In the several decades of her reign, Queen Elizabeth II has had to work with several prime ministers. All of them come with a distinct character, and have one or the other view of monarchy and her, as a person. Yet, despite all the ups and downs, she is the one to survive the entirety of all those years of struggles and challenges- something that she mentions to one of her prime ministers in the early seasons. With the different types of people coming and going out of office, the Queen has had discords with some.
However, in all these years, she never expressed those opinions publicly. Whatever trouble she had with her prime ministers was privately discussed in their weekly meetings. This maintained the constitutional integrity of her position, but it was threatened in the term of Margaret Thatcher. In its eighth episode, ‘The Crown’ focuses on this burning dissent between the Queen and the Prime Minister, which has been brewing since the beginning of the season. If you haven’t caught up with the show yet, head over to Netflix. SPOILERS AHEAD!
The Crown Season 4 Episode 8 Recap
At age 21, Queen Elizabeth II promises the people of the Commonwealth that she will work towards the good of them all. In the forty years of her rule, she sticks to this promise and rises to the occasion whenever she is needed to handle some delicate situation. She has strong faith in the Commonwealth as her second family. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, however, disagrees with her on this. She believes that the idea of the Commonwealth is not just a waste of time, but it is also holding back Britain from many things.
While the Queen wants to be perceived as a collective force, Thatcher is not so inclined towards this idea. The chasm in their beliefs worsens when it comes to the sanctions against South Africa, where apartheid is tearing the country apart. Forty-eight nations of the Commonwealth want to go forward with the sanctions, and the United Kingdom’s support is an essential part of this move. Thatcher doesn’t want to be a part of it.
She believes that sanctions will not get South Africa or anyone else anywhere. Margaret is strongly opposed to this move and will not budge, not even when the Queen asks her to consider the situation from the point of view of the South Africans who are fighting for their rights and lives. As the episode unfolds, we watch the tension between Buckingham Palace and Downing Street rise. What makes matters worse is that the newspapers get a whiff of it and decide to run a story about it.
Michael Shea, the press secretary, informs the Queen about it and suggests that she remain in line with the tradition of not expressing her political beliefs publicly. However, the Queen is not in the mood to do so. She’d rather the public and the members of the Commonwealth knew what she thought. While this seems like a bold move at the moment, it creates a lot of trouble for the monarch.
The Crown Season 4 Episode 8 Ending
When the Queen gives Shea the green signal to feed the newspapers the story about the rift between her and Thatcher, he clarifies that he does not approve of this act. Per the order, he goes forward with it and chooses a suitable newspaper to break the news with. The story, soon, catches fire, and Thatcher confronts the Queen about her act. She questions the good faith and the mutual respect between them and how the monarch’s actions have threatened their balance.
Margaret also makes it clear that she is in no mood to be overridden by the sovereign and will not bend to the sanctions that every other member of the Commonwealth wants to impose on South Africa. The Queen doesn’t like her stubbornness but also realizes that there might be a little more than Thatcher’s political beliefs behind not supporting the sanctions. It turns out that her son – her favorite child – is now a businessman, mostly dealing with the Middle East and South Africa. Should Thatcher have imposed the sanctions, her son’s business would have been affected adversely.
The stories about the divide between the Queen and the Prime Minister make matters worse for both of them, and both Buckingham Palace and Downing Street continue to refuse the veracity of these claims. Eventually, the Palace realizes that they will have to give a scapegoat to the press to leave this scandal behind. The most logical choice is Shea, even though he had strongly opposed the Queen’s initial decision to voice her opinions.
What Happened to Michael Shea?
In the show, Michael Shea resigns from his post after being forced to accept that he was the one who leaked the news about the Queen’s dismay with the Prime Minister. In reality, the blame did fall on Shea, but he resigned from the job about a year after the scandal, not immediately. For the next couple of years, Shea worked in public relations at a company named Hanson. Later, he took the advice of his agent and decided to go forward with writing political thrillers. He has around twenty titles, in both fiction and non-fiction, to his name.
Though ‘The Crown’ shows Shea to be resistant to writing political thrillers while his service at the Palace, it wasn’t really the case. In the show, we don’t find him writing political thrillers until after he gives up his position at the Palace. In reality, however, his first thriller was published in 1971, way before the events of this episode. Having served in places like Ghana, Germany, and the US, while working for the Foreign Service gave him a lot of experience to chart a political thriller. He enjoyed the career of a best-selling author and died in 2009 at the age of 71, afflicted by dementia.