Women's Lives on Screen

‘Full cause of weeping’: Affective Failure in The Queen (2006) and The Crown (2019)





The Queen, The Crown, royal biopic, affective failure


This article reads The Crown, Series Three, Episode Three, ‘Aberfan’, as an adaptation of The Queen, both of which were written by Peter Morgan. Each focuses on a crisis in public relations emerging from Elizabeth II’s delayed reaction to a tragedy: the mining disaster in The Crown and the death of Princess Diana in The Queen. Both are double portraits, in which the monarch’s affective failure is contrasted with the more humane response of the prime minister, Harold Wilson and Tony Blair respectively. And both texts explore the tension between private grief and public performance. By reading these texts in dialogue, their relevance to their contemporary contexts is magnified. The Queen uses Elizabeth II’s nadir in public relations to comment on Blair’s fall from grace as a result of the Iraq War, while ‘Aberfan’, by emphasising the avoidable nature of the disaster, comments on the Grenfell Tower fire of 2017. While neither text shrinks from criticising the monarch for her breakdown in empathy, the resonances between Aberfan and Grenfell allow the Queen’s immediate and humane response in 2017 to redeem her delayed reactions in the past. This demonstrates the capacity of fictional texts to intervene in the popular perception of their subjects.

Author Biography

Bethany Layne, De Montfort University, Leicester

Dr Bethany Layne is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at De Montfort University, Leicester. She has published widely on biographical fiction, in journals including The Henry James Review, Woolf Studies Annual, and Adaptation, and her interviews with David Lodge, Colm Tóibín and Susan Sellers appear in Conversations with Biographical Novelists: Truthful Fictions Across the Globe (Bloomsbury, 2019). She pioneered the first specialist biofiction module in the UK, and organised a related conference, Postmodernist Biofictions (University of Reading, 2017). Layne is the author or editor of two books, Henry James in Contemporary Fiction: The Real Thing (Palgrave 2020) and Biofiction and Writers’ Afterlives (Cambridge Scholars, 2020). In addition to biofiction, adaptation and appropriation, her research interests include film and television, with an article on the Downton Abbey movie appearing in the July 2020 issue of The Journal of Popular Film and Television.





Women's Lives on Screen