Time for another recap of Netflix’s royal soap, The Crown! Today, we’ve got a look at the history and jewelry presented in episode six, “Tywysog Cymru.” (Missed any of my previous recaps? You’ll find them all here!)
We begin at Cambridge. Prince Charles, now played by Josh O’Connor, is doing vocal exercises before performing in a play. That puts us around the autumn of 1968, when Charles joined the Footlights, the dramatic club at Cambridge.
In London, Harold Wilson and other government leaders are meeting with the committee tasked with planning Charles’s investiture as Prince of Wales. There’s a predictable clash between the old guard and the new order in terms of the plans. The Duke of Norfolk argues that the investiture should be planned exactly as the previous one was done in 1911, which earns some smirks.
But there’s one central figure from the planning committee who is missing here: Lord Snowdon! Tony was one of the principle members of the committee, even serving as constable of Caernarvon Castle starting in 1965 as the event was prepared. He is mysteriously completely absent from this episode.
After the meeting, Harold Wilson has an audience with the Queen, who wears a little invented leaf brooch. He comes to her with an idea: because tensions over nationalism in Wales are on the rise, wouldn’t it be a good idea to send Prince Charles to study there, learning some of the language before the investiture? The Queen demurs, telling Wilson that Charles is finally settled and happy at Cambridge, but he presses the issue.
In reality, the plan for Charles to spend a summer term studying at Aberystwyth was settled back in 1967, before he even started his studies at Cambridge. It was always part of his full university education plan, not an idea proposed in the midst of his studies. There was even a committee formed to discuss his education, which included the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Archbishop of Canterbury … and Harold Wilson.
But in the world of The Crown, the Welsh education idea is a complete and unwelcome surprise to Charles, who is confronted by the entire family (and Michael Adeane) with the new plan.
The Queen, frustratingly sans brooch, impresses upon Charles that he doesn’t have a choice in the matter. The Duke of Edinburgh tells Charles that some things are more important than other “frivolous” pursuits, like his passion for acting at Cambridge. (Perhaps in real life Philip was less dismissive of Charles’s love for acting, given that he actually started appearing in plays back at Philip’s beloved Gordonstoun?)
Charles is frustrated with his “vile” mother and her edicts, and he vents to Princess Anne about it. She’s envious — she says that she wishes she were relevant enough to receive such negative attention. Charles offers to swap places in the succession with her — a favorite trope for this show where royal siblings are concerned — but she declines.
In Aberystwyth, Thomas Parry, head of the university, informs Edward Millward that he’ll be tutoring Prince Charles in the Welsh language ahead of the investiture speech. Millward, a Welsh nationalist politician, is less than pleased with the assignment. In 1968, nearly a year before Charles arrived in Aberystwyth, the real Tedi Millward gave an interview to the press, stating that he was “slightly suspicious” of the political motivations behind the plan to send Charles to Wales, but that he was “glad to have the opportunity of explaining what is going on in Wales and why there is unrest about the prince.”
Charles arrives at Aberystwyth amid some cheers, but also lots of protests. This scene takes place on Sunday, April 20, 1969. Press reports from the day note that Charles received a “loud Welsh welcome” on his arrival.
Political demonstrations by Welsh nationalists did take place in the months and weeks before his studies began. In 1967, a bomb exploded at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff just before Lord Snowdon and Cledwyn Hughes attended a meeting about the coming investiture. Charles himself had confronted a group of extremists that threw a smoke bomb at his car during a visit to Cardiff in June 1968. Some press outlets even tried to stoke the flames, with one German magazine offering $25,000 for the first photo showing a Welsh student either kissing — or slapping — Charles’s face.
More than a 100 additional police offers were stationed at Aberystwyth to try to stave off violent conflict, and an army bomb disposal expert was also housed nearby. Charles gave an interview in 1969 addressing the possibility of an incident: “It would be unnatural, I think, if one didn’t feel any apprehension about it. One always wonders what’s going to happen in this sort of thing. But I think if one takes this as it comes, it’ll be much easier. I expect at Aberystwyth there may be one or two demonstrations and as long as I don’t get covered too much in egg and tomato, I’ll be all right.” (I will never understand why this show ignores real historical drama in favor of invented conflict.)
Charles is escorted by Thomas Parry to Tedi Millward’s office, where the two meet for the first time. Millward refuses to address him by his royal title and style, calling him “Charles” and shaking his hand instead. (Charles’s tutors at Aberystwyth all called him simply “Mr. Windsor,” and his fellow students just used “Charles.”) They talk briefly about how Millward’s politics inform his teaching. (This depiction seems basically correct. Millward gave a press interview in 1969 in which he noted, “I will try to resist the temptation to preach at the son of an English monarch. But he will have to learn that nationalism is a crucial issue here. Apart from any narrow aims, it is essential that the prince should know all about Welsh nationalism, its basis and its roots.”)
Next, Millward takes Charles to the language learning lab, where Charles puts on headphones and dives in. This language lab is almost exactly like the ones described as being used by the Welsh language department at the university.
