Netflix's The Crown Season 2 just got an added shot of relevancy as Prince Harry made history with his royal engagement announcement to American actress Meghan Markle.
The Queen Mother: No one wants complexity and reality from us. Do sit down.
In only ten short days, Netflix will release their second season of The Crown, a six-year project covering the life and times of the current reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II. Today, it just got the PR boost of a lifetime, as Prince Harry, a character to come along a little later in the series, made history by announcing his engagement.
The second season of The Crown will feel familiar to audiences who watched the first. Much of the ten episode season will focus on the rumors of infidelity between Philip and Elizabeth. Princess Margaret will continue to have her romances injected with embellishments to make them more dramatic than they already were. The now-abdicated Edward VIII will put in another appearance with Wallis Simpson, along with his extraordinarily catty letters on Palace life. American actors will once again do their best impersonations of historical figures. (Last year, John Lithgow as Churchill, this year Michael C. Hall as John F. Kennedy.)
But this season brings a new theme: the modernization of the monarchy. While in some episodes, it's left for subtle remarks, or played for laughs, in one remarkable hour, it takes front and center stage, as the series turns to the events that caused the Palace to take their first steps into the modern era. I won't spoil it here, but googlers will probably be able to figure out what event it revolves around, as not only is it the best episode of the series so far, it also contains the added benefit of being almost completely true.
This one small step for the Queen, one giant leap in taking the monarchy forward for the UK is, in fact, the first shift in the end game we see playing out today on the BBC rolling news. Harry has done what everyone on The Crown failed to do before him (and will continue to fail to do, as the series continues): Marry a completely unsuitable person, and open the monarchy to new members in a way that the Palace has refused to consider until now.
The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms. Meghan Markle. pic.twitter.com/zdaHR4mcY6— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) November 27, 2017
Who is Meghan Markle? She is someone who was literally unthinkable for a royal to marry even as late as a decade ago. Let us count the ways: She is older than Harry, 36 years old to his 33. She is a career woman and a commoner, born in the United States, and (until last week) living in Canada, making a living as a small-time, but working actress in Hallmark movies and a little USA drama called Suits. (Though to me, she'll always be Amy Jessup on Fringe.) Her mother is a middle-class African-American, her father is an Emmy award-winning lighting director, known for such upright and staid shows as Married … with Children. She is Catholic. She is divorced.
She is also a PR coup for the Palace and for Harry. The boy once derided as the "good looking one" to Prince William's "smart one," and who used to be famous mostly for wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party, and stripping naked at another one, has made a comeback of international proportions. He has spent the last few years discussing mental health as his cause, using the death of his mother, Princess Diana, as a vehicle to get people to take him seriously on the issue.
He has now done something we might even see her as being proud of. He has opened the door to royals accepting all sorts of once-unacceptable traits in those they marry. Harry was beaming at the presentation of Meghan to the press this morning. He has, in a single step, made a huge move towards preventing the Palace from ever forcing another marriage as they did of his mother and father, in order to have a bride that was considered "suitable," without ever considering whether the two people in question were actually suited to one another.
Harry has a lot of arguments on his side when it came to getting the Palace to accept this union. It's a marketing win both at home and across the seas. She's born in the US, giving this country its Princess Grace UK moment, and her biracial heritage provides African Americans especially with an emotional tie to the union. But she's lived in Toronto long enough that Canadians can claim her too. (She's also clearly embracing Canada as her home, by wearing Canadian designers both in her first appearance with Harry and in the unofficial photographs of them together this past year.)
Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle are "thrilled and happy" to be engaged. pic.twitter.com/HBz30SbZVE— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) November 27, 2017
The Royals are seen as ushing in a new era with Prince Harry's marriage of "open-mindedness," all without risking the actual throne. Harry's not going to inherit. There are at this point no less than three generations between him and the Throne. He's safe to have kids and keep their lives private: Bill and Cathy Cambridge have already guaranteed the next generation will be pushed off the world stage in twenty years time by having three. And most importantly, he's now settled.
One of the most off notes in PBS' King Charles III this past spring was the idea they wanted Harry to stay in the single, buffoon uncle role. Nothing could be further from the truth in the Palace. They want every one of marrying age in the current direct line to be hitched up and squared away, so there are no loose ends the day "the transition" finally occurs.
Considering how much good PR Netflix's conservative royalist POV of Elizabeth's reign is doing for them, one might think this engagement is timed to help The Crown. But in truth, it's a happy accident. Harry's older brother got engaged on November 16th, 2010 and his wedding date was announced on the 23rd for an April wedding. Harry had to push his big news back by two weeks to accommodate his Grandmother's 70th wedding anniversary and then American Thanksgiving, but the same schedule is already being adhered to, with a promise of a venue and a ballpark date in "Spring of 2018" by tomorrow, so we know how much recovery time Kate gets between having her baby and standing on a balcony for photographs.
A firm date should be here by December 4th or so, and the royal engagement photos a week later, just as fans of The Crown are binging around the world. This spring, the final wedding of Diana's children will give us Elizabeth's last triumphant images, claiming a new era, while behind the scenes, everyone else preps for the real changing of the world the day the Second Elizabethan Age draws to a close.