Royal Flush


Lately, I’ve been immersed in the milieu of British royalty. Yes, I do know that monarchism and royalty are anathema to political progressivism. But as history it’s fascinating, even when it’s recent history. Or even right now and in the future.

What took me down the royal rabbit hole of that dynasty in its most recent reign was watching the movie The Queen. It explores how the family surrounding Queen Elizabeth II responded to and dealt with the death of Princess Diana.

It goes almost without saying that Helen Mirren is magnificent as the Queen. She’s brilliant in everything she does. I also quite enjoyed the subtly vibrant James Cromwell, as I always do, as Prince Phillip. And of course Michael Sheen was born to play English prime minister Tony Blair, and has made a bit of his career of it by also doing so in “The Deal” and “The Special Relationship.”

“The Queen” feels almost documentarian, giving us a look behind the scrim between England’s royal family and the rest of the world at how they dealt with what was likely the biggest crisis and challenge of Elizabeth II’s reign. It’s a tale of the interplay among some very strong personalities under unusual circumstances, and a fine way to spend about an hour and 40 minutes.

Soon after I quickly became immersed in the Netflix original series “The Crown.” I can’t testify as to its historical accuracy, but I will join the large chorus of acclaim for its first season, which traces Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne and her early years as a monarch.

Claire Foy is magnificent as Elizabeth, as is most all of the show... with one quite niggling exception – John Lithgow as Winston Churchill. Some critics praised his portrayal. I find it not just verges on but disturbingly stumbles into unintentional parody. He not just chews the scenery but makes a feast of it. Shame, as I’ve seen him be wonderful.

A second season was to debut in December, not long after I write this. I can barely wait.

A natural follow-up to both is the documentary, “The Royal House of Windsor,” also on Netflix. The six-part series enjoyed never-before access to the family’s personal papers and correspondence at Windsor Castle. And quite wisely is divided up into themes rather than strictly following the historical timeline.

Its salient point is that the Windsors will do whatever it takes to preserve the dynasty and monarchy, and survive. Not in a way that involves any skullduggery, TK or TK. But more how canny they have been over a time frame from the end of the Victorian era to now, one in which their related dynasties lost power, or in the case of the last czar (a cousin) and his family, were wiped out by the political forces that create history.

It’s a hell of a story (obviously, as its latest monarch is the subject of two entertainment properties). And told in a way that offers much insight into the last great ruling monarchy.

I also came away from it with a new respect for Prince Charles that has me anticipating what his ascension to the throne might bring. His activism in a role in which that had been discouraged on the part of the poor and working class portends intriguing things to come, as also does his respect for such non-Western religions as Islam and Buddhism. With his mother being age 91 as it was made (as is also mine), he could rise to being a pivotal historical figure in our time.

Populist Picks (Special British Edition):

Book: London by Edward Rutherford – This sprawling work of historical fiction that’s hundreds of pages long is a warm deep dive into a truly great city. Interweaving fictional family lines with one another as well as real people, places and events from the burg’s beginning to recent days, it’s a must for anyone who loves the English capital.

TV Documentary: Great Raids of World War II – Six raids, primarily by British commandos, that made a pivotal difference in the war. Cunning, innovation, adventure and bravery are threaded throughout all of them.

TV Series: New Tricks – This BBC series that ran for 12 seasons is a delightful treat about retired cops brought back into service to solve cold cases, led by their female boss. Lots of humor along with the police procedural stories the English do so well.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email

From The Progressive Populist, December 1, 2017

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