Charles finds the language difficult and his fellow students downright unfriendly, so he calls home.
It’s not his parents he turns too — it’s Princess Anne, who is hanging out at her room in the palace, listening to Aretha Franklin records. She essentially tells him to suck it up and deal with the situation in a very Anne-like tone.
Although he’s supposed to be just another student, Charles is welcomed to the university with a grand dinner. Parry expresses his hope that one day Charles will even become patron of the institution. And then Charles embarrasses himself totally with his lack of knowledge about the university and Welsh history in general.
His next tutorial with Millward goes badly. When Millward tries to get him to mimic the sounds of the Welsh language, Charles begins showing off the tongue-twisters he uses to get ready for plays at Cambridge. Millward isn’t amused — he thinks Charles isn’t taking any of this seriously, and his lack of interest in Welsh history is offensive.
Charles reacts by putting in some hard work at the library, learning about Wales and the history of the title he has inherited.
Meanwhile, back at the palace, the broochless Queen (UGH) talks with Philip about Charles’s investiture speech. Neither of them are convinced that he’s mature enough to take on big responsibilities yet.
In Aberystwyth, though, Charles impresses Millward with the work he’s done to try to learn a little about Wales and its history. When Millward realizes how socially isolated Charles really is at the university, he invites him home for dinner.
Millward’s son, Andras, talks with Charles, teaching him to count in Welsh.
Over dinner, Charles talks with Millward and his wife, Silvia, learning about the history of their relationship and their joint passion for the nationalist cause. They find themselves warming up to the prince, while Charles is clearly fascinated by such a close, loving family.
Charles decides to make some changes to his investiture speech. With Millward’s help, he translates the new passages into Welsh.
The day of the investiture arrives: July 1, 1969. Royals, dignitaries, and onlookers gather at Caernarvon Castle.
As Charles prepares to put on his uniform for the ceremony, he receives a visit from a family member who knows military uniforms very well: Lord Mountbatten. He was indeed present for the investiture, as were many members of the extended royal family (including Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester; Prince Richard of Gloucester; the Duke and Duchess of Kent; Prince Michael of Kent; Princess Alexandra and Sir Angus Ogilvy).
The immediate family — the Queen, Philip, Margaret, Anne, and the Queen Mother — takes the royal train to Caernarvon ahead of the ceremony.
The modern canopy designed by Lord Snowdon for the event — made of plastic, to allow clear views for those watching on television — was replicated well for the show. It’s just maddening that Snowdon wasn’t included at all. If you’d like some royal family drama, how about the fact that Snowdon and Margaret were already facing divorce rumors at this point — or that Prince Philip laughed in Snowdon’s face when he saw the outfit Tony had designed to wear for the ceremony? (From a UPI report on the day: “Lord Snowdon’s outfit … was supposed to resemble that of a constable of Caernarvon Castle …. It had a Nehru jacket-like top and trouser bottoms that appeared more bell-bottomed than royal. Prince Philip stopped at the castle entrance and gave Snowdon the once-over from head to toe. Philip tilted his head back and laughed. Snowdon grinned back.”)
Scenes featuring Ben Daniels in costume for the investiture were definitely filmed and then cut, which is extra frustrating. Helena Bonham Carter’s scenes were cut, too — she only appears in that scene on the train, and is shown only from the back. The event was a crucial one for Tony especially — one friend told the press that it was like a “bar mitzvah” for the Snowdons. It’s a shame to leave their part out of it completely.
The replicas of the investiture outfits of Princess Anne and the Queen Mum are quite good. Anne, however, wore her diamond floral brooch for the event, not the invented one shown above. The Queen Mother wore the Ladies of North Wales Brooch, which is large, but perhaps not quite so big as the replica created for the show. But hey, at least there was an attempt!
The Queen is shown without a brooch on her yellow silk dress — but this time it’s historically correct. The costume is an excellent replica of the Queen’s real investiture outfit.
And even the show’s replica of Charles’s modern coronet, made by Louis Osman, isn’t a terrible version of the real thing. (You can see the real coronet, complete with its famous ping-pong ball monde, here.)
Millward, who refused an invitation to the investiture, watches the speech on television with his wife and son. He’s clearly pleased with the part Charles added in.
After it’s all over, Charles heads to the Millward house to say thank you — and gives his tutor a copy of a book about British tongue-twisters as a wry farewell present.
Following a tour through Wales, Charles returns to the palace, only to find it empty. He asks to see the Queen, who has already retired for the evening.
When he finally sees her, she’s livid with him. She has read a translation of the parts of the speech he added, which included lines comparing his personal suffering with that of the Welsh people. She’s offended, and they have a very soapy argument about it all.
And then Charles heads back to Cambridge, where he goes right back to the theater, performing in Shakespeare’s Richard II.
Charles plays Richard II, delivering part of the famous “hollow crown” speech — which, of course, takes place during a scene set in a Welsh castle on the coast. It’s a convenient invention on the part of the writers to have Charles star in the play; it wasn’t one of his roles at university. Oh, well — it’s definitely more dramatic than a Goons-style comedy revue, I suppose.