There are people who in the collective mind were always old. Gloria Fuertes, Gandhi, the Duke of Edinburgh. But then Netflix came along and resurrected Philip, the lover, the adventurer, the smug, racist bully, the father who played with his offspring while the distant mother ruled the Commonwealth. The jaw, the hair. The little “I’m so sorry, darling” eyes after the umpteenth gaffe. The Serie The Crown it has brought closer and humanized the contradictions of the consort of Elizabeth II for several generations of spectators who were not even too interested in its enigma. Many will remember the Duke who died this Friday at the age of 99 as the heartthrob of the series who came out whistling in a convertible from Buckingham Palace boredom.
Philip, the character, is one of the discoveries of the series precisely because of the mystery that the real Prince Philip of Edinburgh always surrounded himself with, about whom we hardly know his regal greeting and incorrect jokes that are out of tune. The mystery grants more carte blanche on which to build a credible fiction, you believe it more than Carlos, because you know him less. With the image of the eternally old Duke in his head, he surprises the vigorous and rebellious youthful Philip, played by Matt Smith in the first two seasons, able to face a raging elephant in Africa shirtless and having tremendous posh boy tantrums. Of sacrificing for love a life of action for another of protocol and in the next scene lacking the minimum marital empathy, making fun of his wife’s hairstyle or going out for drinks with her friends with the one she has above (let’s say a state crisis, a bloody revolution in the colonies …). The general portrait is not very friendly, but it brings humanity to the protagonist.
Because in fiction, as in reality, the narrated Philip is also a consort. “She is your job, she is your duty,” his father-in-law tells him in the typical scene before any film wedding. The character serves as a crutch to complete that of the Queen, to understand her and draw a romantic bow with more color than she allows herself. It is through Philip that the viewer feels the passions and nostalgia for a “normal” life that throbs in “cabbage”(Cabbage, her Majesty’s domestic appellation).
But Philip also has in The Crown own entity. The movie life of the royal Duke of Edinburgh gives for subplots to spare. The stateless aristocrat’s exile, his mother’s mental illness, the harshness of the boarding schools where he was educated, his Nazi sisters, his attempts to modernize the royal house, his seafaring feats, his interest in theology … Everything appears in the series spun by a restless search for belonging and purpose.
There is, however, a novel episode of the third season (where actor Tobias Menzies, who will be replaced by Jonathan Pryce in the fifth, whose broadcast is expected in 2022) that is key to the character’s arc, since it is the moment in which the impetuous Philip begins to mutate into the Felipe we know. The three American astronauts of the Apolo 11 They visit the palace after their moonwalk and Philip is crazy about meeting them in private. Obsessed with the space mission, with almost childish illusion, Philip prepares the questions waiting for transcendent answers that bring him closer to the meaning that his life could have had if he were not tied to the shadow of the Queen. What can someone who has everything want more than the moon. What is found are three young colds who narrate the details of the adventure without epic or heroism. The aristocrat’s face of utter disappointment and infinite boredom is a poem, and the quote catapults him into the search for existential answers in faith and theology.
In reality, according to his biographers, Prince Philip never dreamed of being an astronaut, and although he did meet Buzz Aldrin and company briefly on his way through Buckingham, the conversation / epiphany never happened. But for anyone who has seen The Crown, the scene is inseparable from the memory of the late duke. Actor Matt Smith told in an interview with The Guardian that an acquaintance asked the Duke himself at a dinner party if he had seen the series. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he replied with a pout. Yet millions of us did.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.