Seeing Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Through the Lens of 'The Crown'

Stars Vanessa Kirby and Matt Smith talk with THR about how Princess Margaret and Prince Philip would have felt about the royal engagement.
Left, Getty Images; Right, courtesy of Netflix

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from season two of Netflix's The Crown.]

After watching two seasons of Netflix’s The Crown — and seeing two seasons worth of Princess Margaret’s heartbreak after she was denied the ability to marry the man she loved, a divorcé (by her own sister, no less) — it’s hard not to view Prince Harry’s engagement to Suits star Meghan Markle, a divorcée, through the lens of the past.

As dramatized in The Crown, Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) spent years recovering from what she felt was her sister’s betrayal when, after an extended waiting period, the queen refused Margaret's permission to marry her father’s former aide, Captain Peter Townsend (Ben Miles), on the grounds that he was divorced. Since then, however, the queen, who also heads the Church of England, has changed her position on divorce in the royal family.

“When a member of the royal family was allowed to marry someone in the 1970s that was divorced, I heard that Margaret was really unhappy about it,” Kirby tells The Hollywood Reporter. “That actually told me so much and helped so much. If you're still angry and resent it and bitter 20 years later, it must have really hurt, therefore she must have loved Peter so much and to have actually been so properly heartbroken at not being able to [marry him], but also mad at her family and everything they represent. Imagine this internal conflict that you must have, that the establishment that you're from and you're incredibly proud to be a part of and you celebrate it and honor in your life … did not allow you the thing that you wanted most, and what things that would cause inside a person.”

Star Matt Smith, who plays Prince Philip, told THR that the fact Markle is divorced isn’t even something that crossed his mind.

“To us, it's just another person marrying into a royal family. It happens all the time," he says. "I guess to [Americans] it's different because it's an American person marrying into the royal family, which is a huge event. But Philip was Greek. He was a foreigner.” 

Personally, Smith wishes the happy couple all the best.

“They seem like a nice couple,” he says. “They look like they have quite the chemistry together. He's a nice guy, Harry. He seems like a nice, decent bloke, so I just wish them all the best. Yes, there will be a royal wedding. We'll have parties. And now you guys can all have parties for it as well. It's a fun day.” 

Kirby told THR that she didn’t know much about Princess Margaret's relationship with Peter Townsend until she landed the role of Margaret, but she would definitely be livid if she couldn't marry the person she loved.

“I'm so glad that we got to tell that story of Peter and Margaret because it shocked a lot of people. It shocked me,” she says. “I didn't even know it happened. It was really enlightening, it actually made me incredibly grateful for how far we've come and how brilliant for both Harry and Meghan. Can you imagine today if they were like, ‘Oh, sorry Harry, you can't marry her because she's already been married to someone else whom she doesn't want to be with anymore.’ It makes me more angry for Margaret really, because she should have had a totally different life.”

The Crown season two is now streaming on Netflix.

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