The Crown, Season
2, Episode 6: 
Written by
Peter Morgan
Directed by
Philippa Lowthorpe
This post
contains numerous spoilers and explanations of a current episode of The Crown. You may want to watch the
episode before reading this article.
The German
word, vergangenheit, has many uses [1]
in the German language. Its simplest meaning is “the past.” In some contexts,
this can be a “time that has elapsed,” a “forgotten past,” a “past with which
some have not yet come to terms,” or a “past that needs to be forgiven.” This
is the word the producers and writers chose for Season 2, Episode 6 of the
Netflix series, The Crown.
The episode
opens with the uncovering of secret Nazi documents which reveal the plans and
thought processes of the senior Nazi leadership and their collusion with
European leaders prior to and during World War II. Most of the documents are
translated and published, while the Marburg papers are labelled confidential
and stored away in secret so that the embarrassing contents might never be
The scene
quickly shifts to King George, who, on discovering the contents of the Marburg
papers, says that the people of the world must never discover the contents. He
says, “Our people would rightfully never forgive us.”
most will see the story as a depiction of what to do with a former King (Edward VIII) who
wants to rehabilitate his image, the interesting part of this British drama is
the question of “forgiveness.” If one notices how many times the word is used
in this script, they will get the sense that the discussions between the Head
of the Church of England (Queen Elizabeth II) and the unofficial Head of
Evangelical Christianity in America (Reverend Billy Graham) are much more than
peripheral to the overall development of the episode.
we cannot get away from the fact that Her Majesty is wrestling with how to, and
whether or not to, forgive her uncle, the former King Edward VIII (and
subsequently the Duke of Windsor), for associating and conspiring with Nazi
Germany in a failed attempt to recover the throne for himself and his wife who
wished to be Queen. In this version of historical-fiction, the Duke of Windsor
is seen as one who wanted the throne but could not have it because of the
divorced woman he chose to marry. Yet, the question of forgiveness is bigger
than one act of pardon or denunciation. Forgiveness here, in the context of this well-written and well-directed program, is about forgiveness in all its forms.
It is about
God forgiving individuals.
Billy Graham: “The Bible teaches that all have sinned. … God offers hope
for the individual, hope for society, hope for the world.”
It is about
forgiving Kings.
Duke of Windsor: “Can a former King be forgiven?”
It is about
forgiving a German political movement which brought about the Nazi Party and
the horrors of World War II. At one point, we hear the Duke of Windsor suggest
that, “It could be argued that we were the ones that made him [Hitler] a
It is about
forgiving oneself.
Billy Graham: “The solution for being unable to forgive: one asks for
forgiveness for oneself … and prays for those whom one cannot forgive.”
The drama
is played out with commentary provided by the private words spoken between The
Reverend Billy Graham and Her Majesty, The Queen. Graham preaches a question
and then answers it for the small audience in Windsor Chapel.
Billy Graham: “What is a Christian? … A person in whom Christ dwells. …
it means, that you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” (Here he
references Colossians 1:27.)
The Queen
praises Billy Graham, the evangelist, and says, “You speak with such clarity
and certainty.… It is lovely to disappear and become just a simple Christian.” By
that, she means that it felt good to be in chapel and not feel that she had to be the
Head of the Church.
The scenes
shift back and forth but we are soon taken to a scene featuring the Duke of
Windsor as he writes to his wife in America. He complains that the evangelist, Billy
Graham, has disturbed him and says that “all taste for prayer has evaded me.”
We begin to see the Duke transformed from a bored socialite to a demon in
disguise. One scene ends with a fade to black in which a menacing glint in his
eyes is the last thing to fade. When the publication of the Marburg papers
becomes inevitable, the Queen Mother remarks that “this was always going to
come back to haunt us.”
Yet, The
Queen and The Evangelist are eager to want to forgive The Duke and the sins of
others, even as they admit to the difficulty of forgiving those who betray and
murder their countrymen. At one point the Queen says, “It is time to discuss forgiveness
for Uncle David. … Forgiveness is very important to me.” However, when she is
confronted with the magnitude of David’s sins, perhaps there is even an
allusion here to King David of the Bible, she speaks these harsher words to her
“We all closed our eyes and ears to what was being said about you. … But
when the truth finally came out, it makes a mockery of even the central tenants
of Christianity. There is no possibility of my forgiving you; the question is,
how on earth can you forgive yourself?”
It is at
this point that the key conversation between Billy Graham and The Queen occurs.
The Queen: “I would like to hear your views on forgiveness. Are there
circumstances in which one can be a good Christian and not forgive?”
Billy Graham: “The solution for being unable to forgive [is that] one
asks for forgiveness for oneself … and prays for those whom one cannot forgive.”
It is
refreshing to see a historical-fiction from the UK tell a redeeming story of the
power of forgiveness. The writers have truly challenged us to wrestle with the
question of forgiveness for war-mongers, Nazis, attention-grasping former
Kings, fair-minded Queens, and a good many
other sinners. (Perhaps we might even wrestle with the contemporary issue of forgiveness for
men who sexually assault or harass women.) In his time as an evangelist, Billy Graham made it clear that
the Bible teaches that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”
(Romans 3:23). Vergangenheit, the
episode, asks us significant questions about how far the forgiveness of God
could extend and leaves us wondering how we might “forgive others as God has
forgiven us” (Matthew 6:14, 15 and Matthew 18:21-35). Oh Lord, “
forgive us
our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12, New Living Translation).

Dive in!

Join The Great Journey with subscribers, and see new posts as they happen.

We promise we’ll never spam.