We’ve got a little more replica bling on hand — and a lot more tempestuous romance — in “Beryl,” the fourth episode of this season of The Crown. Settle in for a look at lots of jewelry and lots of historical clarification (and if you need a quick catch-up on previous recaps, head over here!)…
We begin with Princess Margaret snarling at a society wedding. One of Margaret’s close friends, Colin Tennant, is marrying Lady Anne Coke, who served as a maid of honor at the Queen’s coronation in 1953 (and was also one of Margaret’s ladies-in-waiting). Margaret feels — well, you can see for yourself. I believe the production’s put her in their version of the Lady Mount Stephen Necklace here, a diamond riviere bequeathed to Margaret by Queen Mary (and sold at Christie’s in 2006).
As the guests leave the church, Margaret turns her snarl on the photographer who has arrived on a motorcycle and begun taking strange, artistic photos of the guests, paparazzi-style.
You guessed it: it’s Anthony Armstrong-Jones, snapping away. (He did really take photographs at this wedding.)
More traditional wedding photos are taken by Cecil Beaton, of course. This wedding actually took place on April 21, 1956 (the Queen’s 30th birthday), on the estate owned by the bride’s father in Norfolk. Princess Margaret really did attend the wedding with the Queen Mother. Here, the production’s versions of Colin and Anne are pictured with their aristocratic parents; he was the eldest son of the 2nd Baron Glenconner, and she was a daughter of the 5th Earl of Leicester. Anne’s diamond necklace at her wedding garnered major press attention; one American paper described it as “an exquisite diamond necklace with pear shaped pendants.”
At the reception, Margaret sulks with one of her only unmarried friends, Billy Wallace. He was described by Margaret’s biographer, Theo Aronson, as “the most chinless-looking of the ‘chinless wonders’ surrounding” Margaret in the post-Townsend era. His father was a Conservative politician who had served as Minister of Transport, and his maternal grandfather was the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.
They’re basically the only single people left in their circle, so Billy proposes marriage, which is apparently something he really did periodically over the course of his friendship with Margaret. She’s so desperate and down that she basically accepts. (This really did happen in 1956.)
Back in London, Elizabeth and Philip are reading in bed. (Nothing like a book called Bloodstock Breeding to help put you in a romantic mood.) Elizabeth says she’s heard that lots of marriages hit troubled patches ten years in. (That means it’s the autumn of 1957 in this episode, not April 1956.) She thinks they ought to have an anniversary party.
The conversation is interrupted by a phone call from Margaret, who breaks the news about the engagement. Elizabeth’s happy about the news, and she suggests that Margaret should announce it at the upcoming anniversary dinner.
We get a more precise time signature in this scene: Elizabeth and Philip are with the Macmillans, watching the Sputnik launch, which happened on October 4, 1957.
We meet Lady Dorothy Macmillan, the prime minister’s wife. She was from circles that Elizabeth was very familiar with: her father was the 9th Duke of Devonshire. She wears pearls here and glances warily over at her husband, who keeps interrupting and talking over the Queen. (Oops.)
Elizabeth’s made a slight concession to jewelry fashion here, wearing a gold necklace studded with pearls. She’s also not thrilled with Macmillan’s conversational tactics.
Later, we see the Macmillans together in a car, with Dorothy wearing a ’50s-style brooch. She references ending a relationship; she’s talking about her longterm affair with another Conservative politician, Robert Boothby. (Spoiler: not ending it anytime soon.)
Engaged and smiling for Cecil Beaton’s camera, Margaret has a portrait taken to mark her birthday. (The timeline is really screwed up in this episode. Margaret’s birthday was in August, months before the Sputnik scene. And the real Beaton portrait that this scene is based on was taken in 1950!)
But we’ve got real jewels replicated here, to varying levels of success. The Cartier Halo Tiara is almost comically oversized. The five-stranded pearl necklace was Queen Mary’s birthday gift to Margaret in 1948. (It was later sold at Christie’s in 2006.)
We get a flash of pearls and a brooch from the Queen Mother here, who is fixated on continuing to present her younger daughter as a fantasy fairytale princess.
Margaret’s lady-in-waiting, Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, offers her own opinion on the portrait setting — she thinks a birthday portrait should reflect the sitter’s reality. “No one wants reality!” the Queen Mum barks.
(Lady Elizabeth is a really fascinating figure — she was one of Margaret’s ladies-in-waiting from the 1940s until the princess’s death in 2002. Elizabeth, who is only a few days younger than the Queen, is still alive today. She also happens to have been a niece of Harold and Dorothy Macmillan, just to emphasize how stiflingly small this social world was.)
