The Queen (2009) s01e01 Episode Script


For more than 50 years, one woman has been at the heart of Britain's great national crises.
And her own personal family turmoil.
She has shaped the nation from behind closed doors.
Her story is all our stories.
On the day of her coronation, the Queen's solemn face hid a dark secret that was about to break out and shock the watching world.
Her 22-year-old sister, Margaret, was having an affair with a divorced royal servant.
Now, previously unseen documents reveal a new story of what really happened.
How close Margaret came to a marriage that threatened the monarchy and how the Queen, far from being a bystander, took a more decisive role than anyone has realised.
This is how the Queen came of age learning that to survive, she must wield power, not just in public, but in private.
Margaret! Peter, stop her for me! Right! I've got her, Elizabeth! Throw her in! Go on! That's no way to treat a princess! One two Your Majesty.
Papa! Save me! While King George was alive, there were two princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret.
But the happy days of the royal family weren't destined to last.
This is London.
It is, with the greatest sorrow, that we make the following announcement.
On 6th February 1952, their lives changed forever.
Summoned from a royal tour of Kenya, Elizabeth returned to Britain as Queen.
For a 25-year-old, it was a daunting prospect.
Waiting for her was her sister Margaret who had been with their father when he died.
He was very loved.
It was tragic and she worshipped her father so tears flowed from everyone, Such a great man.
The princess has been asking after you since yesterday.
Margaret? Margaret? You've got to be strong for Mummy.
For Papa.
I have been waiting for you.
I'm sorry.
Your Majesty.
Now, now, up you get.
You look so tired.
We listened to your tour on the wireless.
Papa was so proud.
And of you.
He was out all day shooting, making jokes over dinner.
I thought he was getting better.
You have to rest.
And I must go and see Tommy.
Shall I send for the doctor? Give you something to calm you.
Why are you going'? So much to do.
I'm sorry, I'll come to you later.
Naturally, they were both very, very sad, but I think maybe Princess Margaret, she had another reason to be sad.
She said, well, you know, I've lost my father, and in a way, I've lost my sister up to a point, because our lives have completely changed.
At the time of the King's death, one in three people in Britain believed the new Queen was chosen by God.
Not only head of state, and head of the British Commonwealth, Elizabeth became Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
The young Queen was surrounded by old men with old-fashioned values.
State documents, ma'am.
If you would kindly sign them.
Thank you, Tommy.
Her key adviser was her father's private secretary, Sir Alan Lascelles, known to all by his nickname, Tommy.
Arrangements to move your Majesty's family here at Buckingham Palace will be made immediately.
So soon? But we're very happy in Clarence House.
If you'll forgive me, ma'am, to ensure a smooth transition, you and your family must move as soon as possible to Buckingham Palace.
It would be for the Princess and the Queen Mother to move to Clarence House.
When you and they are ready, of course.
But my mother has no great wish to leave, nor does my sister.
It is their home.
It is because, if you'll forgive me, ma'am, the King understood the importance of being here.
To take any other course of action would be utterly impractical and unprecedented.
Very well.
Can we spare telling Margaret for a little while, Tommy'? Of course.
Princess Margaret had a very different role to play.
Her sister, who she adored, became sort of remote from her in a way, because she had so many duties to carry out.
Whereas, I think Princess Margaret felt all the time that she was slightly sidelined.
I mean, the Queen adored Princess Margaret and she wanted her to be happy.
She really did.
As I was younger than her we used to play together and she was quite naughty, actually, Princess Margaret and we used to have great fun.
Princess Elizabeth was more solemn.
She was always saying, “Oh, Margaret, you can't do that.
" They were very, very different characters.
Princess Margaret was up for a good time.
I think that she enjoyed being rebellious.
She did quite a lot of her rebelling, just to show the world that she was going to do what she wanted and that she was going to behave really badly if she felt like it.
In the months after the King's death, the differences between the two sisters grew ever wider.
It falls to me as sovereign, to assume the Colonelcy-in-Chief of all five regiments.
Consumed by taking on her father's duties, the Queen juggled her two roles as monarch and mother.
