The Crown S2 E6 Recap
Here Is The Episode About Nazis That We Knew Had To Be Coming
This article originally appeared on Previously.tv as one of its Epic Old School Recaps.
So, I’ve read a lot of comments that praised this episode, and I’m very interested to hear what everyone else thinks. As for your diligent recapper: it’s a very interesting chapter in this story, making the absolute most of Alex Jennings, who is generally great as the Duke of Windsor. It’s also got a showy monologue for Tommy Lascelles — and there are Nazis involved, and everyone knows that a prestige drama featuring Nazis is legally required to be praised. Don’t get me wrong: I think this episode was very well done. But it also highlights two of The Crown’s worst habits: making Elizabeth into a convenient know-nothing, just so other characters can exposit to her to advance the plot, and, related, an ABSURD amount of exposition. This show, by its very subject matter, will be exposition-heavy; the audience is always going to need to be caught up to speed on the Primary Historical Event of the Episode. That’s not inherently bad. But The Crown needs to figure out more ways to deliver all these need-to-know details.
OKAY! Into the breach. We open on peaceful, silent trees. Rolling fog. Several military vehicles rumbling down a winding road. And, finally, a time and date stamp: this is Thuringia Forest, Germany, in 1945, and I confess that when I read that, I groaned aloud, “OH GOD IS THIS ABOUT PHILIP’S DUMB CHILDHOOD?” Then I realized that the dates were wrong for His Dumb Childhood, and in fact…it must be Nazi time.
These particular military personnel are Americans, and in the grand tradition of British shows featuring American characters, they sound AGGRESSIVELY AMERICAN. Like, they might as well be wearing cowboy hats and chewing on pieces of hay and twirling pistols around their pointer fingers. They’re also being directed to a place in the forest by a German soldier of some ilk, and given that this is 1945 Germany, I am very concerned indeed about what they’re going to find in this forest.
Eventually, the Americans and the German arrive at an empty clearing. The German touches the ground. “Here,” he says, and the Americans start digging. They hit a medium-sized metal box wrapped in what looks like a man’s jacket, which they load into their Jeep and head off on their merry way. The way this opener is shot — with loads of expensive overhead footage — it almost feels like the beginning of a summer action movie, like we’re going to find out that the box contains The Holy Grail (hidden there by a contentious German archeologist to keep it from falling into Nazi hands), and Elizabeth is going to have to find a super-good place to stash it so that Nicolas Cage is thwarted when he eventually tries to steal it.
Everyone returns to a place called Marburg Castle, and while I have actually never been to Germany, it is my understanding that they make excellent castles there, and indeed this looks like it is one. In the courtyard — where it seems that many boxes are being opened and examined — they open the box and find various papers, many film canisters, and at least one letter addressed to Hitler. “What’s he asking for?” a Brit asks, referring to the German who led them to the box. “Freedom, in the country of his choice,” the American says. “And a generous pension to last the rest of his lifetime.” The Brit makes a thoughtful face. “Well,” he says. “Let’s see how good it is, first.” Spoiler: IT’S REAL GOOD.
We cut back to the Foreign Office in London, where the contents of the box have been taken and duplicated. Some Random Dude loads the copies into the microfiche machine and starts flipping through it. Thank God it is I, an old hag, who is recapping this, because some of you whippersnappers might not know what this bizarre and antiquated machine even is. Well, gather round, children: when I was a teen, we actually had to use microfiche to RESEARCH STUFF. I once used it to research Ralph Fiennes! But that’s a whole other story. Anyway, this dude reads the (German) contents of the box-papers, and you know whatever they say must be highly consequential because (a) no one starts an episode of TV with a box full of papers of no import whatsoever, and (b) what follows next is a montage of people each running into the office of a superior to tell him something, and then that person running into the office of his superior, and the whole montage ends with someone picking up the phone and frantically calling…JOHN LITHGOW! Just as I clapped with glee when Tommy Lascelles reappeared in our lives, so was I deeply delighted to be reunited with Churchill, who picks up the phone and says, ” I need to see the King.”
As Churchill waits to get penciled into the King’s datebook or whatever, we press in on the folder: Marburg Files, Vol X, from the Captured German Documents Unit, it says. I really would like to read an entire book about the Captured Documents Unit, please.
