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The Royal House of Windsor (2017)

May 22, 2021 Logo Netflix Logo Tmdb Logo IMDb Logo Rotten Tomatoes Logo Metacritic Logo

For fans of the popular Neflix series The Crown, the time between season can feel like an eternity. With Season 5 at least a year away, what is a fan to do? How about checking out the docuseries, The Royal House of Windsor for a little background information and context.

Released in 2017, this 6-part documentary series follows the British royal family from before World War I, through to the choosing of the name Windsor, up to the Charles and Diana years and beyond. The series explores the connection that the Windsors have to other royal dynasties across Europe and the adaptations they have made over a century to endure their survival.

Queen Elizabeth walking along a crowd
Image Courtesy of TMDb

The series opens by addressing the stark anti-german sentiments post World War I that lead to a name change for the royals from Saxe-Coburg to the much more English sounding Windsor. The dust had barely settled from that change when King Edward VIII adbacated the thrown in 1936 in order to marry the American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.

When King George VI ascended to the throne it wasn’t only his life that changed drastically, his daughter Elizabeth was also set on an alternate life course. The young princess soon begins her training in her duty an heir to the monarchy but that doesn’t stop her from falling in love.

A picture of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth from early in their relationship
Image Courtesy of TMDb

Life with Prince Philip starts off as a little piece of a fairy tale. The handsome Naval office and his young wife, Princess Elizabeth, move their little family to Malta, where Elizabeth gets her first taste of freedom from palace life. This little escape is short-lived as King George VI falls ill and Elizabeth and Philip are recalled to the palace to assume royal duties.

The docuseries hits the highlights of the early years of Elizabeth’s marriage, reign and family life. A few well-known incidents and hardly known near misses are touched on as the series moves toward the tumultuous years of Charles and Diana’s marriage.

A close up of Princess Diana wearing a tiara
Image Courtesy of TMDb

Up until this point, the series is interesting, entertaining and fairly well balanced in its storytelling. Unfortunately, episodes four and five quickly become pro-Charles propaganda as the narrative paints Diana as an emotionally unstable young woman and Charles as a hapless victim to the scheming of his betters.

The coverage of Diana’s death and the fall-out from how the family handled the crisis in early days was interesting and heart-wrenching. As the story transitions to the future of the monarchy it is evident the producers aim to leave the viewers with a sense of hope. The series finishes strong, though, with a beautiful tribute to the life and legacy of Britain’s longest reigning monarch, Queen Elisabeth.

Prince Charles kissing the hand of the Queen
Image Courtesy of TMDb

On the surface, a history documentary might seem dull but the producers do an excellent job of bringing humanity and context to important historical happenings. Many of the recounts include commentary from former staff and expert historians. It should be noted that the Royal Family cooperated with this series by opening their archives to producers for the first time. Perhaps that is why those couple of episodes were so heavily weighted in Charles’ favour.

If fans of The Crown are looking for a summer session history class to prep for the next season of their favourite royal drama, The Royal House of Windsor is exactly the docuseries they are looking for – available now on Netflix.

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