Eighteen and Mountbatten

Thirteen dead and not forgotten

We got eighteen and Mountbatten

Our newly appointed Royal correspondent Andy Stowe offers his judgement on the first episode of series four of The Crown which is now available on Netflix.

There is something not quite right with the Windsor family, the protagonists of this massively popular, beautifully produced drama. The evidence suggests that their main leisure activity is killing animals.

In this opening episode Charles bludgeons a fish to death; Elizabeth and daughter Anne go shooting deer using rifles with telescopic sights looking just like heroin addicts Renton and Sick Boy taking potshots at dogs with an air rifle in Trainspotting; Philip, the racist father, blasts dozens of perfectly innocent birds with a shotgun for no discernible reason other than a liking for loud bangs and slaughter. A family doing this on a council estate would see all the kids taken into care within hours and kept under close scrutiny for the rest of their lives. The social workers would plausibly argue that they’ve been demonstrating some of the classic traits of future murderers and are a threat to society.

But while it’s true that the Windsors live on several estates The Crown employs many of the biggest names in British drama to play them with absurdly posh accents dressed in variants of the sort of tweeds, caps and hunting jackets that Nigel Farage likes to be photographed in.

The episode’s dramatic centre is the IRA’s killing of Louis Mountbatten. Two children and a woman were also killed when a bomb was detonated on Mountbatten’s fishing boat off the coast of Sligo. A modest man who left a mere five hundred pages of instructions for his funeral arrangements, he was also involved in a plot to bring down a Labour government. The whole clan seems to prove that anti-social behaviour really can be a multi-generational problem. They even had a pro-Nazi uncle who was forced to live abroad the way that drug dealers move to Spain these days.

Duff marriage advice

The earl seems to have been a surrogate emotional father to Charles Windsor. What we are not told is that he was also the last British viceroy of India and responsible for the partition of the country, an event which caused one of the largest mass migrations in human history, the rapes of an estimated 75 000 women and more than a million deaths. The Crown’s writers managed to omit superfluous details like that, deciding that the most important thing about him was that he gave Charles some duff advice about who to marry. Well, you can’t include all the minor things in your broad canvas.

What about the rest of that Mountbatten doggerel that was repeated in a harsh Ulster accent a few times in the show, even though it once could have got you arrested for saying out loud?

The eighteen are members of the Parachute Regiment who were killed in an IRA ambush at Warrenpoint on the same day as Mountbatten in 1979. They get a couple of fleeting references as a bit of an afterthought which must be a great comfort to their surviving relatives. The writers concluded that viewers would be more interested in Anne Windsor’s struggle to return to the world of international show jumping after a dodgy patch when she’d lost her confidence. In this dramatic universe the lives of the little people are about as meaningful as that of a pheasant on a Scottish moor.

The thirteen were civilians murdered by the Parachute Regiment in Derry in 1972. A few months previously they’d killed another eleven in Belfast. Charles Windsor became their Colonel-in-Chief in 1977. You can see how reminding viewers that the bereaved, lovelorn young man was the titular head of a group of war criminals might ruin the narrative flow.

Here is popular “history” at its most dishonest and ideologically manipulative. The IRA killed a large number of innocent people in a futile armed struggle and are depicted as cartoonish psychopathic villains with comedy accents operating in a dysfunctional hellhole. Mountbatten and the British ruling class were responsible for murder on an unimaginable scale and are shown as nothing more morally problematic than emotionally constipated mannequins used to guffaw-provoking deference.

Suitable viewing for advanced proletarians?

Gillian Anderson deserves a special mention for her depiction of Margaret Thatcher. You may not be able to get to your local theatre this Christmas, but she is the best pantomime villain you are ever likely to see. Thatcher finally gets the onscreen portrayal she deserves.

Many readers of this site will have used the recent months to finally get round to reading the third volume of Capital, learning Hungarian and other self-improving activities. As a winter lockdown means we’ll all have a bit more time on our hands the question arises “should I watch this thing?”

Erm, probably sort of. It’ll give you something to talk about with non-political friends and workmates if you have any.

For sure, many comrades with impeccable class struggle credentials rhapsodise about it. My advice would be watch it, always remembering that this is history the way the ruling class wants it to be seen. The monarchy is a wonderful institution peopled with flawed individuals who are kept on track by a queen devoted to public service, corgis and horses. If you are watching it with your family, you must do the decent thing and try to keep your swearing and righteous class hated under control and avoid giving long lectures about what historically dishonest bollocks it is.

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