If you enjoy being reunited with some of the major players of last season, this scene will be a treat, featuring as it does King Lane Pryce, Tommy Lascelles, and John Lithgow as Winston Churchill. “We all suspected it,” the King sighs. “These papers must never see the light of day,” the Queen Mum announces. So, this is obviously going to be about how the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were basically Nazi sympathizers. (In the interest of being historically accurate, I need to note that many posh Brits had a brief and generally very early moment of being like, “Ooh, that Hitler has some interesting ideas!” I read nearly EXCLUSIVELY books about people in England having romantic problems in olden times, and literally all of them have a scene where a likeable but secondary character comes in and starts waxing poetic about the Nazis in, like, 1937, so the reader can be like OH GIRL NO STOP.) “What is written here brings the GREATEST shame upon this family,” the King says, and I was under the impression that many people at this point were already well aware that the Duke of Windsor was a wee bit of a Nazi; that’s one of the reasons everyone was not insanely enraged when he abdicated. So these papers, though shameful, probably didn’t totally surprise old George here. “People would rightfully never forgive us,” the King says, as we go to credits, the audience not knowing exactly what was in those papers unless they, like me, read a lot about these things and/or have a subscription to Vanity Fair. (Did you know that the Duchess of Windsor once made the British version of the Secret Service go back into Nazi-occupied France just to RETRIEVE A BATHING SUIT SHE LEFT BEHIND? She did. They’re bad.)
After the credits, back in the show’s current timeline, the Queen Mum and Elizabeth are watching TV in their very best cardigans and we all learn that American evangelist Billy Graham has arrived in London. (In actuality, this did happen, and in looking this up, I learned that Billy Graham is still alive! I totally thought he was dead. Sorry, Billy Graham, I didn’t mean to bury you prematurely.) Graham has gotten quite a British turnout, and the Queen Mum does NOT approve. She finds it odd to see “moral authority” in someone so young, who has no life experience. Elizabeth points out that she and Graham are the same age, and the Queen Mum behaves as if this proves the very point she is trying to make. “Are those people crying?” she asks, looking at the TV. “What’s happening to this country? The people of great Britain never cried during the war. Now they’re weeping like children.” Oh my God, not feelings! Anything but that! But Elizabeth listens carefully as Billy explains that he is preaching a gospel of “hope for the individual, hope for society, and hope for the world.” (Which sounds pretty good, even to irreligious me.) She seems to find him extremely interesting…and that’s how we know that this is The Episode Where We Talk About How Elizabeth Is Actually Pretty Religious.
But first, we must pop over to Villa Windsor in Paris, where Edward and Wallis are throwing a birthday party for a pug (!), and then are whirled through the most enjoyable montage ever to feature two vague Nazis, one pair of ridiculous plaid pants, two pirate costumes involving eyepatches, at least one great necklace, and another set of fancy dress costumes wherein Wallis has a starfish over her crotch and is wearing a crown. “I cannot go like this,” Edward says, gesturing to his own King Neptune get-up. “Why not? At least that way I get to be queen once,” Wallis laughs. She’s acting like she finds this funny, but you know she does not particularly think it’s funny at all.
In the end, Wallis and Edward just wear everyday party clothes and two costume-y crowns to this bash, the theme of which I cannot quite figure out, but a surprising number of people are wearing fish on their heads so let’s just call it the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. Wallis is sitting alone and sulky out on the terrace, and, indeed, what better place to have a bitter argument about your future than during a fish-themed fancy dress party at your Parisian villa to which you’ve been exiled because you’re a bit of a Nazi and also abdicated the throne of the United Kingdom and they don’t want you to come back, like ever. Edward plops down and announces that “a life of pleasure really has its limits,” and Wallis counters that he’s quite a trial to live with, and this further devolves into him telling her that he has “a need to serve [his] country deeply rooted” within him — since when?! — and that he needs a job and purpose. Wallis is all like, “UGH, not this again,” and quite rightly wonders where the hell he thinks he’s going to get a job; he informs her that he’s going to get one in London, obviously. “Shall I tell you what else is deeply rooted within your family?” Wallis asks. “DELUSION.” I hate to agree with Wallis Simpson, since she is a deeply unlikeable person who was really into Hitler, even if she did have fantastic taste, but I have to do so here. She reminds Edward that he isn’t even allowed to live in the UK, much less work there. “That’s not what my lawyer said,” Edward counters. I find it…unlikely that this convo would actually have taken place at a costume ball, but I respect the need of writers everywhere to unleash a fun set piece from time to time. Edward gestures at the paste crown in his lap and tells Wallis that he is sure he can “mobilize a campaign to have a former king…be forgiven.” Um, right. Good luck with that.
