You guys, Elizabeth is kind of awesome here.
It turns out, her loving but perhaps not-so-smart parents didn’t think the future Queen of England needed to know anything beyond table manners, French, and the constitution. As a consequence, Elizabeth was never given anything like a basic education: she knows nothing of maths, literature, science, philosophy–and that’s starting to become a problem. She’s dealing with statesmen, and finding herself embarrassingly in the dark about just about everything. It’s time she did something about that, so after getting cross with mummy, who’s all, ‘Why would a girl need to know maths?’ (the Queen Mum was pretty poorly educated herself and didn’t value education at all. She was very much a woman of her class and time.) Elizabeth hires a tutor.
She also needs to hire a new private secretary. Lascelles is retiring, which means one of the juniors gets to step up. Naturally, it’s expected that Junior 1, Michael Adeane, will get the post, but Elizabeth wants Junior 2, Martin Charteris. Martin is warned by Lascelles to turn down the job, but Elizabeth insists he take it, so he does. And then he tells his wife, who immediately goes a bit crazy and starts cutting down trees in front of the grace-and-favour flat that will soon be theirs.
Enraged by this overstep, Lascelles chews out Martin and tells him to turn down the appointment so Adeane can have it. Martin slumps off to Her Majesty, who still refuses to hear of it, and then she goes to yell at Lascelles. Lascelles responds by telling her that appointing the more junior of her two candidates is a slippery slope that will eventually lead to abdication and anarchy and, I don’t know, probably blood raining from the sky or something. Which sounds a bit much, but, you know,
Martin’s not getting this job. And, really, nobody’s happy now.
Meanwhile, there’s an international situation brewing. Russia has the H-bomb, and Russia is totally Churchill’s Berserk Button, so he insists they need to open talks, and make sure the Americans fall in line (behind Britain). He dispatches Eden to the US, despite Elizabeth’s concerns that Eden’s not a well man. Those fears are well founded: Eden falls seriously ill on the flight over and needs to have gallbladder surgery in Boston. So, Britain is, temporarily, without a foreign secretary.
And right when that happens, Churchill has a stroke. So, now Britain has no foreign secretary or Prime Minister. He insists Elizabeth not be told, because she’ll make him step down, and everyone around him is all, ‘uh, ok, but this seems like a terrible idea.’
Now, they’ll have to find a way to bring the Americans to them, so Churchill requests that Elizabeth hold a State Dinner and invite Eisenhower over. She agrees, reluctantly, because this is all very last minute and she’d been hoping to go to Sandringham for the weekend. But fine, it’s the job. Preparations are underway. Elizabeth cracks an Eisenhower biography and gets reading.
Churchill’s so pleased by the news this gambit has worked, he has another stroke. And that means this State Dinner is soooo off. Elizabeth is relieved, but sorry to hear that Winston’s ‘cold’ is sticking around and proving so troublesome.
She turns her attention back to this private secretary matter, and sends for one of Churchill’s flunkies, who used to work for her, to ask his advice. The man totally misreads the situation and assumes she’s somehow found out about Churchill’s stroke, so he basically walks in the door apologising for the whole coverup and therefore spills the beans completely. Elizabeth is aghast to hear the country is essentially without leadership, and that this was kept from her. As sovereign, she knows she can’t interfere in political matters, but it is part of her job to ensure the country’s in capable hands, which it clearly is not, at the moment.
Once Churchill is on the mend, she sends for him and Lord Salisbury so they can have their knuckles rapped. And boy, do they ever. She has Salisbury brought in first, and gives him a serious dressing down, accusing him of hampering the proper functioning of the crown. And then she reaches over and rings a little buzzer and coolly tells him he may go. Tail tucked firmly between the legs, he does.
She’s less harsh with Churchill–he is, after all, a rather frail old man now, and a venerated statesman she clearly still admires. But nevertheless, he does not escape unscathed. By the end of this meeting, he’s agreed it’s time for him to retire, though even in admitting that, he makes it on his own terms, saying he can do so because he’s decided Elizabeth’s ready to go it alone, now, which means he’s discharged his duty to her father. Maybe I’m wrong, but I fell just a little teensy bit like Churchill might be full of himself. You know, just a tiny bit. Elizabeth’s response is a bit:
Yeah, she’s ready. Even Philip notes that she seems taller, somehow.
And then he suggests she give him a BJ. I’ll just go ahead and let that sit with you.