Victoria syndrome is when a monarch who has been in power for a long time starts seeming out of touch and irrelevant to the general public. As the fifth season of “The Crown” begins, we are treated to extended shots of Queen Elizabeth getting a certain medical checkup done. The point of this entire scene is to emphasize one thing in particular: that she is an old woman now. Whether it be the extra second the camera lingers on the folds of her neck or the way we are reintroduced to the fact that she was born in 1926 and is now 65 years old, her age carries a character of its own, and the makers of the show want us to be aware of it every single second. In fact, it is not just her age, but the yacht named Britannia that has a constant presence in the show. The first scene of the first episode of “The Crown” fifth season has Queen Elizabeth launching the yacht. That was somewhere during the early days of her reign, and it becomes obvious as the season progresses that the yacht is symbolic of the Queen. She even mentions it to the prime minister. Elizabeth says that most of what she owns is inherited, whereas this yacht is the only thing that started with her reign. It is the one thing that represents Queen Elizabeth within a sea of artifacts that represent the monarchy.
It is consistently said throughout the show that the Queen is old and out of touch with reality. We find it hard to disagree with that simply because she was never modern, even when she was a young woman. There is a certain memory that arises from “The Crown” Season 1, in the episode of her coronation. Prince Philip wanted to cut down on the cost of the ceremony and televise it so that the general public would feel more connected to it. He wanted this to be a representation of the heralding of a new age by presenting Elizabeth as a woman of her time. But she was not on board with that. Whatever we think of “The Crown” Season 1’s Prince Philip, we can’t help but agree with him on this particular matter, if for no other reason than that it was considerate of her subjects. But Elizabeth clung to the notions of tradition. The only reason she agreed to the ceremony being televised was so that she could use it as a bargaining chip, a trade-off for Philip kneeling to her during the ceremony. It was a strategic move that had nothing to do with new-age thinking. And maybe that is why Queen Elizabeth made a good monarch. Whatever her personal opinions, she knew when to step up and when to step back for the fulfillment of her objectives. One must question, though: what was her ultimate objective? Well, whatever she thought it was, at the end of the day, it was about maintaining the appearance of “The Crown.” The people were never a priority for Elizabeth; the monarchy was. And that is why she felt it appropriate to spend public money on the repair of Brittania during a time of great recession. She honestly believed that the welfare of royalty meant the welfare of the people. What could be more out of touch than that?
But we also believe that it wasn’t her only reason. There is another memory from the first season of “The Crown” when Elizabeth’s grandmother tells her that the monarchy is akin to God for the common populace. That is why the monarch is anointed and not appointed. Elizabeth had inherited the throne from her father, and by the logic of her grandmother, she had been chosen by the gods to lead the country. Therefore, if she was alive and well, she deserved to continue sitting on the throne. Her son would be chosen when the time came, but abdication in anybody’s favor was not a choice. That is why she wanted Brittania’s life to continue. Because the relevance of the yacht was symbolic of her and the monarchy’s relevance in society. Asking the Prime Minister to help fix it was her way of saying that she had no plans to abdicate.
When it comes to Prince Charles, we can all agree that he was far from being princely or charming in any sense of the word. It baffles us that he was considered a symbol of modernity when he was the one who was probably the more traditional one between him and his mother. He says as much to the Prime Minister: that he is a traditionalist at heart, and we don’t think he was just playing to his conservative sensibilities. Probably his interactions with Diana are a testament to the fact that he was far from the modern man he wanted to portray himself as. Charles had ideas and was ambitious, but he was also entitled. He truly believed that he could be a better monarch than his mother, but the truth of the matter was that he wasn’t going to do anything different. His reforms would be limited to the royal family and have no bearing on the lives of the common people. Simply due to this one reason, Elizabeth was the better choice for the throne because she was not actively harmful to the monarchy. It was an obsolete institution, one kept alive by nothing else but the colonial sensibilities of the British. But under Elizabeth’s rule, they could at least carry on with an air of dignity. We don’t believe that it would have been possible with Charles. He wanted his mother to abdicate for him, but we are glad she did not. Yes, she suffered from Victoria syndrome, but it wasn’t limited to her. The entire monarchy suffered from it. The institution needed to be dissolved, and people needed to live their lives with hard work, responsibility, and purpose that made an actual difference in the real world instead of just being a waste of taxpayers’ money. Hopefully, the day will come sooner rather than later, and we will know exactly what can cure such a syndrome so that we may try to bring the solution closer to home for ourselves.