In one way or another, it’s been quite the week for the Royals. First we had Prince Andrew’s toe-curling interview with the forensic Emily Maitlis, and then on Sunday, the third series of The Crown (Netflix, streaming now) arrived.
With the Queen moving into middle age, the country’s secular monarch, Olivia Colman, has taken over the role of Queen Elizabeth, but the series is still a tour de force.
The third episode, in particular, which focuses on the disaster in the Welsh mining village of Aberfan, makes brilliant use of special effects, but never forgets this is supposed to be a more intimate portrayal of the Royal Family, and focuses on the Queen’s struggle between duty and humanity.
The casting is superb, but for once it’s not Colman who steals the show.
Tobias Menzies, as Prince Philip, nails the Duke of Edinburgh’s tight-lipped delivery, speaking as though his entire face has been dipped in starch.
Helena Bonham Carter, meanwhile, is a nervy mix of rebellion, conservatism and eccentricity as Princess Margaret, trapped in the gilded cage of royalty.
Bearing in mind recent revelations, however, you can’t help thinking the first episode has more to say than most, dealing with the exposure of courtier Anthony Blunt’s past as a KGB mole.
In one pivotal scene, the Queen debates image with Blunt, saying: “There are two versions of a person. The idealised version of themselves they want to be seen as, and the less desirable person they really are, hidden away.”
The Crown is opulent, spectacular, fascinating, but now you can’t shake the feeling that it barely scrapes the surface of a true portrait of our ruling class, and that there is a ‘less desirable’ version hidden away.
The long-awaited adaptation of The War of the Worlds (BBC1, Sundays, 9pm) began this weekend, literally with a bang. It’s got a period setting with a modern sensibility, and was terrific winter fare.
I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here (ITV, nightly, 9pm) is now as much a fixture in the run-up to Christmas as Advent calendars and John Lewis ads, and it’s annoyed me that I’ve become hooked.