The Crown: Paterfamilias
December 19, 2017 6:53 PM - Season 2, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Philip insists that Prince Charles attend his alma mater in Scotland and reminisces about the life-changing difficulties he experienced there.
posted by Cash4Lead (32 comments total)
Poor little Charles. I never thought I would respect him again after I read somewhere that he has a man to put his toothpaste on his brush in the mornings. But he really was put through systematized child abuse. Nicole Cliffe just did an amazing tweet thread about how bad British public schools used to be in every possible way. Astounding to think that Eton was considered the soft option.

Trivia: Young Charles was sensitive enough that, when he was nine, he wrote a letter to MAD magazine telling them to, as I recall, "jolly well stuff it" because he thought Alfred E. Neuman was a caricature of him. I had a great old hardback book with a picture of this letter, but I don't have the exact quote on hand. I used to think this was hilarious, but, in sharp contrast to the rest of us, the world did actually revolve around Charles, so he could be forgiven for thinking any given magazine was making fun of him.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:07 PM on December 19, 2017 [6 favorites]

This was one of the most difficult things I've ever watched on television. My wife, who experienced really aggressive bullying as a child, cried throughout.

And yes, Cliffe's thread was excellent and had one overarching theme: every man who had any role in steering British society and politics for the last 500 years was horrifically physically and psychologically abused. It explains quite a bit.
posted by dry white toast at 8:53 PM on December 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

Wow, that was hard.

One thing I appreciated was that Hanh wasn't portrayed as some sort of cruel sadist. You could understand the logic, and even the compassion, behind his actions. I got the sense he knew that this school wasn't the right environment for Charles, just as he knew how it could be a good environment for Philip (provided a surrounding culture deeply intoxicated with its own toxic masculinity, of course). But there was nothing to be done.

Philip finally shouting and growing frustrated with Charles at the end... Oh boy. That was hard to watch.
posted by meese at 9:44 PM on December 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

i'm blanking completely on the music playing during the horrifying nazi funeral and it's as frustrating as if i forgot the order of the alphabet song.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:19 PM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

MOZART im the best
posted by poffin boffin at 10:23 PM on December 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Paterfamilias, or as I prefer to think of it, "Get Absolutely F*cked, Philip." God, I wanted to just punch him in the face. Like there was not a minute of this episode where I didn't think, wow, it would be incredibly satisfying to punch him right in his smug gob.

And I just essentially cringed into a ball of NOPE with all the Nazi stuff. There's knowing it happened on an abstract historical level and then there's seeing a stomach-churning number of swastikas, no thank you, I think if I rewatch the season later I'll just skip this episode.
posted by angeline at 6:30 AM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Nazi scenes were absolutely chilling.

I liked the slow reveal. At first we're lead to believe Phillip sends Charles to the Highland School of Hell simply in an attempt to toughen him up, and you want to smack him upside the head for it.

Then we're shown that actually, the school community supported and comforted Phillip (in precisely the right way for him) when he was faced with a terrible tragedy. That the headmaster was actually an understanding, patient and caring person, and that hardiness wasn't the most important thing Phillip learned from him, or at that school.

And so you realize that that was what Phillip wanted Charles to have, too. That bond, with that community that became his family, and with its paterfamilias. You understand why this would be the man Phillip could entrust with bringing up his son.

And nevertheless, it was the wrong choice for the child that Charles was, and when Phillip realizes that, he takes it out on the poor boy. And so you want to keep smacking him upside the head. As always.

But what I really want to know is: why is this show so much better at nuance when the storyline involves men? When it's all about Elizabeth and Margaret, or Elizabeth and Jackie, we basically only get different flavours of jealousy. As soon as it's about Elizabeth and a male character, or simply between male characters, you get layers and complexity. Sigh.
posted by sively at 1:39 PM on December 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

Best episode of the season, possibly of the entire series. So much going on, and it's not shouted at you via exposition. Also, Philip doesn't go all Hallmark movie and pull him out.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:57 PM on December 22, 2017

I may watch this eventually but I couldn't get past the first scene with Charles crying in the rugby field so thank you everyone for your comments on it.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 7:50 PM on December 22, 2017

We watched this last night, and I've been thinking about it ever since -- one of the through-lines in this story, I think, is the idea that you can be better than your own parents, but it still isn't good enough.

Like, think about Phillip's dad. The first thing we hear in the episode about him is that he wants Phillip to be educated by a genius, and it's a little bit of a surprise to realize that his dad is still alive, because Camille is so obviously used to being in charge of Phillip, and the two of them have such a rapport. He fits in so well with the brood of blond children. Wouldn't it be natural for her to take care of Phillip if his parents were dead?

