A Beginner’s Guide to The Crown

Or, apparently Prince Philip is not immortal

It occurs to me that we’re now into season 4 of The Crown, with season 5 about to start filming, and I still haven’t addressed this masterpiece of a show. I mean, it’s a show that’s basically written for me. That’s kind of weird, isn’t it?

Also, it took me so long to write this article that Prince Philip actually died. Shocking, I know. Granted, I’ve only been saying that Queen Elizabeth is immortal, but there was a slight thought in the back of my head that Philip was, too. I guess not.

Anyway, back to The Crown. The family tree may be full of twists and turns and frankly be incredibly hard to read, but it’s done! I now present to you a beginner’s guide to who the fuck all the important people are and just how badly inbred they happen to be.

Mary of Teck was actually also descended from George III. Gotta love that incest

First, though, the background characters you won’t see on the show.

Christian IX of Denmark

Christian IX of Denmark, born a prince of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, Christian was a minor duke who had no real prospects in life, other than having a really ridiculously long title. He married his second cousin, Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel. When it became clear that the current king of Denmark, Frederick VII, wasn’t going to have any kids and the major branch of the House of Oldenburg was going to come to an end, Christian was chosen as the next king of Denmark because his wife, Louise, was the niece of Frederick’s father, Christian VIII. Also, Christian was a straight male line descendent of Christian III of Denmark, making him from the House of Oldenberg. Christian IX and Louise had six kids who married all over Europe, earning him the nickname “the Father-in-Law of Europe.” But it’s only two of his kids we’re interested in: Alexandra and George.

George I of Greece

Look, I’m going to be honest. I still don’t really understand the logic here. I think it has something to do with white colonial racism? Then again, what doesn’t…

Anyway, George I of Greece was born Christian William Ferdinand Adolf George (add in his title and you get an even more absurd name than his dad) in Denmark as the second son and third child of Christian and Louise of Denmark. Sometime in the mid-1800s, Greece decided it didn’t want to be a republic anymore and started hunting around for a king. They settled on a Bavarian guy named Otto, and then decided they didn’t like him so they chucked him out. Then they settled on Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, one of Queen Victoria’s kids. But the British prime minister and Victoria didn’t like the idea.

For some reason, the rest of Europe got to get in on the voting and eventually settled on Christian William. At the age of 17, he ascended as George I, King of the Hellenes. He married Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia, who was the granddaughter of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, making her a descendant of Catherine the Great. Their son, Andrew of Greece and Denmark, married Alice of Battenberg.

Alexandra of Denmark

Alexandra of Denmark was the eldest daughter of Christian IX. When she was 16, she was chosen as the future wife of Albert Edward, the oldest son of Queen Victoria and the future Edward VII. Upon their marriage, she was crowned Princess of Wales and currently holds the record for the longest serving in that title. Alexandra was considered one of the most beautiful women of her day and ushered in several major fashion trends, including elaborately decorated jeweled collars in order to hide a small scar on her neck.

Her marriage with Edward started out strong but broke down somewhat due to Edward’s love of several mistresses and her progressive deafness, which she frequently used as an excuse to ignore people. Upon Edward’s death, she became increasingly dependent on her son, the now King George V. As a result, she prevented the new queen, Mary, from fully taking on the role of queen.

Louis II, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine

Yeah, on second thought, he’s actually not important. All you need to know about him is that he had two sons, Alexander and Charles.

Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine

Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine was a younger son of Louis II, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine. He fell in love with his sister’s lady-in-waiting, Julia Hauke, and six months after impregnating her, the two were married. Because she was of significantly lower rank than her husband, the marriage was deemed morganatic. A morganatic marriage ensured that any children born to them would be considered legitimate but could not inherit anything. Thankfully for the couple, Alexander’s brother, Louis III, as the new Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt, created her Countess of Battenberg with the style of Illustrious Highness and a few years later elevated her further to Princess of Battenberg with the style of Her Serene Highness. Still, with the “stain” of morganaticism (it’s a word now, deal with it), marriage prospects for the new House of Battenberg were limited.

Queen Victoria (and children)

I’m not going to get very detailed with Victoria. She was queen of England. This is known.

Queen Victoria’s oldest son and heir, born Albert Edward, married Alexandra of Denmark, the second daughter of Christian IX. Nicknamed Bertie, he caused a minor scandal shortly before his father died by…messing around with an actress, Nellie Clifden. His father, Albert, traveled to Ireland to yell at his son. Albert died a few weeks later from typhoid, and Victoria blamed Bertie for stressing his father to death. She also made fun of Bertie for not being as smart as her oldest child, another Victoria.  Yeah, Victoria was kind of a shitty mom.

Bertie went on to have a bunch of mistresses and really liked French prostitutes. But, he was a really nice guy and provided a much happier court after the dark gloominess of Victoria’s days following the death of Albert and her withdrawal from society.

On the other hand, Victoria was a very progressive monarch and had no use for silly court protocol like being rude to morganatic people or racism (at least, for the mid to late 1800s). She was absolutely delighted one of her daughters (Beatrice) and one of her granddaughters (Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine) married Battenbergs.