Margaret, left alone at the Palace, was kept company by a Battle of Britain war hero, who had been employed by the King as an equerry to help him organise his diary.
His name was Group Captain Peter Townsend.
He was very good-looking.
He was a war hero.
We were all slightly in love with him.
And I think he was a sort of male figure in her life.
He was the first man, probably, she had come so close to and she really didn't know anybody else at that time.
Margaret had known Townsend since she was 14.
16 years her senior, he was a valued royal servant, living in royal quarters with his wife and two young boys.
Now she was 21 and he was 37.
He had been an escort to both of the Princesses for many years, but now there was only one of them to look after.
Members of the household knew their place.
Members of the royal household did not become romantically involved with members of the royal family.
No-one knows exactly when the affair really took off.
But as the Queen settled into her new role, it was quickly escalating out of control.
Soon, it would start to undermine the foundations of the monarchy itself.
Each Christmas, at this time, my beloved father broadcast a message to his people, in all parts of the world.
Today, I am doing this to you, who are now my people.
Margaret, I can't see a thing.
Shh! Papa used to take us down here during the war, training for air raids.
You were probably flying overhead.
Protecting the realm.
I was just a little girl.
Above all, we must keep alive that courageous spirit of adventure that is the finest quality of youth.
This is madness.
I am grown-up now.
At my coronation next June, I shall dedicate myself anew to your service.
But I want to ask you all, whatever your religion may be, to pray for me on that day.
Don't stop.
May God bless and guide you all through the coming year.
If the months after the King's death, the new Queen was preparing for the most momentous event of her life her coronation.
Whatever Palace gossip she'd heard of Margaret's growing intimacy with the royal sen/ant, she had no idea how fast it was progressing.
What had started as a fling was about to enter a new phase.
Now we must catch up.
Are you all right? We're out of sight.
Not now.
Why not'? We must keep walking.
Oh, must we'? Margaret What's the matter? I'm filing for divorce.
Rosemary's taken up with someone else.
It's my fault, apparently.
I've spent too much time with you, and your family.
Poor Peter.
Peter Townsend had been involved with the royal household for quite long enough to know this was not the sort of behaviour that would normally be accepted and if he didn't put a stop to it, somebody should have done.
And when I mentioned that to Princess Margaret many years later, she looked at me in surprise and said, “That's very self-opinionated of you.
" But, was it not the truth? Had George VI still been alive, none of this would have happened.
While Margaret favoured life in the city, the Queen was drawn to the country.
The Palace was keen to present the image of an ideal family to the outside world.
Life for the Queen meant rigid protocols and the expectation that she would put duty above her own wishes.
However much Britain was changing in the 1950s, it was assumed that the 22-year-old Princess Margaret accepted that too.
Excuse me.
You can't be going off somewhere at this hour.
Just another party.
You don't have to go, surely.
It'll be fun.
Of course it will.
Only one escape, you'll have to get married.
You'll know when the right one comes along.
Perhaps he has.
I've been seeing rather a lot of Peter.
Can you come with me'? Peter? Peter's a kind, wonderful man.
You know he is.
He is, but he's married.
He's getting divorced.
Margaret He's the innocent party.
I thought you'd be happy for me.
Margaret He's asked me to marry him.
I told him, “Yes.
” Had this been a bachelor equerry, things could have been very different.
But I believe the whole business of the divorce was at the heart of this huge scandal.
I think that was the real stumbling block, you know, at least among my parents and friends.
They couldn't contemplate her ever marrying anybody who was divorced.
This wasn't just a family crisis, it was a constitutional one, too.
Outside the family, her closest adviser was her private secretary, Tommy Lascelles.
As governor of the Church of England I'm sure you're aware of Canon 107, regarding the matter of divorce.
Townsend's status as a divorcee means that constitutionally speaking you cannot give your consent.
I'm sure you will appreciate the Church's position on this.
Of course.
Tommy, putting aside constitutional issues, what do you make of Townsend's conduct in this matter? I think he is a disgrace to his office.
I think he should leave the court and be given an appointment abroad.
The King In my view, the King would never have tolerated this.