Back in London, Elizabeth and Michael Adeane are going over her schedule while Philip slouches in the corner and reads the paper. Elizabeth wonders if she might be able to meet Billy Graham — Philip makes concerned faces about this over the top of the paper — and Michael manages to swallow his surprise in order to come up with the idea to invite the pastor to preach for them at the chapel at Windsor and then stay for lunch. Just as long as they aren’t seen as “endorsing his…crusades. Which would not be compatible with [her] role as the head of the Church.” Elizabeth is basically like, “Whatever, you’ll figure it out,” and once again I am struck by the fact that I would have been a very difficult sovereign because my response would be “Well, I want to meet him and I am the head of the Church and ERGO it CANNOT be incompatible, CAN IT? I DON’T THINK SO,” and then I’d storm off to eat a bunch of turkey legs with my bare hands. Michael segues into the teeny tiny little detail that Edward has written to ask if he may come into the country. “DENIED,” Philip announces in the background, and I have a confession to make: other than his attitude about Billy Graham, which is inexcusably snobby and sort of uninformed, I kind of like Philip in this episode. Am I getting Stockholm Syndrome? Apparently, Edward’s cover is that he is researching a book. “How to Be a Truly Great King: A Guidebook,” Philip snarks. My joke would have been How To Lose Kingdoms And Influence Nazis, but that was a good effort, Phil. We’ll get there together. Anyway, Edward doesn’t want to stay at the Palace — instead, he’s bunking with his friend, “Major Metcalf,” whose nickname is, deliciously, “Fruity.” Philip and Elizabeth briefly bicker over whether or not Edward can come back to England at all, but Her Majesty obviously wins the day at the end.
Cut to Whaddon Hall, Buckinghamshire. This is the home not of Fruity but of the Captured German War Documents Publication Unit. (And during the war, it was MI6’s Communications HQ, running intel to and from the Bletchley Park codebreakers.) As is the way with all Important Old Buildings Containing Documents Important To Plot, it’s crammed full of people digging through various Important Boxes; in short order, a glamourous older woman comes across a file marked “NOT FOR PUBLICATION/CLOSED,” and of course she opens it because she’s a human person and also an historian, and this kicks off a montage echoing the one in the opener, wherein this file gets passed to more and more senior personages, ending with three historians I’ll call Lady Historian, American Historian, and Glasses, asking their boss if he knew about the contents of said file, which obviously he did. Lady Historian — who you know had a lot of interesting affairs during the war — announces that they have a duty to “publish the truth, no exceptions. Otherwise what are we doing? Protecting Nazis?” Boss Historian intones that they’re “protecting something else.” (And that something happens to be named in the title of this television program.) His hands are tied, he tells them. But American Historian notes that his aren’t. He has access to the U.S. State Department’s duplicate files. Including this one. “There’s nothing to stop the American government publishing it if the British government won’t,” Lady Historian says. All four historians look thoughtful.
Edward, ignorant of the fact that one of his dirtiest secrets is about to emerge, is smoking a pipe in an absolutely gorgeous train compartment and writing a little note to his “dearest darling Peaches.” It is mostly complaints: bad weather, bad company, and the state of his lodgings at Fruity’s “rather drab little house somewhere in Sussex.”
This is the house that Edward dubs so incredibly HIDEOUS:
Inside, it IS dark, though. And the dinner table is packed with old blustery white dudes who talk, covertly, about getting Edward a job/back into Britain’s good graces. All the Old Blustery White Dudes (the OBWD) agree that they don’t want Edward’s pension to be cut off, and ergo they all must pretend that he really is writing this book. That said, all kinds of Lords — Dudley (the American ambassador), Beaverbrook, Salisbury — and the foreign secretary, Selwyn Lloyd, as well as Cecil Beaton and Noel Coward, are more than ready to receive him and/or throw him a little party. (Everyone rolls their eyes about Cecil Beaton, and it sort of cracks me up how much this show HATES him. Did Cecil Beaton run over Peter Morgan’s grandmother’s corgi or something? His Wikipedia entry tells me that his diaries were sort of bitchy, but whose aren’t?)