Victoria’s second daughter, Alice, married Louis IV, Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, the grandson of Louis II and nephew of Alexander and Julia Hauke. Two of her daughters, Elizabeth and Alix, went on to marry Russian Archdukes. Elizabeth married Sergei Alexandrovich and Alix married Tsar Nicholas II, taking the name Alexandra Feoderovna. Both Elizabeth and Alix were murdered by the Bolsheviks, along with all of Alix’s children and husband. It was through Alice that Alix passed hemophilia to the Tsarevich Alexei. Her oldest daughter, Victoria, married Prince Louis of Battenberg.

 Now, on to the characters you see on the show.

Andrew of Greece and Denmark

This guy was a genuine Grade A dick. The fourth son of George I of Greece, he was a patrilineal grandson of Christian IX of Denmark and therefore a prince of both Greece and Denmark. His father was assassinated and his elder brother’s policy of neutrality during World War I led to the family being expelled after the war. They were invited back a few years later, but Andrew was expelled yet again and spent the rest of his life in France.

Andrew married Princess Alice of Battenberg, and had four daughters and a son, including Prince Philip.

Princess Alice of Battenberg 

Princess Alice of Battenberg is one of my personal heroes. She was born in Buckingham Palace, a great granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She was born deaf and was taught to lip read by her mother.

As the wife of Andrew of Greece and Denmark, Alice and her children were forced to shelter in the Greek palace cellars during the French bombardment of Athens during World War I. She was exiled along with the rest of the Greek royal family at the end of the war. As she was both a British and a German princess, she gave up all of her German titles upon the request of her cousin, George V, and took the name Mountbatten (the Anglicized version of Battenberg).

At the end of World War I, two of her aunts, Alexandra Feodorovna (Alix of Hesse) and Elizabeth Feodorovna, were murdered by the Bolsheviks.

Along with her husband, Alice eventually returned to Greece, and became intensely religious, claiming she was receiving divine messages. She suffered a nervous breakdown in 1930, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and sent to a sanatorium in Switzerland. Sigmund Freud claimed her delusions were the result of sexual frustration, and called for having her ovaries destroyed with x-rays. In case you were wondering, Sigmund Freud’s career was completely fully of shit.

Alice continued to insist she was completely fine, and was eventually released. She and her husband had drifted apart, and eventually returned to Greece where she started working with the poor.

Upon the breakout of World War II, she found herself in a difficult position, with four daughters married to Nazis and a son in the British Navy.

But here’s where Alice turned into a badass. Not only did she survive her horrific treatment in the sanatorium, she started resisting the occupying German forces in whatever way she could. Alice organized shelters for orphaned and lost children, and aid for poor neighborhoods. When the German army occupied Greece, she hid a Jewish widow and two of her children, earning her a place at Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations, an Israeli organization that recognizes non-Jews who went above and beyond to save Jews during the Holocaust.

Alice visited the United Kingdom a few times, but largely stayed in Greece. She attempted to start her own nursing order of Greek nuns, but the order fell through due to lack of nuns. She was eventually convinced to retire in the UK, where she died two years later. She was initially buried in Windsor Castle, but was reinterred on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

And yeah, it makes me tear up a little to write about her. Alice was an amazing woman who was dealt an awful set of cards early in life and refused to give in. Instead, she turned her life around and devoted herself to helping others. I think it’s really cool that Prince Philip is (was. He’s dead now) a patrilineal descendant of the ancient kings of Denmark, but I think it’s way cooler that he was descended from Princess Alice of Battenberg.

Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma

Louis Mountbatten was a brother of Princess Alice of Battenberg. Like Alice, he changed his Battenberg name to Mountbatten during World War I due to anti-German sentiment in Britain. He joined the British Navy and saw action in World War I and World War II, eventually being appointed chief of Combined Operations and Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia Command.

Blah blah blah, I could keep writing fancy stuff I’m reading off of Wikipedia, but the overall point is that he did lots of high and mighty things for the British. He became a mentor for Prince Philip (including setting him up with Elizabeth) and in turn for Prince Charles. He was assassinated when the IRA (Irish Republican Army) planted a bomb when he went fishing in Ireland.

Oh, and apparently he and his wife, Edwina, had an open marriage and, as he put it, “spent all our married lives getting into other people’s beds.” More power to them.

Mary of Teck

Mary of Teck was chosen specifically by Queen Victoria to be the next Princess of Wales. She was originally engaged to the oldest son of Alexandra of Denmark and Edward VII, Prince Albert Victor. However, a few weeks into the engagement, Albert Victor died of influenza. Mary then agreed to marry Albert Victor’s younger brother, the future George V. Mary was a great granddaughter of George III through her mother, making her second cousins once removed with her husband.

Mary of Teck and George V helped restore some of the austerity and dignity to the British throne that had been lost during the reign of prostitute-loving Edward VII.

Mary’s relationship with her oldest son, David (known to the world as Edward VIII) was poor and grew significantly worse when he took up with the American socialite Wallis Simpson. She strongly supported her second son, Bertie, eventually known as George VI. Mary died shortly after her granddaughter, Elizabeth, became queen. Mary appears on The Crown, but her husband died long before the show starts, prior to the outbreak of World War II.

Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson

I’m not going to write out his full name, because it’s absurdly long per British peerage tradition. Known as David to the family but eventually called Edward VIII, this guy was another Grade A dick. There’s some attempt in the show to garner sympathy for him, and he certainly tried during his life time, but the truth is, once you make any effort to cozy up to Nazis, I’m going to label you a dick. The same thing goes for your girlfriend.

Edward met Wallis Simpson before she finalized her second divorce. When Edward made it clear he meant to marry her, Parliament threatened to resign, which would lead to a governmentless country. The problem was that Edward, as the head of the Church of England, was trying to do something the Church considered bigamy. The Church at the time did not recognize divorce, which meant Wallis was still married. If Edward practiced bigamy as the head of the Church, there would be a constitutional crisis.

Instead of putting Wallis aside, Edward decided to abdicate. Normally, I’d be swayed by this romantic story, but like I said. Consorting with Nazis makes you a dick.

Literally the same year the two of them married in 1937 and created Duke and Duchess of Windsor, they were personally invited to tour Nazi Germany. There are pictures of the two of them chilling with Hitler. Rumors were uncovered years later that Edward was consorting with the Nazis in order to replace his brother, George VI, in order to make Britain fascist.

In the 1950s, papers called The Marburg Files, were released which detailed more of the Windsors’ dealings with the Nazis.

We’re not talking of just Nazi sympathy. We’re talking full Nazi collaboration.

Total dicks.

George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

Now here’s a romantic story I can get behind.

Again, with a ridiculously long name, George VI was originally known as Bertie to the family. He was born during the reign of his great grandmother, Queen Victoria. As he wasn’t expected to inherit the throne, he joined the Navy and Air Force. He developed a severe stutter, for which he received speech therapy.

He met and fell in love with Helena Bonham Carter Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, a member of the British aristocracy. He proposed to her twice, the second time when she was a bridesmaid at the wedding of his sister Mary. She was reluctant to wed a British prince due to her concerns over royal life. However, she eventually agreed and the two were wed in 1923 and she became Duchess of York.

When Edward VIII abdicated to marry a Nazi bitch Wallis Simpson, Elizabeth and Bertie became king and queen. Their level-headedness and consistency helped the country through the war and made the royal family beloved again.

Sadly, stress from the war made the king increase the amount he smoked, and he succumbed to lung cancer in 1952. Elizabeth flatly blamed her brother in-law, Edward, for the increased stress and subsequent death of her husband.

For the rest of her incredibly long life, Elizabeth gained a reputation of being a kind and loving grandmother. She died in her sleep in 2002 at the age of 101.

And yes, you can see a large amount of this story in 2010’s The King’s Speech, which includes a wonderful amount of fucks.

Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon

The vast majority of what I could say about Princess Margaret, the younger daughter of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and George VI, is either read off of Wikipedia or something I saw on The Crown. She lived a difficult life and dealt with mental health issues, something the show touches. Something I find interesting is that she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which is a disorder that also affected Princess Diana.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

What do you know, it turns out he’s not immortal.

While the show explores Philip’s childhood to a certain extent, including his family’s Nazi connections, it only sort of explains the drama behind his name.

Philip was born into the reigning house of Denmark (I’m not going to type the full name out again) in the male line, though his more immediate male family was currently ruling Greece. This gave him dual citizenship of Greece and Denmark. However, when it was decided that he would be educated in England, and further when he and his third cousin Elizabeth decided to marry, Philip took his mother’s maiden name as his own – Mountbatten (again, the Anglicized version of Battenberg).

There’s a scene in season 1 of The Crown where Louis Mountbatten makes a big deal out of the fact that the British Crown will soon be ruled by the House of Mountbatten. This is incorrect for a number of reasons. The first is that, as I just explained, Philip was not actually a Mountbatten. The second is that quickly after the two married, it was made clear that, following the change of the family name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (which had been passed down from Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert) in 1917 to Windsor, the name would remain Windsor regardless of the gender of the reigning monarch.

However, as a concession to her husband’s feelings, Elizabeth later declared that any children and male line descendants the two would have that were not in the main line of royal inheritance would bear the name “Mountbatten-Windsor.”

Oh, and as another fun fact, Elizabeth and Philip were actually second cousins once removed through Christian IX of Denmark. Gotta keep it in the family, right?

Elizabeth II

Do I really need to explain who this is?

Elizabeth is the last of the lizard people. She’s immortal and will still be here after global warming, nuclear meltdowns, and the asteroid hits.

Charles, Diana, Camilla

Just turn on the TV. News stations won’t shut up about these people.

So, there you have it. Unless there’s someone else you’re confused on? I’ll admit, I know significantly less about the non-royals, although I can tell you Margaret Thatcher was a real jackass.

I do apologize if this seems a little all over the place. I got the Johnson and Johnson Covid vaccine and there’s a decent chance I’m dying. But it’s still better than getting Covid!

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