In 'The Crown,' Apollo 11 Gives Prince Philip an Existential Crisis

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From Marie Claire

Spoilers for The Crown ahead. The seventh episode of The Crown season 3, "Moondust," sees Prince Philip facing an existential-slash-mid-life crisis sparked by the Apollo 11 moon landing . The apex of his misery comes upon meeting Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, the American astronauts who had recently made history by landing on the moon. At Buckingham Palace, an excited Prince Philip finally gets to meet his heroes—and finds them lacking, which is devastating to him. So: was Philip obsessed with the moon landing? And did he actually get to meet the astronauts?

In short: Yes, Philip did get to meet the three astronauts who hand landed on the moon, as did his wife, Queen Elizabeth, and the rest of the royal family, but there's no real evidence he was as obsessed with the historic event as The Crown suggests. Explained Tobias Menzies, who plays Philip in season three, in an interview earlier this year with Radio Times: "Philip gets very absorbed by the heroism of these men compared to what maybe he hasn’t done with his own life."

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Menzies added, however, that the angle of Philip's hopelessness is entirely from the brain of showrunner Peter Morgan: "He has taken this angle that Philip gets very absorbed by the heroism of these men compared to what maybe he hasn’t done with his own life."

In real life, Philip, along with his family, met the three astronauts in 1969 at Buckingham Palace; the trio were on a world tour following the moon landing. The visit seemed to have gone smoothly, except one slightly awkward moment when a cold-ridden Neil Armstrong accidentally coughed in the Queen's face. There aren't photos of Philip himself meeting the Apollo 11 crew, but you can see the rest of the royal family meeting the astronauts here:

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

There's also not much evidence that Philip was particularly into outer space; the closest he came to publicly referencing space was when he memorably told a young boy who wanted to make it to space that he was "too fat to be an astronaut" (so, not close at all!). He also visited NASA in 2007 with the Queen, and that's...about it.

There has been, however, speculation that Philip did have something of a mid-life crisis. Talking about The Crown storyline, royal correspondent Russell Myers said to ITV: "Back in the sort of late ‘60s, he did think "What am I doing with my life?" He gave up a very promising career in the Navy and this I’m told is played beautifully by Tobias Menzies, so a lot to look forward to."

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