Over to Windsor Castle, which you really should visit if you find yourself in its general vicinity. (I plan to note this in every recap until you do it.) Elizabeth — very pretty in a bright yellow dress and absolutely terrible hat — and Philip watch as Billy Graham and Mrs. Graham arrive. Billy is, I am pleased to note, played by an actual American, and he is slightly hot. (In the interest of determining if this is historically accurate, I literally just Googled “Young Billy Graham” here at the coffee house at which I am currently typing, and God only knows what everyone around me thinks of me. No pun intended. The verdict: this actor is excellent casting for a hotter Billy Graham.) Philip doesn’t like his outfit and calls him “a door-to-door salesman in a hideous shiny suit.” Stop angling for my job, Philip. Elizabeth announces that she thinks he’s handsome. But Philip continues riffing on this tired door-to-door salesman joke, until we reach the greatest moment of this show to date: Elizabeth turns to Philip and says, “Do shut up.” This is nothing short of a holy miracle and I shall worship yearly on this day henceforth.
As Billy preaches at the Chapel — his topic is “What is a Christian?” — Philip looks so bored he might scream; the Queen Mother and her ABSOLUTELY INSANE hat looks concerned; and the Queen? She look very, VERY interested in all of this.
Afterward, Elizabeth and Billy Graham retire to the staterooms to chat — and I have to note that said staterooms look amazing in this scene. This portrayal of Billy is of a kind and thoughtful, ethical person, which from my research (a.k.a. ten minutes on Wikipedia and vaguely being a person in the world who reads the paper) seems fairly accurate. Elizabeth tells him, “The great joy I felt today was of being a simple congregant, being taught, being led. You see, as head of the Anglican church, in terms of rank, even the great archbishops of York and Canterbury are below me. Above me, there is only God.” That would weigh on a person, especially if that person took such religious authority seriously, which Elizabeth, by all accounts, does. (Personally, I feel like I would be all, “I dunno, call a bishop and do whatever you want,” so YET AGAIN it’s good news that I am not the Queen.) “I guess that must be lonely sometimes,” Billy Graham says, proving that he might be one of the few people on this whole show who gets Elizabeth at all. Elizabeth confirms this, and explains that’s why it was lovely to just be able to disappear and be…. “A simple Christian,” Billy Graham supplies. Elizabeth tells him, with great relief, that this is how she thinks of herself, above all things. They seemingly bond over this, and over their shared childhood shyness, and it’s nice to see that Elizabeth may have made a bit of a friend. She seems wistful when Billy Graham and his wife leave, but honestly, if she needs a pick-me-up, she only needs to turn around and admire her own spectacular wallpaper.
Hey, remember that file all about how Edward is a total Nazi? Glasses Historian has brought it over to Prime Minister Macmillan. (I wonder if Macmillan’s wife is still having overly loud phone calls about how the mere sound of his name makes her want to barf.) As the PM is reading about what a Nazi Edward was — and surely we’re seeing a lot of people finding out things in this episode when they actually already knew them at this point, in reality — Edward is at yet another party with the OBWD in yet another exceptionally gorgeous room. (This one sort of reminds me of Aunt Rosamund’s drawing room on Downton, with which I was likewise obsessed.) “Are the curtains drawn? Does treason abound?” Edward wonders archly, as he enters the room, and…uh, kinda? Let’s be honest: some of these people who were supporting Edward’s return to the UK had to have a tiny part of their brain wondering if perhaps he might…you know. Take over the big job again from that little lady. Even if 95% of their brain was rightly convinced this was irrational, that other 5% might have gotten a little louder than it ought to have done.
Dinner with the OBWD (and a few Old Blustery White Women) is essentially a brainstorming session: can they figure out something for poor Edward to do? Someone suggests something in the military. “And why not?” Edward wonders. UH, BECAUSE YOU WERE A NAZI SYMPATHIZER? Just a guess. Someone else suggests being on the “Board of Trade,” and Edward wrinkles his nose at something so banal. (Alex Jennings is so good in this part.) Another suggestion is the diplomatic service, and Edward agrees that it would be ideal to be a “roving ambassador to the Americans.” Wow. It turns out that Wallis was right. Delusion DOES run in this family.
