Our bejeweled recaps of The Crown continue today with “Matrimonium,” the seventh episode of season two. As the title suggests, the episode includes a royal wedding, so you know we’ve got some jewels to critique! (You can catch up with our previous recaps here!)
We begin in Brussels on August 3, 1959. Peter Townsend writes to Princess Margaret. He needs to break a pact they made — that if they couldn’t marry each other, they’d never marry again at all — because he’s fallen in love with his (extremely young) assistant.
Margaret wakes up still in her clothes and gold jewelry from the night before, and a servant brings her Townsend’s letter on a silver platter. She is distraught.
She meets up with Tony Armstrong-Jones while he’s prepping for an exhibition of his photographs. They talk about Townsend and marriage — and Margaret basically proposes to him.
When Tony doesn’t answer satisfactorily, she storms out, leaving him to face all of the press who have gathered mainly to see the princess, not the photographer.
The opening is a success, and Tony is ready to brag about it at a dinner with his mother, the Countess of Rosse. (Tony’s parents were Ronald Armstrong-Jones, a barrister, and Anne Messel, sister of the famous stage designer Oliver Messel. Ronald and Anne divorced when Tony was four, and each married subsequent spouses. Anne’s second husband was the 6th Earl of Rosse. In 1959, Ronald had just divorced his second wife and was about to marry his third.)
In The Crown, Lady Rosse is played by the fabulous Anna Chancellor, whom you’ll recognize from films like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Pride and Prejudice. Chancellor is particularly well-suited for a role like this one; her grandfather was the 4th Baron Hylton, and she also has family ties to Prime Minister H.H. Asquith and to Jane Austen.
Lady Rosse is wearing colorful beads and a scowl. She’s not really interested in Tony’s art exhibition. And when she hears that he turned down Margaret’s proposal, she’s really unimpressed.
Back at Tony’s studio, he indulges in some of his other ongoing affairs. He takes photos of Jacqui Chan, an actress who was also one of his girlfriends. (His biographer, Anne de Courcy, called her one of Tony’s first loves.) And then The Crown feels the need to include some fairly graphic sex scenes, apparently to really prove to us that Tony was exploring other avenues of pleasure? Not sure most of us needed a lot of convincing, but whatever.
We also see Tony in bed with his good friends, Jeremy and Camilla Fry. (We know that Camilla was his lover; we know less about his relationship with Jeremy. The show draws its own conclusions.) Afterward, he talks to them about Margaret and decides to propose. He looks extremely happy about his decision, doesn’t he?
It’s Margaret’s turn to take part in the show’s soapy Mirror Reflection Moment.
As Margaret heads out of Clarence House, the Queen Mother doesn’t even notice — she’s too busy snacking, drinking, and watching nature shows on television. (I suppose we’re supposed to see the Queen Mum as someone totally detached from what’s going on around her, but in reality, she knew about Margaret’s romance with Tony early on, and she and Tony developed a close friendship of their own. She also wasn’t just sitting around eating bon-bons — she had a full slate of official duties. But you all know that the portrayal of the Queen Mother is one of my least favorite parts of the show, so I won’t go on!)
Tony picks Margaret up on his motorcycle, and they speed off down the Mall.
At his studio, he produces a large box full of shredded film, with a nesting box of film canisters and small boxes inside.
Margaret figures out what’s going on halfway through the unwrapping process.
It’s an engagement ring — a ruby in a cluster of diamonds, to be more exact. Unlike the Queen’s engagement ring, the show has done a decent job of replicating Margaret’s ring. Theo Aronson describes the ring as “a ruby surrounded by diamonds in the shape of a flower.” Their private engagement took place in December 1959.
She accepts — but they both have conditions. He wants her to promise never to be boring; she wants him to promise never to hurt her. (Historical spoiler alert: not gonna happen on either count.)
Margaret, defiant and smoky in bright red beaded jewels, arrives to tell her sister that she’s off the market.
The Queen reacts mostly positively, but when Margaret also tells her that Peter has gotten engaged, she’s a little less thrilled. (In reality, it was Tony who asked the Queen for her permission for the marriage. That happened at Sandringham in January 1960.)
Tony tries to call his mother to let her know that he’s engaged to Margaret after all, but Lady Rosse isn’t taking his calls.
He and Margaret make plans anyway, deciding that they should go for broke and get married in Westminster Abbey.
Margaret hurries over to tell Elizabeth about the plans they’ve made, but Elizabeth has to inform her sister that they have to delay the announcement — because Elizabeth is expecting a baby.
Margaret, wearing her engagement ring already, sees this as one more betrayal. (In reality, Margaret and Tony sought official permission only a few weeks before Prince Andrew’s birth, not months before. They did postpone the official announcement until after the baby was born.)
Elizabeth tries to soothe Margaret’s anger by offering to throw her an engagement party at the palace. (Which seems like it might have tipped off the press, doesn’t it?)
Meanwhile, Tony is visiting the Frys. They watch the results of the 1959 general election, which took place on October 8. (The show is, shockingly, playing fast and loose with the timeline here to make the Margaret and Tony storyline even soapier than it already was.) He talks about the engagement and his family. He’s pretty excited that he might eventually get an earldom — which would put him on par with his stepfather and (eventually) with his half-brother, Brendan. (Tony didn’t get an earldom when he married; he got one just before the birth of his first child.)
