Happiness is a Warm TV

When Billy Graham met the Queen – Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ has an NC connection

Claire Foy, left, as Queen Elizabeth, and Victoria Hamilton as the Queen Mother watch the Billy Graham Crusade telecast in “The Crown” on Netflix.
Claire Foy, left, as Queen Elizabeth, and Victoria Hamilton as the Queen Mother watch the Billy Graham Crusade telecast in “The Crown” on Netflix. NETFLIX screenshot

Early in the sixth episode of Season 2 of the Netflix drama “The Crown,” Queen Elizabeth has tea with the Queen Mother while watching Billy Graham’s London Crusades on a small black and white television set.

The Queen is impressed. The Queen Mother, not so much.

Criticizing Graham’s “religious certainty” at such a young age, the Queen Mother (played by Victoria Hamilton) tells her daughter: “I think moral authority and spiritual guidance should come from someone with a little more life experience, not from someone who learned their trade selling brushes door-to-door in North Carolina.”

The Queen Mother, who is aghast that Brits are “weeping like children” as Graham preaches (“What happened to this country?!” she laments), also calls Graham “an American zealot.” Her daughter counters, “He’s not a zealot.” The Queen Mother: “He’s shouting, darling. Only zealots shout.”

Despite the pithy one-liners from mum, Queen Elizabeth (Claire Foy) apparently cares little that her mother and her husband, Prince Philip, disapproved (at least in the very beginning) of Graham. She was all in. As Graham speaks on the television – “I’m going to preach a gospel not of despair, but of hope. Hope for the individual. Hope for society. Hope for the world.” – what the Queen hears is a message of optimistic Christianity and from a messenger with whom she felt an instant connection.

Later, she asks her secretary to arrange a meeting with Graham, portrayed by Paul Sparks, who indeed comes to preach a private service at Windsor Chapel and then enjoy a lunch and private meeting with the Queen afterward.

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Paul Sparks as Billy Graham in the Netflix series “The Crown.” NETFLIX screenshot

Did it all really happen that way?

Though based on historic events, “The Crown,” about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, is obviously a work of fiction.

We do know that Graham preached at Windsor and met the queen (we’re guessing this is during the 1954 Crusades), and that the two of them became lifelong friends. That’s all pretty well documented.

But as with much of “The Crown,” which has been noted for its historical accuracy, no one really knows what occurred or was said in private moments.

So in the interest of a coherent story, liberties must be taken.

For instance, we really don’t know what the Queen and Queen Mother said to each other that day as they watched TV. Or if they even watched TV. Nor do we know if Philip asked to be excused from meeting Graham (“Can’t you just make up an excuse and say I’m off sinning somewhere?”) or if he really called Graham “a door-to-door salesman in a hideous shiny suit.” Or if the Queen made Philip jealous by calling Graham “rather handsome.”

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Paul Sparks as Billy Graham in the Netflix series “The Crown.” NETFLIX screenshot

And we don’t know if the private conversation between Graham, now 99 and in declining health, and Queen Elizabeth, 91, really took place (Graham famously avoided being alone with women to whom he was not married, aka “The Billy Graham Rule”), and therefore, if the Queen admitted her loneliness to him.

But it’s fun to pretend.

Another North Carolina connection

In Episode 8, President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy visit Europe and are entertained at Buckingham Palace. (This episode includes another priceless conversation between The Queen and Queen Mother in front of the television, this time discussing Jackie Kennedy while the Queen Mum ate macaroni and cheese.)

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(L-R): Michael C. Hall as President John F. Kennedy, Jodi Balfour as Jackie Kennedy, Claire Foy as Elizabeth II and Matt Smith as Prince Philip in the Netflix series “The Crown.” Alex Bailey / Netflix

JFK is played by Michael C. Hall, a native of Raleigh best known for his starring roles on HBO’s “Six Feet Under” and Showtime’s “Dexter.”

Watch ‘The Crown’

You can watch both seasons of “The Crown” on Netflix.

Brooke Cain: 919-829-4579, @brookecain

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