Post-dinner, we eavesdrop on another letter to Wallis: “[Some Old Blustery White Dude] really did come up with the goods, and his friends really do seem to want to help me,” Edward writes. “Now all I must do is wait while they make discreet representations on my behalf. I would say wait and pray, but all taste for prayer has abandoned me as I survey the madness surrounding the American evangelist, Billy Graham.” That…is a very clunky transition from A plot to B plot. Edward keeps writing, noting that he’s heard “‘Shirley Temple’ invited the fool to preach at Windsor Castle. Can you imagine the banality of these exchanges? The smugness, the self-congratulation and hypocrisy? What a grotesque occasion that must have been.” These are sincerely some of history’s BITCHIEST LETTERS — and also History’s Bitchiest Letters is a book I would happily buy. Edward signs off, “I can honestly say, today was a day worth living.” Oh, honey. You’re only saying that because you don’t know that everyone’s really busy talking about what a Nazi you are.
And, in fact, Prime Minister Macmillan comes over to Buckingham Palace to tell Elizabeth exactly that, and you know what this means: poor Michael Adeane is about to have a real bad day at the office. Sure, your printer jammed and you missed a deadline, and you spilled coffee on a white shirt and called a client by the wrong name. Did you have to tell the Queen that her uncle was a Nazi and also now he wants an ambassadorship? Probably not.
Michael plonks The Nazi File in front of the Queen Mum and is basically like, “Be my guest.” She natters that she knew this would “come out eventually,” and then we get a rather funny bit where she tries to tell Elizabeth the whole story, but keeps messing up the facts — primarily to make the British look better/make it a better story, I think — and Michael eventually has to take over. In short: when the war was coming to an end, Hitler’s translator asked his assistant to dispose of all of his top secret papers, and he mostly did. But the assistant was not dumb, and realized that the letters from Edward and Wallis might be of use to him once the Americans and Brits showed up. Which proved, of course, to be the case as we just saw thirty-two minutes ago. (Some might call this show languid — namely me, in my last recap — but this time, it’s just pokey. Do we really need to see this dude digging a hole that we literally just saw him dig up barely half an hour ago? This is like the prestige drama version of how Top Model used to flash back to a fight that we saw twenty minutes earlier in the same episode.) Anyway, blah blah blah, your uncle’s a Nazi and the Americans know about it and now they want to tell everyone. “This is the man you inexplicably let back into the country,” the Queen Mum snits. Um, maybe you should have told her he was a Nazi in the first place! You cannot expect her to just psychically divine when people are Nazis!
Edward pops over to the Foreign Office as Elizabeth sits and reads all his Nazi correspondence. Everyone at the Foreign Office stands and bows to Edward — which feels highly egregious, considering — before the Foreign Secretary tells him that he has “loyal and persistent friends,” and thus has several options for employment, including Ambassador to France. How does the Foreign Secretary not know that Edward was a secret quasi-Nazi? In order to be senior enough to have this gig, the Secretary would have been old enough to have been in some kind of service during the war, and as far as I understand it, this was a matter of great rumor for years; wouldn’t the Foreign Secretary have at least floated this potential job past someone to make sure they weren’t handing the gig to a former Nazi? Is no one vetting anything here? I’ve done some cursory Googling about this, but it’s hard to tell who knew what when — which makes sense, given how top secret some of this intel was, but I feel like this whole episode is playing this reveal to be FAR more surprising and unknown than it really was. I strongly doubt, for instance, that no one mentioned this to Elizabeth at any point over the last fifteen years.
The way this episode was edited implies that it took Elizabeth all day to read one file, because she’s STILL READING when we cut to Edward and his extremely dramatic teal smoking jacket, toasting with the OBWD. I mean, I know Peter Morgan thinks she’s dumb — he’s said so — but surely even he can admit that it probably doesn’t take her seven hours to read one file. But here’s my other question: how on earth has Edward convinced himself that this is going to work out for him? Does he truly think that no one knows, or remembers, all the nice stuff he said about Hitler? He posed for pictures with Hitler. A lot of people saw him hanging out…with Hitler. In person. Is he really just that delusional, as Wallis noted? Is it a case of not wanting to remember what he’s done, and willful denial of the possible consequences? Or is it raging egomania, and he just thinks it’s not going to matter because he was once King, and he believes Elizabeth is dumb enough to do whatever he wants? Does he think everyone else is dumb enough to let her?
