Season 4 of Netflix hit The Crown is attracting millions and millions of British viewers. Even I, a staunch republican, have found myself sucked into episodes showing the puffy-sleeved plushness of the palace. The great reign of the Queen of Hearts, the late Princess Diana, did, after all, dominate the headlines of my youth.
But isn’t there a profound irony in the fact that at this moment in history (a turning point, some have argued) when we are all being forced to face the stark reality of inequities in our society brought to the foreground by a pandemic, the nation is gripped by the fictional representation of the oldest, most obvious and most crude symbol of inequity that ever existed: the royal family?
How is it that we are prepared to admit the alarming divisions between rich and poor, men and women, and black and white (at last), and yet we aren’t prepared to acknowledge that these divides are perpetually reinforced by the existence of this antiquated, patriarchal and inherently racist system of hereditary wealth, status and privilege that, whether we choose to believe or not, has an enormous influence on the politics of this country, from catering to the vested interests of the aristocratic proprietors of vast swathes of British land, to giving seats to unelected peers in the House of Lords?
The question is, will The Crown tighten the veil of delusion over our royalist sensibilities, or will the utter absurdity of the happenstance of ‘royalty’ and ‘royal blood’ be exposed by its writers and gradually pull we, the people, out of our collective fairytale-induced stupor to make republicans of us all? Perhaps the jewel in The Crown will be a Season 6 finale in 2022 coinciding with our enlightened escape from the pandemic that stands in defiance against the monarchists.
I suspect that the writers will play it safe and pander to the warm blanket of the status quo, sinking us deeper into the escapist fantasy that we’ve bought into for centuries. They will convince us yet again that the royal family is not, in fact, the very reason why there still exists an oppressive class system in Britain keeping the haves and the have-nots firmly rooted in their respective positions along a scale between the great pillars of our ‘democracy’: Privilege and Poverty.
Given how distracting we all know a good Netflix binge is from one doing anything remotely productive, let alone politically active, one’s bet is on the above.