Prestige in ‘The Crown’
In ‘The Crown’, Carol Ann Duffy explores the prestige and catalogue of duties entailed by queenship through an extended description of a crown. Whilst it cannot be denied that monarchy in the poem is presented as deserving of both awe and respect, the poet’s presentation of the theme is not entirely celebratory as she reveals the trails and difficulties a young Queen must face having inherited the crown.
In ‘The Crown’, Duffy explores the misgivings of a newly appointed Queen who feels a conflict between a desire to devote her services to the country, and an apprehension of the duties and profound history attached to wearing the crown. This is demonstrated through the poet’s lack of fixed rhyme scheme and use of free verse used to mirror the Queen’s conflicting attitudes concerning her new royal status. The perfect rhyme between ‘throne’ and ‘alone’ is therefore particularly interesting in breaking from Duffy’s standard lack of rhyme; used to mark out the loneliness and lack of help that comes with status as Queen; which is emphasized through structural positioning of diction ‘alone’ as ending the line. Indeed, the simile comparing the crown to an ‘O like a well’ is particularly interesting in suggestions that the Queen feels overwhelmed in her responsibilities; with the interjection ‘O’ perhaps linking- on the page- to the first letter of later phrase ‘One head’; suggesting that the responsibilities entailed from queenship are inescapable and claustrophobic. The use of synecdoche here voices the woman’s fears that she feels that her queenly status will reduce her status as a woman. Indeed, compound adjectives such as ‘Time-gifted’ are used frequently throughout the poem in order to convey a Queen attempting to come to terms with unfamiliar duties. In particular, the term ‘blood-deep’ suggests that the Queen’s worries are less fickle than previously assumed, and stem from her distaste of the bloody history attached to the throne. Such is an idea furthered in the closing lines of the first stanza ‘from skulls of kings/ to living Queen’; with the end-stop and structural break between the stanzas marking out a speaker perhaps pausing in horror at the role she will subsequently assume. Indeed, the poet’s use of enjambment here- and indeed throughout the rest of the poem- perhaps adds a critical tone through suggesting that the Queen, through wearing the crown, will merely be continuing a tradition entrenched in misogyny and violence. Indeed the anaphora of the phrase ‘The crown’ in the first line and title reinforces the strenuous responsibility the Queen will take on, and the definite article ‘the’ paired with the fact it takes an active role in the semantics as ‘translates’ the woman’s status perhaps implies that she cannot escape her mounting responsibility and is forced to adopt the role as Queen. The form of declarative is one frequently employed by the poet to perhaps convey the woman’s resigned acceptance at her fated royalty; a particularly compelling example being one deeming the crown a measure to value ‘decades and duty’, with the alliterated ‘d’ and prior caesura further highlighting the Queen’s mounting realization of the struggles attached to her newfound status as monarch. A plethora of commas, end-stops and other versions of punctuation is used throughout to create a rational, logical tone as the Queen attempts to console herself and quietly accept the duties she will come to handle.
Despite the poem being one largely aimed at implicitly critiquing royal tradition, the poet also makes a point of marking out the monarchical system as deserving of respect. Such is demonstrated through the catalogue of references to precious gems in the final stanzas from ‘emerald evergreen’ to ‘sapphire’ to ‘ruby’ used to imply that the British monarchy should be both treasured and respected. Indeed, to personify the jewels with a variety of characteristics from ‘shy’ to ‘loyalty’ to ‘resilience’ is suggestive of the great talent and complex personality required to cope with queenship, as does the term ‘history’s bride’ used to describe the queen; with the caesura distinguishing it from the rest of the line suggesting that the Queen’s place in history will be celebrated. Nonetheless, the bathetic antithesis between an religious language of ‘anointed, blessed’ to describe the crowning, and bleak image of the crown as ‘a hollow thing… a measuring’ represents a dissonance between public perceptions of the grandeur associated with royalty, and the plight of the royals having been forced to take up such weighted responsibility. This is mirrored in the structure of the poem, with the split of two stanzas with irregular line lengths representing the dichotomy between the perceptions of royals in the public sphere; and the genuine personalities and characters of the individuals. Indeed, the movement into first person through possessive determiner ‘my’ as shunned to the end of the poem perhaps suggests that the Queen feels so confined by her royal status that is at risk of loosing a sense of personal identity. This is an idea reinforced as she is only referred to regal title ‘The Queen’ throughout rather than a personal name; highlighting the negative capacity of royal tradition to erase the individual characters of those involved. The simplicity of the closing declarative ‘not lightly worn.’ is reinforced with an end-stop in order to convey the sense of a woman bracing herself for the future struggles she will face as monarch; and to both begin and end the poem on descriptions of the crown implies that she feels prepared- despite her apprehension- to wholly exert herself into her royal identity as Queen.
In conclusion, Duffy in ‘The Crown’ presents an extended critique of British monarchy: whilst moments of prestige and grandeur are highlighted, this fails to utterly appease the negative and destructive effects that royalty is proven to have on not only an external society; but also those directly involved.
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In ‘The Crown’, Carol Ann Duffy explores the prestige and catalogue of duties entailed by queenship through an extended description of a crown. Whilst it cannot be denied that monarchy […]