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"It's getting harder to watch The Crown as the real thing goes up in flames."

I’m starting to feel bad for Olivia Colman.

Clearly, that’s not how I feel for the women who are victims of a global paedophile ring operating for the pleasure of one of the world’s richest men, with the alleged involvement of some of the most powerful.

No, for those women I feel devastated. And furious.

But I’ve started to feel bad for actress Olivia Colman and her Oscar-winning brilliance since her turn as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s biggest show, The Crown, coincided with a royal crisis of unimaginable proportions.

Watch the trailer for the third season of The Crown below. Post continues after video. 

Video via Netflix

When Colman signed up to play her, the Queen was a sure thing. One of the most respected and loved women in the world, an unwavering leader who didn’t pursue power but was born to it. Yes, the head of the now-irrelevant Commonwealth, but more often seen as a mother, a grannie, a great-grandma. A woman of spectacular resilience, steel, dignity and work-ethic. Ninety-three and still showing up for her public, dressed in her “spot-me-in-a-crowd” fluro, big hat in place, handbag over one arm, keeping calm, carrying on.

Who wouldn’t want to play her? It’s a career-defining role that played pretty well for Dame Helen Mirren, for starters.

But as 2019 drags its sorry self to a close, the cloud over the Queen’s family – and therefore her judgement as its head – has rarely been heavier.

There was that time the Prime Minister of Britain, Boris Johnson, made the Queen look either partisan or redundant – take your pick – by getting her to rubber-stamp his possibly-illegal plan to suspend British Parliament so he could continue to push for a hardline Brexit.

There was that time her favourite grandson, Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, stood in front of TV cameras and said that basically, Harry hates his job, and being part of the family he was born into is terrible for his precarious mental health. His wife said that she and he were not living, not thriving, but merely surviving as part of the Queen’s royal family.

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And then there was that time when her second son, Prince Andrew, was forced to resign after he sat down in front of another camera (bloody cameras) in her own home, and made such a spectacular, disastrous fist of denying sex-crime accusations that the nation, and the world, was more convinced of his complicity than it was before.

Mia Freedman, Holly Wainwright and Jessie Stephens unpack Prince Andrew’s controversial BBC interview on Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues after podcast. 

But worse than that – again, not worse for the victims of Jeffrey Epstein’s padeophilic mafia of silence and threats – is that he sat there and exposed himself as exactly the kind of arrogant, disconnected, amoral toff that many people have long suspected sits protected within palace walls.

In case you missed it, Prince Andrew, Duke Of York, gave an unprecedented interview to BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis – approximately the equivalent of the ABC’s Leigh Sales – inside Buckingham Palace that was broadcast on Saturday.

The idea was to answer all the questions the world might have about his association with the now-dead convicted child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a financier rich enough that his various homes around the world were used by other rich and powerful men as convenient private boltholes. That, and the direct allegations that were made by one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, that Prince Andrew was not only a member of Epstein’s inner circle, but that he had sex with her three times, in various locations, when she was only 17 years old.

Prince Andrew on BBC
Prince Andrew on BBC Newsnight. Image: BBC News.

The Prince vigorously denies these allegations, but what he seemed very keen for you to know during the course of this interview was:

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Bad people tend to hide their bad ways around him, because he's royal and important. So no, despite seeing Epstein at least three times a year and staying in all the homes that more than 23 women have sworn in testimony were crime scenes, the Prince never saw anything untoward.

The infamous photo of him posing with his arm around Virginia Giuffre couldn't possibly be genuine because he's not wearing a jacket or a tie, and "when I go out in London, I always wear a suit". Also, he doesn't touch people in photos, because he's royal.

Ghislaine Maxwell prince andrew
Prince Andrew photographed with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein's most vocal accusers. Image: Twitter.

Also, he couldn't possibly have been dancing and sweating and buying drinks for Giuffre at fancy nightclub Tramp because: He's never bought a drink at Tramp, he doesn't even know where the bar is. Because he's royal.

No, he doesn't regret meeting Epstein or staying at his homes, even after the man spent time in jail on child prostitution charges because he met a lot of very interesting people and made a lot of important connections.

And of course, after Epstein's first release from prison, when the world knew of his crimes, the Prince thought it was only the "honourable" thing to do to travel to New York City, stay in the sex-offender's home for four days, and sit through a fancy dinner party as the guest of honour, all so he could tell Epstein face-to-face that he "couldn't be seen with him" anymore. It was bad for business, because he was royal.

What's turned out to be worse for royal business was Prince Andrew.

Because what was there, for every squirming viewer to see, was the unbridled privilege and complete protection from scrutiny (yes, despite the tabloid press) that men like Prince Andrew enjoy and have always enjoyed, purely by the fact of who they are.

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All of the years of "modernisation" of the royal family in a post-Diana world are for absolutely nothing if all it takes for everything to fall in a flaming heap is to convince a middle-aged man who's never been told "no" to sit down with a skilled journalist in a ring-lit room in Buckingham Palace for 45 minutes.

So yes, I feel bad for Olivia Colman. Suddenly it's hard to watch her pitch-perfect Queen wrestling with 1960s social shifts without thinking, "We know where all this is going. We know what kind of people live in this house". 

The kind who think so little of the suffering and abuse of tens - possibly hundreds - of young girls, that they don't even think to mention it in an interview where expressing some empathy might be the very, very least you could do to prove you were a decent human.

The Queen has had a very bad year. And it's only going to get worse. As Prince Andrew steps down from royal duties (while still on the payroll, it seems), it's looking harder to see how the royal family can return to the happy place of two short years ago, when the public were easily distracted by fancy weddings and cute princely babies and hit TV shows with enormous budgets.

Still, Olivia Colman is pretty incredible. Maybe she's got the answer.

Has the Prince Andrew interview changed how you feel about the royal family? 

Been listening to That’s Incredible? Tell us what you think.

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