiler alert: Diana has arrived on the scene to promptly throw up in a toilet, while Charlie boy is still horizontal-folk dancing with Camilla. In the real world, having spent the last decade seeking to polish Camilla's reputation, the pair can't be enjoying this retelling of the whole sorry saga. Even allowing for twisting of the facts, they don't come out of this well. Camilla's unfaithfulness to her husband gets written off 'because he's laying half of Gloucestershire'. Well, that's OK then.
Meanwhile, Charles continues to come across as a lost boy with mummy issues - the 'prince of piffle' as astutely judged by Christopher Hitchens. Actor Josh O'Connor plays the role with hunched shoulders and skulking about, giving echoes of Richard the Third: "But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks. Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass." Of course, this was Shakespeare's version of Richard the Third — a propaganda piece to appease the Tudors. Bear that in mind when viewing 'The Crown' and ask who does this portrayal of Charles serve?
So, what else is new? Gillian Anderson gives us Maggie Thatcher on steroids, in full Iron Lady mode with a stellar high-rise hairdo to match. The voice is too deep, and husky, yet the whole ensemble is compelling. Anderson captures the walk and body language perfect; it's uncanny.
Inevitably, Maggie brushes up against everyone, including Brenda (aka the Queen) over the Commonwealth. Yet, because this is a time of wokeness, history comes rehashed for the new age. The Queen is standing firm with the Commonwealth against Thatcher, who resists sanctions on apartheid South Africa.
Yes, there is evidence that Brenda supported sanctions, but is it likely she confronted Thatcher so stridently to risk a constitutional crisis? The sudden departure of Royal press secretary as a result of leaks about a conflict between Maggie and Brenda is pure fiction. He left a year after the alleged leaks.
Also, we are getting a reworking of the Micheal Fagan break-in story, with him giving the Queen a lecture about unemployment and the state of the nation. It didn't happen. Although, I never knew he broke in twice. On the first occasion, when spotted, he escaped having consumed a cheap bottle of wine. The Queen conspired to keep the first break-in quiet, fearful of more security disrupting her life.
There are other intriguing tidbits. Did Anne had a fling with her bodyguard? There is a hint of that. Then Margaret discovers relatives hidden away in a care institution and declared dead. The Queen Mum explains this was necessary to preserve the reputation of the bloodline. A few special-needs kin deemed unacceptable, so written off, while all the shagging about is fine and dandy. Lovely people.
The acting is superb throughout. Newcomer Emma Corrin as Diana is a revelation. In her first significant role, it's a slam dunk; the eyes are perfect, the tilted head and radiance are all there. Helen Bonham Carter was born to play the flawed, hollowed-out, boozy, Princess Margaret. She captures the arrogance, the wounded soul, and the sheer disdain of the women. It's hard to fault any of the cast.
Having met several of Royals and spent two days at Buck House, I can attest to some details. The vast number of flunkies, the bowing and the hushed reverence when one of the Royals appears. None of it in the least normal. When I was there in 1992, the Palace felt run-down, especially back of the house, and away from the central accommodation. On my second day there, with heavy rain falling, the staff scrambled to catch water in buckets from ceiling leaks.
Does the series do the Royal Family harm or good? To me, it reveals them as flawed, like the rest of us. Yes, they have tremendous privilege and don't have the common concerns of daily life. That's not to say they don't face other pressures, because the evidence is there that the role brings tremendous stress.
As the series develops, I have to ask has the portrayal of the Queen grown less sympathetic? Feels that way to me. Her faults are exposed, including avoiding uncomfortable personal issues until too late, and a lack of warmth; she displays horror when Diana grasps her for a hug.
The problem is, we don't know if any of the specific detail in 'The Crown' tells the truth. What is dramatic-license, what is an interpretation, which bits are parody and what is factual? All we can hope to get is a pastiche that draws of various elements. Nonetheless, the parameters of characters come aligned to existing public perception, so no one is too shocked.
The Guardian got itself in a twist proclaiming the series 'historically inaccurate'. That's the point; this is the Kardashians with castles. It's the Royals as entertainment, with a pinch of truth to anchor the story.
It's amusing to note that a cottage industry has evolved around critiquing the authenticity of the series. If you can be bothered, check out this chap discussing the cake stands and tea pouring etiquette—a bit of a niche activity.
If you watch 'The Crown' in the hope of getting an account of history, you will be disappointed; but if you seek entertainment, you will be rewarded well enough.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.