Our journey through the jewels of this season of The Crown has arrived at episode two, where we’re all going to study a bit of “Margaretology.” (Missed any of our recaps? You can find them here!)
We begin with a flashback. It’s 1943, and Princess Elizabeth is at Windsor. Tommy Lascelles tells her that since it’s getting unlikely that a little brother will be arriving to take her place, they’re ready to start preparing Elizabeth to wear the crown one day.
Later, Elizabeth laments her looming responsibilities to Princess Margaret, who makes it very clear that she’s ready and able to inherit the throne. Elizabeth agrees to let her go and ask Tommy if that’s possible. (Note the mirrors throughout the episode, as Margaret evaluates her life via her reflection; it’s been a running visual theme throughout the series.)
Back in 1965, the Queen (in pearls, no brooch) arrives to bid farewell to Margaret and Tony, who are heading off for their visit to America.
The Queen thanks Margaret, who is wearing a pair of midcentury earrings with olive-colored gems, for agreeing to squeeze so many public engagements into a private trip. The show here is conflating two visits. Margaret and Tony’s trip in November 1965 was an official visit, undertaken on behalf of the British government. Tony’s trip to New York to promote a book of his photographs happened in 1958, two years before he married Margaret.
As Margaret jets off to America, the Queen has an audience with Harold Wilson, who has bad news about the Americans. He reminds her that President Johnson missed Churchill’s funeral. (This is true. LBJ was hospitalized for pneumonia only a few days after the inauguration in January 1965, and he didn’t attend the funeral on the advice of his doctors.) Wilson also thinks that LBJ is snubbing him over his failure to overtly support the Americans on Vietnam. Wilson wants the Queen to do a little soft diplomacy to repair the special relationship. She agrees to try to help.
Margaret polishes her nails while wearing turquoise earrings as her plane touches down in California.
Her visits to San Francisco and Los Angeles go swimmingly. (The show makes it seem like Margaret was mostly attending parties, but because this was actually an official visit, there were lots of trips to places like universities and museums on the itinerary.)
Margaret bathes in the press attention while draped in diamonds and emeralds. (These invented jewels are perhaps the most interesting ones shown in the episode.) The Queen hears lots of positive reports back at the palace, even learning that Margaret’s fans are going by a new name: “Margaretologists.”
And she puffs on a cigar wearing invented pendant earrings, too. In reality, Margaret did bring a boatload of jewels with her to America. Memos sent out to the hotels where she stayed reminded them that the princess would need a safe to store her jewels.
The show even pretends that the famous photograph of Margaret wearing the Poltimore Tiara in the bath was taken during this American visit. It wasn’t — it was taken in Kensington Palace in 1962. The Poltimore was indeed packed in Margaret’s luggage for the American tour, though: she wore it for the World Adoption International Fund Ball at the Hollywood Palladium during the trip. She also brought the Lotus Flower Tiara with her, wearing it for a dinner dance in New York.
Anyway — Margaret and Tony are sort of getting along during the trip, except that she’s not really paying him a whole lot of attention.
He thinks she’s drinking too much and enjoying herself too much at his expense. She consults with her reflection as he complains in the elevator after one party.
Drunk in her pearls, she says he’s just jealous that people love her and don’t even recognize him.
By the time she gets to Sharman Douglas’s ranch in Arizona, she’s exhausted and sick. (Sharman was one of Margaret’s closest friends; her father, Lewis W. Douglas, served as ambassador to Britain from 1947 to 1950.) Margaret reportedly really was suffering from laryngitis while in America. The show has her staying in bed, but while she was in Arizona in real life, she forged ahead, posing for press photographs, attending a cocktail party, relaxing poolside, viewing the Grand Canyon from a plane, and boating on Lake Powell. (Tony even went water skiing.)
Meanwhile, back at the palace, Michael Adeane tells the Queen (again, in pearls but no brooch) that they tried to invite President Johnson to come to Balmoral for a shooting holiday, but he’s flat-out ignored the invitation.