The next day, Edward pops over to what he calls “that miserable mausoleum” — Buckingham Palace, and methinks he doth protest too much — to get Elizabeth’s approval for his new gig as Ambassador to France. She’s waiting for him in a lovely blue dress that really makes her eyes pop, and he comes in and kisses her and bows and notes that he actually picked out the wall color in this room: French Grey. “Not…NAZI BROWN?” is something the Queen does not shriek at him in rage. She does not yell at all, but she is certainly more reserved and stressed out than usual. Edward launches into his spiel about how he’s there about a job, and that he’d really like to get her permission to “usefully serve the Crown.” Elizabeth says, very tightly, “You had a chance to serve this country. The greatest chance. You gave it up.” Edward is looking a little unnerved at this reception — and yet again, I need to note that Alex Jennings is so good in this part; I can see why Peter Morgan et al could not resist giving him more to do. He responds that he gave up the throne because of the way Wallis was treated, not because he didn’t want to serve this country. At this, Elizabeth looks away and sniffs very doubtfully. Edward plunges onward and tells her that the government supports some possible jobs for him, but that he needs her okay in order to accept them. “What kind of jobs? HEAD NAZI?!” is not her response. Instead she sort of just stares at him until he lists said potential gigs: Ambassador to France, Special Liaison to the Board of Trade, or working as a High Commissioner with the Foreign Relations Office “to protect and promote British interests throughout the world.” Elizabeth carefully notes that she’s sure he’d be good at all those things, but DUE TO HIS BEING A NAZI, none of that is going to fly. (She actually says, “Because of events that happened while you were in Lisbon during the war,” which is a great euphemism if ever I heard one.) Tellingly, Edward’s first question is how she happens to know about any of that, and she tells him that she read it in German state papers, in telegrams and letters, detailing his relationship with Nazi high command. Letters about how the Germans were going to give him a house in Spain, and how he was going to advocate for making peace with the Nazis against her father’s wishes. Edward would have made a terrible lawyer, because he just notes that he went to the Bahamas the way he was asked to do, and Elizabeth counters by pointing out that they made him go to the Bahamas because they knew he was kind of a Nazi.
“You’re quoted as saying that the Fuhrer’s desire for peace was in complete agreement with your own point of view,” she says. He just sniffs. She sniffs back — there is SO MUCH Disagreeable Sniffing at People in the scene — and then Edward tries to spin some bullshit about how everyone used to like Hitler and, wait! What about World War I? Oh, maybe that’s his way out of this, he seems to be thinking. Maybe he made some noble ethical choices about how ne’er again should Germany and the UK be at war! Yes! Exactly! That’s the ticket! “People forget that there was no indication of whom Hitler would become,” Edward lies. “You could argue that we were the ones who made a monster of him, by refusing to be his allies. That was the point.” You could…and you would be totally wrong. Edward starts yelping about peace, that all he cares about is peace, he’s really sort of a peaceful pacifist hero, and he just wanted Germany and the UK to get along, and, “in that spirit,” now he’d like to make peace with her. In the spirit of…Nazi appeasement?! NOT A GREAT ARGUMENT. Elizabeth just sort of sits there sulkily as Edward swears that he thinks the public will see these files, once they are published, for what they are: “Baseless rumors and German propaganda.” Sadly, Elizabeth does not yell, “YOU’RE German propaganda,” and toss him out on his ass.
Instead, Elizabeth goes and reads the Bible, which is a very dramatically unsatisfying character choice. Enter Philip — for once, please note, wearing The Beige Sweater of Sensibility. Elizabeth wonders if she might ask his opinion on the subject of forgiveness. “Christ, what have I done now?” Philip wonders, and, yes, dear reader, I laughed. Elizabeth wonders if maybe it’s time they forgive Edward, and Philip and I have the same reaction, namely: ARE YOU MAD? “You can’t forgive that man,” we both say. And then Elizabeth is all, “Oh, he explained that whole Nazi business,” and I do not for one minute feel like this rings true. I really, really, really do not think QEII would hand-wave Nazism like this, especially because she already historically disliked Edward for being (in her mind and possibly for real) weak of spirit for relinquishing the throne, and she blamed Edward for the stress of suddenly becoming King killing her own father, and, you know…Nazis. NAZIS! So none of this really flies for me. “It’s not often I say this, so perhaps if I do, you will take it seriously,” Philip says. “Ask Tommy Lascelles to come and see you.” She notes she can’t keep asking Tommy to come over, given that he is allegedly retired — which is a sort of elegant way for the show to acknowledge that they obviously cannot resist continually dragging the Man, the Myth, the Mustache back into the thick of things. Philip suggests that Elizabeth go see him, then, and reminds her that Tommy was Edward’s private secretary while he was King, and therefore should be able to provide clarity, and is a very trusted source who would never lie to her. I cannot believe I am about to say this but…I totally agree with Philip here.