While Margaret poses like a fairy princess, Billy Wallace is at a party hosted by Lord Blandford at Blenheim Palace, relishing the newfound female attention brought to him by his unofficial royal engagement. All the ladies love a royal fiancee, apparently!
Another houseguest, Colin Tennant, is less than thrilled with Billy’s womanizing. So, as one does when one is an eccentric aristocrat, he borrows Blandford’s pistols and challenges Billy to a duel, and he shoots him!
The next day, Margaret is getting ready for Elizabeth and Philip’s anniversary dinner — and her big engagement announcement — when she gets a message that Billy is indisposed. She barges in on his bloody drunk self and hears the whole story.
So the engagement’s over, then. Margaret, in the gigantic Halo Tiara and production-invented diamonds, can’t believe that even chinless Billy has screwed her over.
(Okay: the real story. After Billy and Margaret got unofficially engaged, he went on a trip to the Bahamas. While he was there, he had a fling with another woman. He confessed to Margaret, she was livid, and she didn’t speak to him for almost a decade. To the best of my knowledge, there were no pistols involved.)
Meanwhile, at Buckingham Palace, everyone notices that Margaret’s not at dinner.
She finally shows up alone — no Billy in tow — and everyone is wary.
Phil and the Queen Mum are visibly annoyed/nervous.
But Philip stands up to make a speech about marriage anyway.
Dorothy Macmillan, wearing teeeeeny-tiny jewelry, sends meaningful glances across the table to her husband.
The Queen has varied reactions to the speech, which discusses the difficulties of marriage. I was too distracted by the replica kokoshnik in this scene, which basically looks like a rake. (Those are production-invented diamonds paired with it.)
When Philip raises a toast to his wife, Margaret is crying. Her mother, who is wearing the same jewels that she wore last episode (the Greville Tiara replica, the Alexandra Wedding Necklace replica, and the invented earrings), is concerned.
Without waiting for the applause to finish, Margaret leaves the room entirely.
(This small anniversary celebration really did take place on November 20, 1957, at the palace. Margaret snubbed her sister mightily by not attending the dinner at all. Instead, she went with friends to see a musical, and then had dinner at the Savoy. She didn’t show up for the dancing portion of the party until close to midnight. People talked.)
Margaret goes Full Meltdown in her bedroom, with her tiara sitting beside her on her dressing table. Ella Fitzgerald’s “Angel Eyes” plays in the background, which provides a good moody soundtrack for Margaret’s background — but also links to Margaret’s genuine love for music, especially jazz.
Also having a bad time: Macmillan, who hears Dorothy on the phone with her lover.
After two failed engagements, Margaret is pretty much done.
The Queen Mother brings in the proofs from the birthday portrait session and tries to cheer Margaret up by offering other suitable marriage prospects, including Prince Moritz of Hesse and Prince Christian of Hanover, who was a brother of Queen Friederike of Greece. Pretty strange to hear a character who denounced Philip’s family as “huns” in the first season suggesting German princes for her daughter to marry, no?
Margaret’s not having any of it. Instead, she goes to a dinner party hosted by Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, who is wearing an extremely interesting necklace of pearls.
Margaret’s gone for gold jewelry here, including a rather attractive ’50s-style necklace.
Guess who Margaret encounters again at the party? Yep, it’s Tony. He smokes, needles her, and points out other interesting figures at the gathering. Lady Elizabeth has assembled quite the dinner party. There’s Jeremy and Camilla Fry; he’s the heir to a chocolate fortune. (Tony knew them both very well, as he alludes to in this scene. He was the biological father of Jeremy and Camilla’s daughter, Polly.)
There’s Ken Russell, the famous film director. There’s “Baroness Frankenstein” — Valerie Hobson, the actress who later married the politician John Profumo. He’s there, too, several years before his relationship with Christine Keeler caused a sensational scandal. And then there’s the poet John Betjeman, who had a long-term relationship with Lady Elizabeth Cavendish. (In the episode, Margaret asks if it’s “really true he has two wives” — since one of the women in question was her lady-in-waiting, you’d think she’d know!) They recite some of Betjeman’s poetry together, and Margaret’s clearly hooked.
They go look at some of Tony’s photographs, which are on display in the stairwell. Margaret asks if he’ll photograph her.