Then Wilson calls the Queen (again in pearls, no brooch) to let her know that the Americans have finally gotten in touch. LBJ has weaseled out of replying to their offer by simply inviting Princess Margaret to the White House for dinner. As you might have guessed, in reality, the dinner was not a last-minute ask at all. It was a part of Margaret’s planned itinerary for weeks before she arrived in America. While in Washington, Margaret also laid a wreath at JFK’s grave at Arlington, planted a tree at the British embassy, rode the elevator to the top of the Washington Monument, lunched with Mrs. Johnson, and had tea with Joan Kennedy, among other official engagements.
The Queen (again, pearls and no brooch — sigh) works on a puzzle while calling Margaret in Arizona to ask her to go to the dinner. Margaret balks, saying that she can’t — she’s due to be at Tony’s book event in New York. (Tough to do that, because again, it happened in 1958!) The Queen emphasizes the importance of the request, and but Margaret still says no.
(A little historical sidenote from Margaret’s real trip: she reportedly enjoyed her time in Arizona so much that the press reported that she wanted to stay longer in Tucson. Her lady-in-waiting, Elizabeth Cavendish, quickly told reporters that wasn’t really even a possibility: “These things have to be planned well in advance. You (the press) have to make arrangements for travel and hotel.” Yep.)
The Queen escalates her request from an ask to a command, and Margaret heads to Washington. In pearls and button earrings on the plane ride there, an aide explains that there are major diplomatic consequences for the dinner. The Brits are in need of a financial bailout, and Margaret’s the only one who can help charm the money out of the Americans.
She’s worried she might fail. It’s worth noting here, of course, that Margaret had already met LBJ on one previous memorable occasion: during the celebrations of Jamaica’s independence in 1962. Contrary to what the show would have you believe, Margaret was quite an experienced diplomat. (The show also pretends that LBJ had never met Margaret in a previous scene.)
Princess Margaret is depicted wearing an invented set of pearls to the dinner. In reality, she dazzled in diamonds: two diamond rivieres, a diamond bracelet, and a pair of diamond earrings.
The dinner took place on November 17, 1965, which was also Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson’s 31st wedding anniversary. (He acknowledged the milestone in a toast during the dinner, saying, “I am personally very glad you could be here on the evening that marks the beginning of my 32nd year with the most wonderful woman in the world.”)
The show depicts Margaret charming LBJ by making disparaging remarks about JFK (unlikely, as Joan Kennedy was present), dancing with him, and even competing in a dirty limerick contest. LBJ is shown to be partying as hard as Margaret, which also seems unlikely, given that he’d recently had gallbladder surgery — though he was photographed dancing with her after dinner.
In Britain, Wilson briefs the Queen on Margaret’s wild — and wildly successful — night in Washington. The Queen, braced to hear about Margaret’s failure, is almost a little peeved by her success. (Also! There’s a brooch here, but it’s sadly both small and invented.)
She even laments to Philip that she’d like to be as dazzling as her sister for once. Philip reassures her that she’s a perfectly dazzling cabbage. (So sweet.)
The Queen welcomes Margaret back to Windsor Castle wearing pearls and (you guessed it!) zero brooches. She’s ready to hand over accolades to Margaret as a thank-you for her success at the dinner.
But Margaret, who has worn rather queenly pearls for the occasion, wants more: even more of a public royal role. The show really does pretty much ignore the work that both Margaret and the Queen Mother did during the 1960s. They weren’t sitting around watching television all the time.
The Queen (who has an invented leaf brooch pinned to her coat) gently puts Margaret back into her place. She’s in charge.
Margaret is bereft.
And then we cut back to 1943, where little Margaret (in pearls) is getting a lecture from Tommy Lascelles about accepting her place in the family.
Twenty-two years on, the Margaret of The Crown still doesn’t seem to have accepted it.