And then, the next thing we learn about Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark comes when the other boy is taunting Phillip about his dad being in Paris, banging other women while his mom is in a sanitarium. The touch about Paris is lightly done, but perfect. After all, the first glimpse we see of kid Phillip are with his brother-in-law who could allllmost be old enough to be his dad, speaking in German to each other. Why is Phillip off with his sister and her sister in Nazi Germany when his dad is alive and in Paris? It creates a little bit of mystery, a tension.

Then, the funeral procession. And the moment when Phillip sees all the Nazi salute and he falls back, unable to deal with the inhumanity, the coldness. The Nazis in full gear walk past him, a little contemptuously. Your eye is drawn up by the fucking Nazi eagle staff. You see some people that aren't in full Nazi gear -- will they stop and comfort him? No, it's an older man who just looks disgustedly at Phillip while walking by. Not until the very end of the procession do you see Mountbatten, who comes and actually treats him like a human and comforts him and stands with him, two men in dark suits together, wearing matching black silk armbands, drawn up against all the stone-faced people with red armbands.

Annnnnnnnnnd then the reception afterwards, the long walk up the hallway with the woman you don't recognize, but who you guess might be a sister.

Will it be Hitler at the end of the walk, given that Camille's husband was apparently a personal friend? Will it be some other high-ranking Nazi? How will that fit with the plot point about the photo of Edward smiling fatuously while Wallis shakes Hitler's hand? But no, it's not a Nazi at the end of the walkway. Just a mother who, even with prompting, doesn't acknowledge her own son. And a father who does acknowledge Phillip, but it's absolutely devastating, because he turns out to be the man in the top hat who looked at Phillip with such coldness, such disgust during the procession. In fact, when he actually does speak to Phillip, he uses the few points that they share -- the fact that Camille was their favorite, that they're both at this funeral, that they're both grieving -- as a weapon. He shames and humiliates and punishes his son in front of everyone after his kid has managed an act of real fucking courage.

Contrast that with the scene where Phillip sits down with Charles. Comparatively, it's a small setting. An intimate one set in everyday life at least for, uh, this sort of world. Phillip tells Charles about his own fear, his own anxiety, his own struggle. He lets his son know about a vulnerable moment in his own past, and makes a genuine attempt to do some dad-ing. Then, he takes Charles up to Gordonstoun himself, instead of having a surrogate do it. Further, you'll note that he wants Charles to go to Gordonstoun not to appease abstract theories about education, but because of his own, deeply-felt emotional connection and because he wants Charles to have something good and valuable. When he asks for the additional ten minutes before the prizegiving, you can see on his face, how badly he wanted to be able to praise Charles, to tell him that he was tough, that he had succeeded in things that his father valued.

In fact, that entire prize-giving scene mirrors the scene with Phillip approaching his father after the funeral -- the long aisle, the onlookers flanking on either side, the difficult journey to get, the people who actually bring the small, upset boy to the scene. Unlike his own father, though, Phillip set this up because he wants the chance to praise Charles. Unlike his own father, when failure happens*, Phillip doesn't verbally fucking maul his son in front of everyone.

And it's still. not. enough. for Phillip to be anything close to a good dad.

Phillip still can't see that Charles is different. It's the detective, not Phillip, who finds Charles huddled behind a column, afraid to face his father. It's the detective who puts a blanket around Charles's shoulders when he's wet. It's the detective who shouts out that Charles is upset. It's the detective who walks out of the car with Charles and up the stairs on coming home to Windsor. And the part at the end -- where you see Anne running out to greet Phillip, her bright hair matched with his, and how they romp off together and the little nod to people who know their recent royal history that Anne, and not Charles, is the athlete in the mold of Phillip. And Charles comes back not to the arms of his mother, but to a dowdy-looking woman with somewhat messy hair who he goes to with enthusiasm. She says she'll make him a sandwich. He climbs the stairs, and greets Martin with real enthusiasm and joy in his voice. Elizabeth is kept to the side, looking down from a height, by her need to keep her husband in line. But on top of that, instead of going to Charles once he's inside and Phillip is off romping with Anne, she goes into another room and shuts the door.

It's devastating.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:45 AM on December 27, 2017 [18 favorites]

One more note after that fucking WALL OF TEXT: the episode answers in an indirect, but very satisfying way, why the rest of Phillip's life has taken the shape that it did. In a lot of ways, the show sets him up as the exemplar of English upper class male -- his war service, his interest in sport, his club, his all-male boarding school, his inability to play second fiddle to his wife. He's more English than the English.

