‘The Crown’ Season 2, Episode 5 Recap: Elizabeth Takes on Britain's Most Hated Man
*Warning: Spoilers ahead*
In season two, episode 5 of The Crown, Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) is quickly becoming the spirit animal of the British people, while Elizabeth (Claire Foy) is becoming more and more distant from the people she’s supposed to represent. She delivers a speech at a car-manufacturing plant that goes something like this:
“Many of you are leading uneventful, lonely lives where dreariness is the enemy... On your steadfastness and ability to withstand the fatigue of dull, repetitive work depends, in great measure, the happiness and prosperity of the community as a whole.”
Yup, she really said that.
While Martin Charteris (Harry Hadden-Paton), the queen’s assistant private secretary, raises an eyebrow over the “old-fashioned” offensive speech before it makes it to air, no one else seems to think there’s a problem. This includes private secretary Michael Adeane (Will Keen), who wrote the thing; Tommy “Really Needs to Pick Up Golf” Lascelles (Pip Torrens), who still seems to have a hand in everything; and the queen herself, who doesn’t even bother to glance over the speech before it’s broadcast all over British radio. Resting on your laurels, anyone?
Welp, Martin seems to know what he’s talking about, because as soon as the speech hits the airwaves, it piques the interest of The National and English Review writer Baron Altrincham (John Heffernan). He immediately publishes a takedown of the queen, attacking her style of speaking as “a pain in the neck” and saying “like her mother, she appears to be unable to string even a few sentences together without a written text.”
Naturally, the Brits are always keen on a scandal. So when Altrincham, (possibly) the most hated man in England, is invited to defend his opinion on television, the media doesn't hold back.
The TV host asks Altrincham, “Why do you hate the queen so much?”
“I don’t,” he says, explaining he’s a passionate monarchist, but—and there’s always a but—the queen’s posture could be more natural and spontaneous, and less, er, strangled. Tell us how you really feel, Baron.
He’s not entirely wrong, and Elizabeth knows it. (She still has a ’30s hairdo, after all.) Nonetheless, Philip is totally out of line when he tells her to look to Rita Hayworth and Jane Mansfield for inspiration the next time she wants a haircut because it will stir his loins and, in turn, produce more children. How could you, Phil!?
But the problem is much bigger than her #TBT hair. It’s that Elizabeth continues to put her trust in people, her hairdresser included, who have always served her family, and she doesn’t question whether they, too, might be out of touch.
Altrincham, who quickly turns his public hatred into a 50 percent approval rating, is applauded for his opinions as he walks out of the TV studio. He’s feeling pretty good about it, too, until a man comes up and clocks him in the face for being a traitor to the monarchy. Can’t win ’em all...
Having had enough of her advisers, Elizabeth finally flares up and tells Adeane she should surround herself with younger, more dynamic people who have a foot in the real world. The old folks want Altrincham to be put out like a dumpster fire, but Elizabeth sees an opportunity to evolve, so she extends an invitation to her perceived nemesis.
Thinking he’s been invited to take a meeting with Charteris, Altrincham arrives at the palace to find himself face-to-face with the queen. Gasp!
“Is my voice all right? Not too strangled? Or a pain in the neck?” she says, taking the piss out of the man she assumes wants to burn down the monarchy. Attagirl, Liz.
“I’m trying to make sure [the monarchy] survives,” he assures her, suggesting she start letting divorced people move freely in royal circles (hear that, Meghan Markle?), fire the old ostriches (bye, Tommy.) and let people get to know her by televising the Christmas speech. He asks her to be more accessible and spend time with normal people. Poor Elizabeth looks overwhelmed and says nothing, she just asks him to step out into the corridor. Five seconds later she’s gone, and Charteris tells Altrincham he can never tell anyone he met the queen.
But she does listen, and despite complaining that she feels like a common little showgirl in her dress and makeup under the bright lights, the Christmas speech is televised and Elizabeth knows welcoming the general public into her home is the right thing to do. Liz, you’ve come a long way, baby.
Six months later, the royal family opens the gates to Buckingham Palace to a small, select group of “commoners,” and the Queen Mother acts as if someone has taken away her favorite tiara as she bemoans the horrendous sacrifices she’s made as of late. She and Elizabeth buck up, put on their white gloves and make their way down the line, welcoming the guests to their home.
We’re told, in the end, almost all of Altrincham’s suggestions were implemented.