There is the story which has been quoted already that my father actually said to Townsend, you must be either bad or mad.
His main concern was that Peter Townsend was an equerry and was therefore one of the royal household, a servant, if you like, of the monarch and he thought it was very improper for anybody in the household to have an affair with one of the royal family.
The image of an ideal royal family had been shattered before, in 1936, and its impact on the 10-year-old princess would stay with her forever.
Her uncle's decision to put his love for a divorced woman before his duty as King turned a royal niece into the heir to the throne The abdication had been so shocking and they felt it would undermine the monarchy forever.
So that when this difficulty with Princess Margaret Everybody thought, “Help, it can't happen again.
“The Queen's only just started her reign, “we mustn't have anything that will spoil it.
" But Margaret wasn't afraid of the disapproval of the Palace establishment and the concerns of her sister did nothing to tum her away from her affair with Peter Townsend.
She wasn't this virgin princess that the fairy stories tell us that we must have around.
That aspect was very much in the air that she was a scarlet woman.
That must have been extremely difficult for the Queen to have entertained.
I'm very fond of Peter, you know.
In many ways, he's part of the family.
Lillibet, I never meant for it to happen like this.
I do so want you to be happy, Margaret.
Peter makes me happy.
If only My coronation is two months away.
Will you do something for me'? Will you promise me something'? Of course.
Will you wait'? Do nothing, say nothing and keep this relationship secret.
Will you give me your promise? For how long'? Until after my tour of the Commonwealth.
That's a year away! Papa took more than a year before consenting to my marriage.
And after your tour, what then? Then if you feel the same, we'll do all we can.
We won't breathe a word.
I promise.
Thank you, Lillibet.
Thank you.
On the 2nd June, 1953, the British television age began in earnest when more than 25 million people tuned in to watch the biggest ever live broadcast.
The Archbishop lifts the crown of St Edward and holds it for a moment above the Queen's head.
God save the Queen! God save the Queen! God save the Queen! It was the moment the Queen had been preparing for all her adult life, the moment the British monarchy joined the modem age.
But Margaret was in the shadows.
Of course, Princess Margaret really didn't have a role to play at all.
She did have a procession, a little procession.
I couldn't see her from where I was.
And I think that the actual ceremony must have bitten deep into her heart because then she really realised how she was very much the second in the line.
But at the most important moment in the Queen's life, a piece of fluff would suddenly change everything.
When Margaret reach forward to brush it off Peter Townsend's lapel, the world's press knew instantly what this intimate gesture really meant.
This may have been an unconscious act but it was something the world's press actually saw, all these journalists, and certainly abroad it almost made a bigger story than the coronation itself.
By that one act, an intimate act, that you wouldn't expect between a Princess and the member of the household, actually told all of these people, and therefore their readers, that there was something else going on here.
Foreign newspapers were the first to break the story.
Opening the floodgates, the British press would inevitably follow.
Princess Margaret's scandalous affair with a divorced royal sen/ant was to be exposed to the shock of the entire world.
With Margaret's secret out, both the Palace and Downing Street had to respond.
Ma'am, this article will appear tomorrow in the Sunday People.
Quoting the foreign press.
They're demanding an official denial from the Palace of these rumours but, Ma'am, we feel it's a little late for that.
What did Mr Churchill have to say'? For the Princess to marry Townsend, ma'am, she would have to renounce her rights to the throne.
This, the PM feels, would profoundly weaken the Commonwealth, undermine its allegiance to the Crown.
The PM further shares the view that Townsend should be offered alternative employment, preferably abroad.
What, banish Peter from court? Ma'am, Townsend is due to accompany the Princess on a foreign trip, to Rhodesia.
It would hardly be appropriate.
No, Tommy, it would not.
We were absolutely amazed, and very worried, because she was showing the way and whether she was going to do her duty, or whether she was going to go off and marry a divorced man, was an enormous Step.
We didn't really believe it, you know.
Everybody seemed very fond of Peter, you know, it wasn't just Princess Margaret.
He was generally very popular.
But, I mean, yes, that was the start of a very difficult time.
