It’s been more than a hundred years since the Windsors took their name — and the Royal House of Windsor on Netflix tells the story very well, although it drags in a few places.
It’s a six-episode documentary, and includes new material that has supposedly never been seen before on TV. It contains some information that, at least for those of us in the United States, is new. But it also contains a good bit of rehash, especially, it would seem, if you’re a resident of the British Isles. But if you’re a fan of the Windsors, you probably expect that.
I can honestly say that the Royal House of Windsor didn’t change my opinions about too many of the royal characters. But it did serve to underscore how much the queen has endured in her almost 70 years on the throne. Anyone who’s watched The Crown on Netflix will already be getting sense of that, even though that series has only covered a few years of her reign. This series also gave me a new appreciation for the Queen Mother, who served as a special grandmother to Prince Charles before she died in 2002.
The Royal House of Windsor begins in 1917 with King George V, who had to navigate World War I while his relatives and fellow kings like the Russian Tsar were being deposed and assassinated. It explains how George decided to take on the British name Windsor (as opposed to Tudor, for example) because it sounded more British and less German than Saxe-Coburg Gotha. There’s a great deal of information about George’s son David, who grew up to become Edward VIII and famously abdicated.
The series draws a lot of comparisons between Edward VIII and Prince Charles, and alternatively, to Princess Diana. Prince Charles, in his youth, was said to be a playboy like Edward VIII, while Princess Diana had the star quality to outshine the monarchy, as the king who abdicated did. The abdication is painted as the biggest tragedy to ever befall the Windsor family, with reverberations that echoed until the end of the 20th century.
Charles, it seems was urged by both Lord Mountbatter and his grandmother to marry an innocent girl. So he followed instructions but nothing worked out as planned. Mountbatten was assassinated shorly before Charles made his choice. Indeed we are told that Charles and Diana discussed Mountbatten at their first meeting, and that Charles was drawn to her sympathy. The Royal House of Windsor presents the stunning irony of that.
It seems Charles held off on marrying Camilla until his grandmother died. He married the divorced woman after all, just as Edward VIII had. But we are expected to see Charles in the not too terribly distant future to become King after a record amount of time serving as Prince of Wales.
In the series, Charles doesn’t become any more exciting, and the queen doesn’t become anymore disciplined than they already are. We see how Charles has gone against his parents more than a time or two, and how the monarchy is still standing. But we are left to question the future and whether he’ll be able to keep the monarchy alive long enough for his son to take the throne.
It’s an amazing story, really. But the residents of the U.K. already know that.