And yet, some of the first on-screen biography we get for him is the grousing about him being a foreigner. In his wedding photo, we hear Elizabeth's family grousing about his Nazi sisters. The first shots we get in this episode of kid Phillip are him speaking German. He's a fucking member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, and a prince of the Danish and Greek royal families.

But in this episode, we see that it's Mountbatten, who comforts him and gets him through that awful funeral procession. It's Mountbatten, who (imperfectly) acknowledges the deep hurt that Phillip's father has inflicted on him. It's an English boarding school (in Scotland, run by a Jewish refugee) that gives Phillip his first sense of community.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:13 AM on December 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

FINAL NOTE: To give a little context and color and UGH CAMILLE YOU WERE NICE TO YOUR BROTHER BUT YOU WERE A FUCKING NAZI to the exchange about Phillip being shipped off to Gordonstoun, this is part of the Wiki article on Kurt Hahn, the headmaster of Gordonstoun:
From 1920 to 1933, Hahn was the first headmaster of Schule Schloss Salem, a private boarding school in Germany, founded by Hahn in cooperation with Prince Max. Hahn was raised as a Jew and served as the Salem School's headmaster during Adolf Hitler's rise to power. Hahn began his fierce criticism of the Nazi regime after Hitler's storm troopers killed a young communist in the presence of his mother. When he spoke out against the storm troopers, who had received no punishment, Hahn spoke against Hitler publicly. He asked the students, faculty and alumni of the Salem school to choose between Salem and Hitler. As a result, he was imprisoned for five days (from 11 to 16 March 1933). After an appeal by British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, Hahn was released, and in July 1933 he was forced to leave Germany and moved to Britain.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:18 AM on December 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

It's interesting how the series keeps showing us things about Phillip's life that might reasonably give us compassion and understanding for the man, except that at every turn instead of using his circumstances to become a better human, he just becomes the same asshole bully that everyone was to him.

The one, one and only positive thing I can say for him out of this episode is it's damn lucky his ugly Nazi family either all died or disowned him, because wouldn't that have been quite inconvenient in his dislike of Edward VIII for Phillip to be a fucking Nazi himself.

Also, that schoolmaster can go shove a chainsaw up his bum. If that school is still standing, tear it the fuck down in disgrace. I was a timid, bookish boy who went through a lot of the American version of that shit, and while I don't deny that maybe some of those lessons could have had value, trying to teach them through sheer violence and humiliation is not the fucking way to do it, and I'm just sitting here right now seething in disgust and wishing horrific retribution on anyone who ever picked on a boy who wasn't "man enough" not to cry, or to catch a fucking ball.
posted by dnash at 8:12 PM on December 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

It's interesting how the series keeps showing us things about Phillip's life that might reasonably give us compassion and understanding for the man, except that at every turn instead of using his circumstances to become a better human, he just becomes the same asshole bully that everyone was to him.

It was the line of dialogue that went something like, See that wall? I built it. It was delivered in a kind of offhand fashion. He was clearly proud of it but there was no hint of the struggle, the emotion, the breakdown that we saw later in the episode. It's like he'd shut all that out and only remembered that the wall was built and it was important to him at the time but he looked back on it with a pragmatic eye: yep, still standing.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:16 AM on December 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

I was curious about Gordonstoun today so I looked it up. It's got a website, making it look like any modern-day co-ed exclusive school. I'm sure they're not so much for the brutality nowadays, but I have a hard time believing it's still widely considered healthy to take boarding students from age 6, as they still do.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:02 AM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

yeah that was a pretty brutal watch. never thought I would feel such sympathy for Charles but he is a survivor of systemic child abuse and those scars never heal completely.
posted by supermedusa at 11:29 AM on December 30, 2017

Really appreciated the contrast between Philip's and Charles' innate character and their responses to adversity. I can't completely damn Philip's treatment towards Charles; Philip has his own experience of prevailing and unable/unwilling to accept that Charles lacks the specific sets of faculties that he had.

I recalled when William, and then Henry went to Eton, but I have no idea what their time there was like. Times have changed, and Will and especially Henry have very different personalities than Charles.

re: British public education - this is what William Golding was writing about in 'Lord of the Flies' specifically, it wasn't a general allegory of people's shittiness.

I wonder how many takes Claire Foy had to do for: "... and not just because he's your son, because he's the future King... and that would be fine, for all of our other children, but Charles is the future of the crown. And as The Crown, and as his mother, I have decided..."

