The Crown Jew(el)s*


I have just finished binge-watching the Netflix series The Crown. Seemingly, nothing could be less Jewish than the British monarchy. But, as with everything, there is an interesting relationship between the Royal Family and its Jewish subjects some of which rear their heads during the series.

First off, The Crown‘s showrunner, Peter Morgan, had a Jewish father, Arthur Morgenthau, who was born in Germany and fled the Nazis, arriving in London in 1933.

When Princess Elizabeth is crowned as Queen Elizabeth 11 in June 1953, her annointment owes something to Jewish tradition. Indeed, this is acknowledged in the show, as in reality, with the recital of I Kings 1, 39, 40 which reads, “Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king.”

Antony Armstrong -Jones, the first Earl of  Snowdon tells his wife, Princess Margaret, and his friends, that she “looks like a Jewish manicurist” whatever that may mean. This may be because she had her hair cut by famous Jewish hairdresser, Vidal Sassoon. Although Sassoon does not appear in the show, he is mentioned.

While it might seem to be an antisemitic comment, Armstrong-Jones’ mother was of German-Jewish origin. The casting of the older Margaret in season three picks up on Snowdon’s characterization in having Helena Bonham-Carter (who, of course, has a Jewish background) play her.

Season Two opens with the Suez Crisis of 1956 and even shows Israeli tanks invading Egypt.

Another recurring figure is Baron who was a society photographer of Jewish heritage. He became friends with the Duke of Edinburgh and was hence appointed as a Court Photographer to the British Royal Family, taking the official photographs for many occasions including the wedding of Philip to Prince Elizabeth in 1947, the christenings of their children Charles and Anne and other occasions.

As Michael Berkowitz recounts here, “Baron asserted that he was close to the royal couple, and especially friendly with Prince Philip. Baron was one of the founders and masters-of-ceremonies of the social club that met above Wheeler’s Oyster Bar in Soho after World War II, which counted Philip as a member. (It is depicted a number of times in The Crown.)” Baron is portrayed by Julius D’Silva whom I suspect is Jewish (but am not certain).

Both Prince Philip and Prince Charles were educated at Gordonstoun founded by German Jewish émigré and educationalist Kurt Hahn.

And Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Alice, sheltered Jews in wartime Athens for which, in, 1993 Yad Vashem bestowed her the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

I look foward to subsequent seasons in which hopefully these links between the Crown and the Jews will be developed.

*Kudos to my wife for suggesting this title.