Also, I always want to visit Tommy. Look what he is doing in his retirement:
He is a treasure. Tommy looks up from his toy battlefield to see Her Majesty arrive — I suppose Her Majesty couldn’t CALL FIRST? What if Tommy were entertaining a lady guest? — and races outside to greet her, then escorts her back to his toy war room, which she greets with great amusement (and, in a funny bit of stage business, picks up one of his toy soldiers and puts him back in the wrong spot, which causes Tommy a great deal of consternation once her back is turned).
Let’s cut to the chase. Elizabeth says that she’s considering allowing the Duke of Windsor back into public life, because it’s “the Christian thing to do.” Tommy’s response is basically OH HELL NO, and she informs him that, yes, she’s read that file, so she knows about that whole troublesome Nazi thing. But see, Tommy explains, she still does not have the whole story. But he does. And what follows is a great series of flashbacks as narrated by Tommy Lascelles, who I wish were narrating everything in the world. “The Duke of Windsor made his loyalties clear as soon as he became King, and he surrounded himself with a new breed of courtier,” Tommy explains. And those courtiers were a bunch of Nazis. “He also shared classified Allied documents with the Duchess of Windsor, who was herself, we believe, sharing a bed — forgive me ma’am — with the German ambassador, Herr Rippentrop.” Oh, yeah. That’s quite bad.
Tommy continues, explaining that the British were spying on Wallis, and “it became so bad that the government had to stop putting secret and sensitive papers in [Edward’s] red box.” Ergo, it was a real relief when he abdicated. But although Edward told everyone that they’d planned to retire, everyone knew he was lying…since they then went and visited Hitler in Germany. I just feel like, it’s basically never a good idea to go visit Hitler. It always ends badly.
Cut to Edward and Wallis popping over to Germany, where Edward gives a very subdued but real Heil Hitler as they began what Hitler himself called “an unofficial state visit.” And it was on this visit that they cracked a plan to reinstate Edward as King. As you can imagine, Elizabeth is not super-jazzed to hear that the Duke of Windsor wanted to throw over her dad for the crown he already gave up, in exchange for letting the Nazis just take over Europe. “German troops were even promised to quell a colonial rebellion, if necessary,” Tommy adds, and then further adds that Wallis and Edward also visited the SS (!) and “early versions of the concentration camps” (!!!). That is…extremely very bad. And it is bullshit that everyone kept this from Elizabeth. You know how, in Harry Potter, the first thing they do is tell a new Muggle Prime Minister about the existence of wizards? When you ascend to the throne of any country, so too should people tell you if any of your relatives are full-on freaking Nazis. Oh, and there is more! When a German plane crashed in Belgium, carrying the entire plan for the German invasion of France, Edward told the Nazis that the Allies had uncovered that intel. “Which gave Germany time to change its plans, and in less than a month, Paris fell to German occupation,” Tommy says. Elizabeth continues to be aggressively non-thrilled about these new bits of family history. But perhaps worst of all, Tommy continues — yes! Worse! I mean, arguably! But it’s bad! — Edward told the German government that “resolve in the United Kingdom in the face of the German aerial bombardment was weakening, and that continued bombing — that is, the continued slaughter of his fellow countrymen and former subjects — would, I quote, soon make Britain ready for peace.” What. An. Asshole.
