Privilege and “The Crown” (yes, that Crown)

WARNING: Contains Spoilers of “The Crown” Season 3, Episode 6

One of things my wife and I enjoy doing together is watching “The Crown” on Netflix. We’re most of the way through season three now and have thoroughly enjoyed the series thus far. It’s a scintillating combination of real life blended with artistic license, come alive with great acting.

In S3, E6, entitled “Tywysog Cymru” (roughly translated “Prince of Wales”), we’re given a first look at Prince Charles as a young adult. In the episode, as he prepares to be installed as the Prince of Wales, it’s decided among the Royal Family that Charles should go to Wales for a semester to study in order to learn more about the Welsh people and culture, and to learn the Welsh language. He’s soon introduced to the professor who will (begrudgingly) be his tutor — begrudged because his tutor, Tedi Millward, is a “Home-Rule” activist, believing strongly that the Royal Family should not preside over Wales.

In one awkward scene, Prince Charles is having dinner with Millward and some of the university leaders who begin to ask Prince Charles about what he’s learned about the previous Prince of Wales, who was himself Welsh, and held in high esteem. Whilst Millward looks on sheepishly, Charles admits that he doesn’t know who Llywelyn ap Gruffudd was, and further that he had not yet stepped into the prestigious library of the University. It’s awkward. As the university leaders exchange glances with one another (and Millward specifically), I mumbled to myself. “Mmmm” I thought… “That professor is going to be in trouble with his superiors for not teaching Charles properly.” As the scene ends and a new one begins the next day however, Millward verbally gives the young Prince a dressing down, chastising the incoming Prince of Wales for not knowing (or trying to know) anything about Welsh culture or even the history of the title he will be taking.

Of course, there is a fair bit of the aforementioned artistic license being used here, but I couldn’t help but come face to face with my own privilege in the moment of revelation. I hadn’t thought for a second that Prince Charles bore any responsibility for his ignorance of these things, but instead placed the blame squarely on the tutor. Prince Charles, though portrayed as being quite timid in this episode, is nonetheless in a position of privilege here, himself feeling begrudged to pay penance of a kind before his instalment as “Prince of Wales” and is blind to his trespass as an incoming, albeit ignorant, ruler.

All this got me thinking about how easy it is for some of us to sail along without seeing or acknowledging our privilege. I suppose that is (at least in part) why many people don’t think that “privilege” even exists. (You can’t see it, after all. It’s not empirically verifiable). But it’s there. It’s real. It needs to be seen and it needs to be acknowledged.

LORD, help me to see my privilege. Help me to own it. As you came to serve, and to give your life for others, help me to be like you.

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