“What kind of marriage is this? What kind of family? You’ve taken my career from me, you’ve taken my home, you’ve taken my name. I thought we were in this together,” The Duke of Edinburgh scowls at the end of episode 3 of Netflix’s The Crown.
While the story may centre around a young Elizabeth taking her place in history, I found myself fascinated by her husband, Prince Phillip.
This always happens to me after I attend the Dad 2.0 Summit. I’m more in tune about fatherhood, family, and what it means to “be a man.” I blazed through all 10 episodes of Netflix’s The Crown and was fascinated by the struggles of Phillip.
Where the Dad 2.0 Summit is filled with stay-at-home dads (SAHD), gay dads, dads who promote equal parenting, dads who raises daughters to defy stereotypes, The Crown is filled with tradition, legacy, rules, protocol and .. a man threatened by the power of a woman, who just happens to be his wife, and his Queen (more accurately, his Queen and then his wife).
Sure, we have to put it in its time and place. The idea of a SAHD in the early 1950s wasn’t rippling through society’s consciousness like it is today, but the idea that a woman could lead powerfully and confidently wasn’t out of place.
“Generally we’re better at Queens than Kings in this country, I have a feeling you’ll be no exception,” the ex-King, and Duke of Windsor, tells his niece, Queen Elizabeth II, over lunch.
From egging on his son to kick the ball, to longing for his days in Malta with the lads, to being told to kneel before her at the coronation, the Duke can’t seem to wrap his head around his new role.
“It will feel like a eunuch kneeling before his wife,” he pleads. “It’s released an unattractive sense of authority and entitlement I’ve never seen before.”
“It’s released a weakness and insecurity in you I’ve never seen before,” she blisters back.
“Are you my Queen or my wife? ”
“I’m both, and a strong man would be able to kneel before both.”
Phillip is yearning to find a role in his new family while Liz is confident and dives right into it. After all, she’s been trained for this, but him? Once he realizes it’s all about her and not about them (let alone him), he begs for there to be space for him too.
It’s just like this in the modern family. Dads have been taught to stay out, but we want in, and we’re trying to find our way. We’re not happy being tokens, we want to be active, equal, and involved parents. And yet Mom bloggers carry on about useless husbands, commercials herald lazy dad stereotypes, and while the tide is changing, it’s a slow churn.
At first Phillip comes off smug, frustrated, misogynist and arrogant, but once he’s involved, the entire dynamic changes.
When Phillip takes control of her coronation, he beams with confidence. “Make it less ostentatious, more egalitarian. Show more respect and sensitivity to the real world,” he urges, acting as a cheerleader for his Queen/wife. “We have a new sovereign; young, and a woman. Let us give her a coronation that is befitting the wind of change that she represents; modern and forward looking.”
Same could be for the modern family dynamic. Moms can martyr themselves all they want, but when they recognize their partner wants to be involved, when they reach out and encourage them to be involved, when they make room for them to be involved, everyone wins.
Is Phillip perfect? Not even close.
He’s terribly flawed as a father who, despite trying, finds little patience with his son when they’re playing sports or fishing. He goes so far as to tell Elizabeth his children got mixed up, because Charles is a girl and Anne is a boy. There are allegations of philandering, and when not given a task he is desperate to hang with the lads, learn to fly, or stay out until all hours.
“What am I supposed to do, sit around and wait for you while you’re queening?,” he bristles.
The season ends with Phillip about to be shipped off on a 5 month world tour starting in Australia. It’s all designed to make him the star, give him some attention, feed his ego, and give him a job.
It’s not an overnight change, this evolution of what it means to be an active father and a modern man. Phillip struggles with it, modern wives struggle with it. It’s an ebb and flow where progress is made, and there are setbacks.
Phillip may come off as crass, bitter, and a tad resentful, but he’s trying. He had an idea of what he was getting into with Elizabeth, just no understanding of the struggle it would be to rationalize his old and new selves.
Modern dads are still trying to find that balance. Trying to gain that equal footing in the family, redefine our role in modern media, and raise our kids to be better men than we have been. I’m so grateful for the Dad 2.0 Summit for bringing like minded guys together to support and encourage the change.
If you haven’t caught up on The Crown yet, Season 1 is available on Netflix. It’s been renewed for at least another 2 seasons, so it’s worth getting invested in. It’s also available for download so you can binge it at the beach on your spring break.
When you’re watching, pay special attention to Phillip. Watch him struggle, but try, watch him shine when involved and get bitter when shunned. It will give you great insight into the pleas and plights of fathers some 65 years later.