Stunned, Elizabeth takes a very sad and thoughtful walk, then goes inside and turns on the TV in time for Billy Graham to declare, conveniently, that “God sees you how you really are.” Even if you are quite posh. So Elizabeth calls Edward over for a little chitty-chat. She’s thought about his request, she says. She wanted to help him. She really likes him personally. (Which…okay, show. History disagrees with you. But fine.) But she’s not going to help him. Getting a job goes against the terms of Edward’s abdication, you see. He can really only come back home “at the pleasure and permission of the sovereign,” she reminds him. “I find myself unable to grant that permission.” Due to his being a Nazi. Edward — who always underestimated her — seems stunned. “And who has fed you this poison?” he spits. “Your mother? Tommy Lascelles?” He knows, he says, that she has no mind of her own: “That’s why everyone’s so thrilled with you. The last royal with a mind of his own was me and that’s why they threw me out.” Elizabeth somehow manages not to screech, “They threw you out for being a Nazi!!!” but I cannot say the same for myself. Edward works himself into quite the hissyfit, and squeaks that, okay, fine! He will go! But he has one question: “Who’s done more damage to the monarchy? Me with my willfulness or you with your inhumanity?” Gee. How about option C, namely, YOU BEING A NAZI? Elizabeth finally really glares at him and tells him that they all dismissed the rumors about him as fabrications — and this seems like a weird time to acknowledge that she’d heard rumblings about this, but whatever. Ten minutes ago she was acting like this info was news to her, but I need to let go of my irritation about how surely screwed up this timeline is, for my own blood pressure. Elizabeth announces that, now that the truth has come out, “it makes a mockery of even the central tenets of Christianity. There is no possibility of my forgiving you. The question is, how on earth can you forgive yourself?” With that, Elizabeth angrily rings the bell so that Edward is escorted out. I am really sad that she didn’t scream, “You’re a disgusting Nazi and I could murder you with my bare hands, you horrible traitorous worm, and if this were five hundred years ago, I’d have your head,” but as dressings-down go, I guess that wasn’t terrible.
So Edward goes back to France. The historians are told to go ahead and publish whatever they want. And Elizabeth takes one final meeting with Billy Graham about — you guessed it! — forgiveness. I truly do not think the Billy Graham stuff hangs together with the Duke of Windsor plot at all — it feels really thematically overworked. Regardless: Elizabeth asks Billy Graham if “there are any circumstances where one can be a good Christian and yet not forgive?” She does not add, “Like what if we’re literally talking about Hitler?” Billy Graham is all, nah you gotta forgive. You know, because of Jesus. If Jesus could forgive those who killed him, you can forgive other people, he points out. Also, because of God. God forgives everyone, so who are we to reject his example? “Mere mortals,” Elizabeth says, scoring a point. Billy Graham tells her that the solution to being unable to forgive someone is to ask for forgiveness for oneself, and to pray sincerely for those whom one is unable to forgive. Elizabeth looks thoughtful, but that’s pretty good advice to give to a religious person. I guess that Billy Graham knows what he’s talking about.
So Elizabeth turns to prayer, as, in France, Wallis hugs Edward, and maybe they regret being such awful Nazis together.
And Elizabeth is still praying in bed when Philip pops in. “Saying one for me?” he asks, which also kind of made me laugh. He is drunk, but congenial. “Not on this occasion, no,” Elizabeth says. He tells her to put a word in for him with God, and then explains that the people he got drunk with tonight were…drumroll…her mother and Tommy Lascelles, and I am sort of sad we didn’t get to see that. They were celebrating Elizabeth, Philip says. “And the heroic way you kicked that wretched fool out today, tail between his legs.” Elizabeth whines that this was a failure of Christianity on her part, and Drunk Philip says, “NO. You protected your country and you protected the reputation of your family. Not to mention successfully banishing Satan from entering the garden of Eden. That’s Christian business in anyone’s book. So, it’s a gold star from Jesus.” At this, Elizabeth and I both giggle. Agreeing this often with Philip in one episode may be making me slightly nauseated. “And a gold star from me,” Philip adds, as he unbuttons his shirt and sort of awkwardly leaps into bed with Elizabeth. “No!” she chortles, in a way that is much more “No, you silly scamp, you are delightful to me, but you just landed on my flannel nightgown!” than it is in any way anything else. “Yes!” he says “No!” she says, as she turns off the light and laughs very delightedly before turning toward him. That standing against Nazis gets you laid is not the worst moral I’ve ever heard, to be honest.
I would have ended that episode there, but of course, we have to check back in on the man in the equation: Edward is back to the bridge table and his insane green smoking jacket. He plays two kings, and then looks dramatically into the mirror — like, yes; we get it — before we cut to actual photos of the real Edward with the actual Nazis. These photos are truly damning and highly unflattering. Edward is standing next to Hitler, smiling at him, shaking his hand, seemingly totally pleased to be in his company. It is, to say the least, a very very bad look indeed. For everyone.
For more on this episode — and Fug Nation’s reaction! — check out the fashion and interiors recap we ran here on Go Fug Yourself.