So, did this party really happen? According to Theo Aronson, it did. The couple met on February 20, 1958, “at a small dinner party given by Lady Elizabeth Cavendish in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea.” Cavendish knew Armstrong-Jones because he’d done some photography work with a revue she’d worked with. Snowdon’s biographer, Anne de Courcy, adds that a few months later, Margaret and Tony met again when she sat for a portrait taken by him.
The next day, Elizabeth is firmly in her Home Queen uniform of pearls-no-brooch for lunch with her sister. She’s paging casually through Tatler when Margaret tells her about Tony.
Margaret, wearing another set of ’50s gold jewelry, is clearly besotted.
And soon, she’s at his studio, having her picture taken. The show, which has played visually with light, frames, and lenses for its entire run, is clearly having a lot of fun with a photographer character.
In her biography of Snowdon, Anne de Courcy describes Margaret’s first sitting with Tony in 1958, and it’s clear that the show used it as a model for this scene: “Tony took charge of the sitting in his usual way. With the utmost politeness, he made her change her clothes, her jewelry, and her pose as if she were any other sitter, at the same time chatting away with his mixture of jokes, gossip about mutual friends, and stories of the theatrical luminaries he had photographed.” He also makes her wait alone in the studio for long minutes, just to unsettle her.
As he gets her into the pose and attitude he’s looking for, he casually tells her that she doesn’t know who she is.
(Okay, a qualm: this is a show that is very focused on characters self-reflecting — hence all of the scenes of various characters looking into mirrors and other reflective surfaces. The thing that bothers me here? Margaret’s been looking ponderously at her own reflection for more than a season now, but the show is asserting that it takes a male character to really show a woman where her true self lies. I don’t love that at all. Anyway.)
Speaking of reflective surfaces, Tony’s got a mirror in his studio that he has visitors sign with a diamond-tipped pen. (This is true.) People use nicknames, and he invents one for Margaret to use as she signs: “Beryl.” He says it’s because the name rhymes with peril, but of course I think it’s interesting that he’d give her a gemstone name. (Lots of familiar gems are actually varities of beryl. Green beryls are emeralds; blue ones are aquamarines; and light pink ones are morganites.)
And then there are some moody darkroom shots as he develops her photograph — literally producing her image.
He caps off the date with a motorcycle ride through London, evading her protection officers and nearly causing a catastrophic traffic accident in the process.
Meanwhile, at the palace, Elizabeth and Philip are on diplomatic duty. (I’d try to tell you which diplomatic people they’re hosting, but the timeline in this episode is so wacky that I have literally no idea what month or year it’s supposed to be.)
They’re bored out of their gourds. (This show is such a soap. It really, really loves passion and drama over duty. So much of the lives of royals is repetitive and boring — they can’t all go zipping around London on motorcycles with fascinating weird photographers. Who would meet with the ambassadors then???)
Margaret, on the other hand, is absolutely exuberant after returning from her date.
She puts “I Only Have Eyes For You” on the record player and boogies in her gold jewelry.
Philip and Elizabeth are united in their boredom, but the show is keen to remind us that they are still having Marital Difficulties.
We get a good look at the Lover’s Knot Tiara, the Gloucester Earrings, and the Golden Jubilee Necklace as Elizabeth is undressed for the evening. (I think the necklace is perhaps the most successful royal jewel replica presented on the show — it’s just about right.)
Down to just her engagement and wedding rings, Elizabeth continues her routine, washing her face before bed.
All the while, Tony develops Margaret’s pictures. She’s given him strict instructions on where to send at least one of the images.
Morning dawns, and everyone’s focused on the newspapers. In Paris, the Duke of Windsor giddily hands over a copy to Wallis.
These two love a scandal, especially when it’s about other people, so they’re very intrigued by the contents of the news. (Note to the Queen: look, Wallis wears brooches on her sweaters!)
“God,” Tommy Lascelles thinks, chewing on his spectacles, “will none of these idiotic Windsors just behave properly?”
The Queen Mum gets the paper along with breakfast in bed. (Note the Gloriana portrait popping up again on the beside table here, placed beside literal religious iconography on the walls.)
At Buckingham Palace, Elizabeth (wearing a lovely, production-invented flower brooch) makes this face when Philip hands her the paper.
Because, of course, Tony and Margaret have colluded to start a scandal by having the very non-fairytale portrait printed in the papers. (This picture is almost certainly based on this portrait of Margaret taken by Snowdon, and I’m so disappointed that they left off the earring.)