Seems like QEII changed her mind sometime along the way. Alternate take - she is acknowledging how damaged Charles became due to the choices made for him.
posted by porpoise at 6:21 PM on December 30, 2017

Also, this show has been incredibly sympathetic to QEII, and in this season, to Philip*.

Philip may be an asshole, but at least he isn't a fucking Nazi.

Also, the exposition in the last episode kind of "explains" a plausible backstory why (real life) Henry** might have gotten in his head to do the Nazi Halloween thing - I wonder if he ever caught shit, and how much, from his grandfather for that?

*although they portray him as pretty damned thick when it comes to manual labour; seeing him wrestle with the iron gate was something straight up out of a late night infomercial trying to sell a quack kitchen device, you know, the ones where people trying to open a potato chip bag inevitably causes it to explode and shower greasy flakes of processed potato everywhere - but it sells the storyline

**and in the above post, (real life) William

posted by porpoise at 6:39 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Hi all, I just binge-watched both seasons in a few days and had SO MANY QUESTIONS for previous threads, and now it's too late for me to ask!

Here's one for this thread. Near the beginning of the ep, Philip (and it is one "L," minor correction to above discussion!) asks Cecilie why he has to go all the way to Scotland for school. And Cecilie says, IIRC, that it's because Hahn, being Jewish, had been forced to leave Germany and had relocated in Scotland.

So why would a Nazi-leaning family go so much out of their way to send a son to a school in Scotland with a Jewish head of school? Why not just have him educated at another school in Germany? Was there a special family connection between Philip's family and Hahn? Or were they perhaps pro-Nazi but without personal animosity toward Jews? (The cognitive dissonance required by that latter possibility is a bit mind-blowing.) It may be this was covered in the show and I missed it, but I was mightily confused.
posted by torticat at 9:05 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I will make ONE comment about a previous episode, since I can't resist. I cannot believe they could not have found better actors to impersonate Jackie and John Kennedy. I could not suspend disbelief for one second. Neither of them looked the least bit like the historical figures, and neither of them apparently even had a voice coach to help them sound like them. Ugh!

In contrast... I am going to miss Claire Foy incredibly in future seasons. In spite of the fact that there was no way they could make her look exactly like the queen, she captured the voice, the posture, the walk, the conflicted impassivity--all of it--so well I can't imagine another actor who could equal it. Looking forward to seeing what Olivia Colman does with the role. I have a lot of respect for Colman but have to admit I have a hard time seeing her as Elizabeth.
posted by torticat at 9:14 PM on December 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

Was there a special family connection between Philip's family and Hahn? Or were they perhaps pro-Nazi but without personal animosity toward Jews?

I don't think it's explicitly explained, but if you look at the Wiki for Philip, it mentions that Hahn had been the schoolmaster at the Schule Schloss Salem, which was owned by one of the brother-in-laws.

As for the question of why Philip went to Gordonstoun, I think the most plausible reading is the last one you suggest. The phrasing that Cecile uses is telling -- not only does she describe it as a decision of their father's that's justified by Hahn being a genius, but she's also super flip about the details, making it sound like it's just part of the new German order, possibly a result of general legislation prohibiting Jewish people from holding certain jobs, when per Wikipedia, Hahn was specifically imprisoned after the Reichstag fire for speaking out against Hitler's personal support of a notably brutal murder of a young Communist leader in his home.
posted by joyceanmachine at 5:30 PM on December 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

Or were they perhaps pro-Nazi but without personal animosity toward Jews? (The cognitive dissonance required by that latter possibility is a bit mind-blowing.)

I don't know the specific circumstances re: Philip, but I think for at least some class of Germans there was a level of something like "oh, but you're not one of those Jews." An example, though this predates Nazism by a long time, it's still part of overall German anti-Semitism: composer Richard Wagner wrote many nasty anti-Jewish articles, yet most of his preferred conductors, who he insisted were the only ones to conduct at Bayreuth, his glorious new opera house, were Jewish.

I suspect it was something like a sentiment you can even find among some kinds of racists today. Like: "I like that Oprah woman. She's not black like those other blacks are."