We skip a few months ahead. The heavily-pregnant Queen is getting ready for Margaret and Tony’s engagement party. She and Philip are clearly getting along.
Margaret arrives at the palace for the bash. Lots of her friends are on the guest list, giving the party a bit of a different tone than usual palace festivities.
The Queen, in diamonds, chats with the Queen Mother (in pearls), and Lady Rosse. But she also keeps an eye on other goings-on in the room.
She’s especially suspicious about Tony’s conversations with Camilla Fry, and rightly so — because Camilla tells him that she’s pregnant. Guess who the father probably is? (This is true. Polly Fry, Camilla’s third child, was indeed fathered by Tony. The truth about Polly’s paternity wasn’t made public until 2004.)
Also suddenly having a very bad time is Philip, who is jealous at how easily Tony is being accepted by the family, when he was so ostracized.
And Tony is getting along very well with his future mother-in-law, who is leading a conga. (Fun fact: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth apparently loved a good conga line. They truly were party people.)
Elizabeth, who is grumpy after Philip’s tirade, tells Michael Adeane to dig up any dirt he can find on Tony. (This angle also gives us a good look at her earrings, which are the production’s replicas of the Coronation Earrings.)
Adeane employs his favorite private investigator, Tommy Lascelles, who digs up a LOT of dirt on Tony. He brings his findings to the Queen, who is just about ready to have the baby right there in the room.
In her usual pearls, the Queen grows more and more troubled as she learns of Tony’s various relationships and proclivities, some of which are continuing during his engagement to Margaret.
She’s so upset, in fact, that she actually goes into labor. She’s brought into a bedroom where her foremothers literally loom over her in portrait form. We’ve got Winterhalter’s 1859 portrait of Queen Victoria, a tinted photograph of Queen Mary from 1901, and a production-created portrait of Victoria Hamilton as the Queen Mother. (The actual birth took place in the Belgian Suite at Buckingham Palace on February 19, 1960.)
We get glimpses of Elizabeth’s wedding and engagement rings as the doctors administer twilight sleep medication.
Meanwhile, the cabinet prays…
…and Philip plays squash. (This detail is actually taken from another royal birth; Philip was playing squash during the birth of Prince Charles in 1948.)
After the baby is born, Margaret drives through the cheering crowds to greet her new nephew. She’s clearly enjoying the attention, and we get a good view of her gold earrings.
She arrives and admires the baby.
We get a glimpse of Margaret’s right-hand ring as she greets little Andrew Albert Christian Edward. Margaret’s pretty dismissive about Andrew’s namesake. (That’s Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, Philip’s father, who died in 1944.)
Margaret tells Elizabeth that she wants to announce her engagement right away, now that the baby’s born.
Elizabeth says yes, but asks Margaret if she’s really sure about Tony. Margaret gets extremely defensive and asks Elizabeth what she’s referencing — but Elizabeth ultimately doesn’t tell her any of the information she got from Tommy. She does point out that Margaret will never truly rebel, because she loves the trappings of royalty too much. Margaret angrily leaves, telling Elizabeth that she’ll see her at the Abbey.
(I wish we’d gotten a little more coverage of Margaret and Tony’s wedding plans. The debacle about Jeremy Fry as best man — he was removed when evidence of past arrests for “homosexual offenses” was discovered — is a complicated story worth telling. So is the fact that nearly every European royal who was asked turned down the invitation, some using fairly flimsy excuses.)
But instead, we skip straight to the wedding day: May 6, 1960. We see Jacqui Chan getting ready…
…and heavily pregnant Camilla Fry getting ready, too. (Her daughter, Polly, was born only a few weeks after the wedding.)
The Queen Mother wears a necklace that looks like the Duchess of Cambridge’s costume necklace from Zara. (This choice makes zero sense to me. There are so many photographs available of the Queen Mother from the wedding day. She wore Queen Alexandra’s Wedding Necklace — which the production has already featured in replica form multiple times.)
She also wore the Greville Peardrop Earrings, which feature a much simpler design than these production-created earrings.
Princess Anne gets ready to be a bridesmaid…
…and Prince Charles is dressed up to be a page boy. (Fun fact: both Margaret and Tony were really short, and the press speculated at the time that they decided to have children as their attendants so that no one in the bridal party would be taller than the bride and groom.)
The Queen gives her full Miss Piggy Face as she gets ready. This is a decent replica of her real ensemble for the day; she really did wear a double strand of pearls, pearl earrings, and Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Brooch.
Tony shares a car on his way to the Abbey with his mother…
…who wears pearls with emeralds. Lady Rosse really did have a spectacular suite of emeralds, but these jewels aren’t precisely what she wore on Tony’s wedding day. Her accessories included simpler earrings, a multi-stranded pearl choker, and a large brooch.
And last but not least, we finally see Margaret, who meets Philip outside Clarence House. (He’s the one who walked her down the aisle.) The replica of her famous wedding gown is pretty good.
And so is the replica of the famous Poltimore Tiara. (The diamond riviere she wore isn’t quite right, but it’s close.) She laps up the good wishes of the public as they ride toward the Abbey, and she’s genuinely touched when Philip tells her that her father would be proud of her.
And then, just like the coronation episode, the show decides not to replicate the famous television footage of the actual wedding. Instead, we see glimpses of other characters watching the broadcast on television.
We even get glimpses of the real Tony and Margaret during their engagement announcement…
…and Margaret’s carriage heading toward the Abbey. But as for the actual wedding? We weren’t invited.