I remember my fascination with the first season of The Crown on Netflix, the dramatic retelling of Queen Elizabeth’s early inheritance of the throne. So rarely is a powerful woman at the center of a story in movies and television, let alone a country and world stage. The story touched into my longing for what an archetypal queen represents—wisdom, sovereignty, and benevolent power. In other words, a fully realized woman.
Maiden Elizabeth ascends to the throne at age 25. She is mentored by her father the king before his death, her queen grandmother, and prime minister Winston Churchill. The anticipation of her growth as a leader, her burgeoning empowerment, compelled me as a viewer. She becomes queen yet doesn’t embody it fully. The men around her, including her husband Prince Phillip, struggle to support and respect her place on the throne.
Archetypally, a woman’s life follows the same course—the maiden becomes lover, who becomes mother, and eventually crone—the etymology of which means crown or queen.
The first season of The Crown holds the seed of a mythic tale—a heroine’s journey to become queen. Archetypally, a woman’s life follows the same course—the maiden becomes lover, who becomes mother, and eventually crone—the etymology of which means crown or queen.
As Joseph Campbell teaches, on such a mythic journey, the heroine will face trials along the way. Young Elizabeth faces plenty of her own tests, including the cultural dissonance she experiences as a woman in power.
But as Queen Elizabeth’s character ages on Netflix, we do not witness her overcome the phase of trials. Her confidence seems to diminish rather than increase, and some around her—including her husband—seem to respect her less. The scriptwriters question her role as mother repeatedly, another cultural landmine that kings don’t face.
By the fifth season and Queen Elizabeth’s seventh decade, I long to see the queen fully inhabit her role. She’s battled the dragons, stayed true to herself, and continued to serve. She’s achieved a wisdom and power that can only come with age. She isn’t perfect, certainly, but she does stay true to herself and her lifelong devotion to her role. Perhaps The Crown cannot tell the story of a fully empowered Queen Elizabeth because ultimately, its creators cannot imagine this anymore than our culture can. The series shifts focus to younger characters, to Princess Diana and Prince Charles, tabloid journalism, and the drama of a failed marriage. On television, the mythic bows to the mundane.
Why is a young, beautiful maiden on the cusp of power more compelling in our culture than a mature woman who is truly sovereign? Midlife is a time to make way, to clear the path in our imaginations and hearts for the Queen.
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