So if Philip's father had some idea that this schoolmaster was somehow particularly smart and good at his job, I can see where he'd be all "well, it's a shame old Hahn had to leave the country and all, since he's not THAT sort of Jew, but anyway, we'll just have to send Philip to his new place in Scotland."
posted by dnash at 6:09 PM on December 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yes, everyone (?) is being replaced but only Olivia Colman has been announced. I'm really curious about the rest.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:01 AM on January 1, 2018

Me, in the thread for the previous episode: I'd heard that this season we are all supposed to hate Philip. I have been waiting for the shoe to drop on that .... There are only three episodes left - either something big must be happening soon

Me, watching this episode: Oh there it is

I kept thinking about the line where Philip told Charles that "this is not the real world". As we've seen, Philip seems himself as a product of the real world, as opposed to the royal world (wherein manual labour is beneath them, the Moustaches [and not the father] run the family, and the yacht cannot be bothered with a rescue). And he belongs to that 'real' world because of Gordonstoun - before that, he was just another HRH. He insists on controlling the children's education because he desperately wants them to be of the real world and not the royal world; like him, not like Elizabeth. But he cannot conceive of a way to do this that differs from his own path.

For me, this is the most stirring episode of the series thus far.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 2:29 PM on January 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

I don’t have much to add except that the actor playing young Philip was a spitting image of Ryan Phillippe (who was a HUGE crush of mine in middle school). Every time I saw his face thats the first place my mind would go.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:45 PM on February 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Just watched this episode. I had read this thread so I thought I was prepared.

Ugh that was brutal. The scene where Philip imagines the plane crash. The funeral. And then to see a man wrestling with his trauma and in many ways fail. Also his manipulation of Elizabeth regarding the decision to pull or keep Charles there.

A brutal, brutal episode.
posted by freethefeet at 10:45 PM on January 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I just rewatched this episode because Netflix says Season 3 is out soon (Nov 17) and I was like, oh, yeah, I remember that one episode where...

It's easily the best episode in the whole series, goddamn. What a way to show-not-tell Philip's childhood story. This is a character* I've hated throughout (like most here), and not that this episode does anything to redeem his later choices and actions, but I can't hate his dad-ing anymore. Like joyceanmachine said, he was trying to be a loving father. That is both a triumph of Philip's character and the tragedy of the human condition: always reaching for an ideal, always falling short.

* Wish I knew enough about the real people to see them as more than characters.
posted by MiraK at 7:12 AM on October 22, 2019

This was my least favorite episode so far, and the only one I've stopped watching. Too much melodrama.
Yes, even for this show.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:16 PM on October 22, 2019

Very late comment alert! I found the scene in the plane where Philip flies Charles home so tough. Philip is so empathetic at first and then cannot hold it together when Charles can’t calm down. Kinda relatable as a parent in some ways. Also that he was saying he super regretted being responsible for his sister flying even though she hated flying, while ignoring how much his son is hating flying; that tension, insight, and obliviousness worked for me (painfully).
posted by JenMarie at 6:03 PM on November 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Kind of a "how someone became an asshole" episode. I feel very bad for Young Philip--growing up with Nazis, losing his sister, being blamed for her death, all that shit--and on some level he seems to kinda mean well. But on the other hand, he continues to be a threatening blockheaded dick, terrorizing his kid.

Elizabeth continues to not be able to do much despite being the Queen, for fuck's sake.

I liked/hated/was depressed by the final note that Charles was still stuck there for five years, hated every minute of it, and by god, sent his kids to Eton.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:38 PM on April 20, 2021

This episode was devastating for me as a parent of an extremely shy child, and a parent in general. It’s was also really well written. First that nazi funeral was chilling. The entire storyline showed how themes echo through a generation. Philip’s dad unleashes his anger and blame at him, and later he’s told look you will fail your son too. He carries this guilt and anger inside for decades. Then he tries to be understanding with his own son, and in the airplane is initially sympathetic. But then as he gets to the point in the conversation where he’s trying to open up about his sisters death, his whimpering son sets him off, I’m sure it’s all subconscious stuff, and he just unleashed that pain and anger on his son, disappointing him. As was foretold (and as any parent does really, despite vowing not to). Then the son comes home and the dad runs off with his sporty daughter, and only the nanny is warm and connecting to Charles. Elizabeth watches from a distance.

The other interesting part is how you see over the seasons Elizabeth become more and more uncomfortable with emotions, as she’s avoiding facing the pain in others her decisions have caused, in her husband and her sister. Seeing Margaret go from sunny 20 year old to dark anger. Philip wielding the only power he has over her, threat of divorce. You see Elizabeth retreat more and more from genuine emotion, into her role, which sets the pace for future seasons. Great show.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:13 AM on June 5, 2021

So very late to the party, but I loved this episode. The actor who played young Philip did a spectacular job.
posted by bluloo at 9:18 AM on October 23, 2023

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