The Government, the Church and the establishment press were united in their honor and condemnation.
The younger readers of the tabloids saw the royals less as divine beings than as people.
And they saw Margaret as a rebel, fighting for her freedom to many for love.
I wanted them deeply to marry because love was, you know, we were reading Jane Austen and terribly romantic-minded ourselves.
What? No.
But this isn't his fault! Hello.
Thank you, Tommy.
Margaret Tommy's just told me He says you agreed it.
Margaret, sit down.
Banishing him.
Posting him.
And I'm not allowed to visit? The press speculation has been so intense You can't do this.
Please, Lillibet.
Margaret, I'm sorry.
The newspapers will not leave us in peace so long as Peter remains, we have no choice.
If you try and fight this you will make matters worse.
Lillibet, when I get back from Rhodesia, will Peter still be here? I don't know.
Please To say goodbye.
Of course he will.
At the beginning of July 1953, just two weeks after the royal scandal went public, Princess Margaret arrived with her mother to tour Rhodesia and Townsend was told of his posting in Brussels.
When news of this leaked to the press, the coverage intensified making it harder for the Queen to keep her promise to Margaret.
Ma'am, I'm afraid they just won't leave this story alone.
We believe that Townsend should leave as soon as possible.
And when would that be'? The 15th of July, ma'am.
The 15th? Two days before Margaret returns.
Ma'am, the longer he remains here the more the Palace would seem to be condoning the match.
You'll make the necessary arrangements? Yes, ma'am.
The British Embassy in Brussels recently attracted a number of cameras which focused on the arrival of group captain Peter Townsend.
He came to the Belgian capital to take up his new appointment as Air Attache.
Townsend was not to see the Princess for a year.
Two days later Margaret arrived back in London She had been told of Townsend's departure in Rhodesia and had taken to her bed.
The press called it diplomatic flu.
Princess Margaret told me the fact that they were denied the opportunity to say goodbye on her return really, really did matter to her.
She was very, very upset by it and actually really rather angry about it.
The Palace's response made the monarchy look out of step with the public and the times.
However cruel the banishing of Townsend, the hope was that a long separation would dampen Margaret's feelings and that the romance would fade away and be forgotten.
It was a plan that would spectacularly backfire.
By banishing Townsend, the Palace assumed that Margaret would see sense and go back to putting the duties of a royal before her personal feelings.
But the plan went wrong.
Margaret and Townsend wrote to each other every day for the entire year they were apart.
Far from dampening the flames of their affection, their absence fanned them.
A year after going to Brussels, Townsend flew back for a secret meeting, using a false name to avoid the press.
If they wanted to stop them now, the Palace would have to find a new form of attack.
It was time for Tommy Lascelles to spell out to Margaret the stakes she was playing with, and that if she went ahead, she would lose almost everything.
My father explained to her all the constitutional difficulties that would arise if she married a divorced person.
And she was very grateful, and wrote him a little note afterwards saying what a help it had been.
Later on, as we know, she put a lot of blame on him for spoiling her relationship.
I think that must have been an excuse for her for her unhappiness.
According to Lascelles, Margaret would have to give up her right to the succession, her title and her royal income.
But the British establishment was changing.
When Churchill resigned, he was replaced by Britain's first ever divorced Prime Minister, Anthony Eden.
Margaret knew that when she was 25, she would no longer need the Queen's permission to many, and Eden was a potential ally.
By the summer of 1955, Margaret's determination to many was strengthening.
A few more weeks to my birthday, and we'll both be free.
You'll be free of the decision, and I'll be free to make it.
There's nothing more you need to know'? Don't worry.
Tommy did spell it out for me.
Said I'd lose everything if I marry Peter.
I'll be Mrs Townsend, living in a rented flat, doing my own washing, cooking Peter's bloody supper.
But I'll not be told what to do by him.
I'm sure he was just trying to help.
Show you what you might lose.
In fact, I've written to the Prime Minister.
Oh, yes'? Sir Anthony seems a good sort.
For a married divorcee.
I want to keep him abreast of what has happened, so that if the time comes, he will not be against us.
What will you say'? That I'm going to wait till October, when Peter's in London.
I've been missing him so much, Lillibet, you can't imagine.
I just need to see him one more time.
To be totally sure.
In an extraordinary letter that has been unearthed in researching this film, Margaret wrote to Eden asserting and clearly believing that the most important decision in her life was hers and hers alone to make.
“My dear Prime Minister, “During the last of August and all of September, “I shall be here at Balmoral.
“And I have no doubt that during this time, “especially on my birthday on August 21st, “the press will encourage every sort of speculation “about the possibility of my marrying Group Captain Peter Townsend.
“In October, I shall be returning “to London, and he will then be taking his annual leave.
“L do certainly hope to see him while he is there, “although I well know this will provoke the press “to still further enquiries and guesses.
“But it is only in seeing him in this way that I feel I can properly decide “whether I can marry him or not.
“At the end of October or early November, “I very much hope to be in a position to tell you what I intend to do.
“Yours very sincerely, Margaret.
" It's a remarkable document.
This isn't just Princess Margaret being told “You've got to make the decision.
" This is somebody who's actually saying, “I'm going to decide what's going to happen here.
“And I will tell you what I've decided.
" On Sunday 21st August, Margaret turned 25.
She was free by law to decide, and the nation waited for an answer.
As the pressure mounted for a decision, the Queen invited Eden to Balmoral.
In an intriguing detail from Eden's diary, it's clear that out of many topics on the agenda, Margaret was top of the list.
The Queen must still have believed that Margaret had to choose between Townsend and all the royal privileges, but the Prime Minister had a bombshell for her.
Sir Anthony, I'd be grateful if you would speak to my sister.
Would you kindly inform her of all the obstacles that lie in her path? Certainly, ma'am.
Although perhaps there aren't as many as you may think.
Oh? The lawyers have been at work.
If the Princess wishes to marry, she may simply have to renounce her claim of succession to the throne.
And all her royal privileges.
No, ma'am.
Nothing more.
This changed everything.
Spurred by growing public support of Margaret's marriage, Eden had helped find a loophole.
If Margaret married, all she would have to give up would be the slim prospect of becoming Queen herself.
But all the other barriers were taken away.
Nothing need stop her now.
Group Captain Peter Wooldridge Townsend, CBO, DSO, DFC and Bar, mentioned in dispatches former equerry to Her Majesty.
But he is also the man the world has been talking about more and more over the past two years.
Seldom can a man have been so widely discussed Come in.
Yes? Ma'am? The Princess has asked if she may see you.
You know, I was just about to go for a walk.
Would you tell her that I'm out, but I'll be back very soon? Very good, ma'am.
Townsend was about to arrive back in the country and Margaret was free now to meet him and announce her engagement.
She no longer needed the Queen's formal approval, but she still wanted something that was equally important - her sister's blessing.
But the Queen avoided her.
Is the Queen still out walking'? Yes, ma'am.
Without speaking to her sister, Margaret left for London and the long-awaited reunion with Peter.
But the Queen couldn't stall for much longer.
On October 12th, Townsend flew back into Britain.
This time, he was confident enough to brave the glare of the world's media.
Later that day, Margaret arrived in London too the first time they had both been officially together in the city for two years.
The world's media went into a frenzy.
Princess Margaret and Group Captain Peter Townsend are two important weekend guests at Allanbay Park, near Windsor.
Pressmen and sightseers throng the lanes, undeterred by the official statement that no announcement is contemplated at present about the Princess's future.
Only a brief glimpse is caught of the royal visitor as her car hurries by.
Blasted flashbulb nearly blinded me.
“No, I have nothing to say.
Nothing to say.
" I swear I'm saying it in my sleep.
They're supposed to be on our side.
Can you believe this? The Queen's press secretary announces that no announcement is at present contemplated.
A “no announcement” announcement.
Only from the Palace Peter, shut up! Sorry.
No, I'm sorry.
The Palace called.
You've spoken to the Queen? They want me to go to Windsor at the weekend.
On my own.
Although daunted by the prospect of meeting her sister, Margaret knew she was in reach of achieving her impossible dream.
As she returned to Clarence House, it's now clear that the Government were fully prepared for a marriage.
Independently, they drew up a statement for the Princess to tell the world.
“After careful thought, I have come to the conclusion “that it is necessary to my future happiness “that I should marry Peter Townsend.
“At the same time, I recognise that I should give up “my rights to the succession, both for myself and for my descendants.
" Peter Townsend was powerless, pursued by the world's press, as the two sisters prepared for the most important meeting of their lives.
The waiting couldn't last any longer.
On Friday 21st October, the Queen and the Princess attended the unveiling of a statue of King George VI.
He never wavered in his faith that, with God's help, the cause of freedom would prevail.
The Queen knew that nothing stood between Margaret and her future happiness, nothing except herself.
On the Saturday evening, Margaret travelled up to Windsor to join the Queen, Prince Philip and the Queen Mother.
By the end of the weekend, the decision would be made.
It's almost certain that this was make-your-mind-up time, this was crunch time.
She must have been deeply upset for her sister.
In fact I knew she was deeply upset, that her sister had to go through.
But I'm sure also that in her own mind, the Queen's mind, she knew the right course.
On Sunday 23rd October, after church, the Queen finally faced the meeting with her sister that she had dreaded.
Shall we take some air, Margaret? Of course.
If that's what you would like.
The world's gone mad.
I've been so frightened.
You're safe here, no photographers.
Poor thing, you've been besieged.
I've wanted to see you.
To talk to you for so long.
You've got so many friends.
Newspaper editors, even the Prime Minister.
I feel so alone.
What about Peter? Peter's been very supportive.
It is what you want, isn't it, Margaret? You can have it now.
Isn't it enough to want to be happy'? Do you really think we are so free to put our own happiness first? People look to us, Margaret, to our family, to reflect what is noble in themselves.
And what matters most? Is it how we dress, where we live'? Or is it how we behave? Lillibet You may keep the appearance of royalty, Margaret, but if you do this, will the substance of who we are, who you really are, ever be the same'? I never wanted to go against your wishes, Lillibet.
I never wanted to defy you.
You never have.
But this is not my decision now.
It is yours.
Leaving Windsor, the course of Margaret's future life was determined.
Her decision had been made and she was ready to announce it to the waiting world.
Princess Margaret's personal message issued from Clarence House began with these words, “I would like it to be known “that I have decided not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend.
“Mindful of the Church's teaching “that Christian marriage is indissoluble, “and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, “I have resolved to put these considerations before any others.
“L have reached this decision entirely alone “and in doing so, I have been strengthened “by the unfailing support and devotion of Group Captain Townsend.
" I can remember thinking that when the relationship was severed, being extremely unhappy and feeling for her very deeply.
We were all very heartbroken at her having to forfeit what looked like the most romantic marriage, this dashing Group Captain and this phenomenally attractive Princess.
It was the wrong ending to a novel.
We still felt that it wouldn't be possible, not in that time, for her, in her position, to marry Peter Townsend.
Therefore, when she did as she did, made the decision not to carry on, I think we were deeply sympathetic and sad for her.
The Queen may very well have said to her sister at the beginning, “I can't advise you, this is your decision, “I'm going to stand back.
” But with the documents we now have before us, I rather feel that the Queen's role was actually more pronounced in all of this than we might otherwise have thought.
Inevitably so, given the position that she held.
Three years after becoming Queen, the crisis that had ripped at the heart of her personal and public life was over.
She had placed duty above the passions of her family and had begun to exercise power in subtle ways, often withholding her blessing rather than issuing commands.
She was developing a personal style of authority which she would use to influence events in the coming years.
Margaret, launching herself into London's social life, would never challenge her older sister again.
Margaret, what a surprise.
I wanted to say goodbye before you go to Africa.
We hardly see you now.
I suppose I'm kept busy.
I read about you, parties, openings.
Are you enjoying society life? I try not to be alone too much.
Papa would be so proud of you.
Would he? Of course.
I think about Papa a great deal and I wonder if you would Margaret, I have to go.
I'll write to you very soon.