Imelda Marcos in the 4th episode of ‘The Crown’
Since the pandemic many Filipinos have taken up watching Netflx movies and telenovelas to occupy themselves during “stay at home.” Of late the most popular series was “The Crown,” a film on the life stories and scandals about the English royal family as well as conflicts anddifferences between the monarchy and parliament.
So it was news when Imelda and her shoes were talked about in Episode 4 during cocktails at the Royal Palace.
“The Crown” is primarily about the life of Queen Elizabeth II. So imagine the surprise of Filipino watchers that Imelda, the former Philippine first lady, should be talked about in royal conversation.
Ironically, the conversation was to make fun of the former first lady and her wealth.
In the episode, Princess Margaret, the Countess of Snowdon (Helena Bonham Carter), was talking to the other royals and decided to recount her official visit to the Philippines in 1980.
“So, there we are in Manila, in the middle of a state banquet, when who barges into the room? None other than Imelda Marcos. She makes a beeline straight for me, saying she’s desperate to show me her… wait for it…” Princess Margaret paused for effect.
“Shoe collection,” Princess Anne (Erin Doherty) answered for her. But Princess Margaret corrected her: “Shell collection.”
The royals in the room laughed at the story, while some suggested that Imelda probably had something in her teeth at the time and Princess Margaret simply misunderstood her. “She was probably trying to say ‘shoe,’ and you misunderstood her,” Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies) said.
But Princess Margaret insisted: “No, I can assure you, it was seashells.”
The scene sparked thousands of conversations on Twitter, with the majority of netizens appreciating how the show threw “shade” at Marcos.
Why should Imelda and her shoe collection be included “The Crown” in what is described as a “delicately crafted Netflix series about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and the ins and outs, the secrets and intrigues, of the life of royals.” In the season that just premiered this weekend, the character of Princess Diana is introduced into this world, not so much as a romantic partner for the Queen’s son but as possible future queen people will love.
In the episode called Fairytale, it is 1981 and the young Diana Spencer has just been proposed to by Charles. Just before she moves in, she is invited to grace a dinner at Clarence House where she fumbles in the rituals of acknowledging your highnesses in the room. She enters this scene just as Princess Margaret is telling the story of her encounter with then Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos and her “shell collection.”
This sparks a short discussion on whether or not the storyteller, the Countess of Snowdon, misheard. “Did she have something in her teeth?” asks the Queen. And the group proceeds to make fun of Imelda’s speech, implying she has a lisp.
We’re not sure if Imelda indeed had or has a lisp – although there has always been something very unique in the way she spoke – but the way she approached Princess Margaret (at least as it is told in the episode), who at that time was the highest-ranking British royal to have visited the Philippines, seems in tune with how the former first lady has been portrayed in books and society gossip. In a photo of Margaret during that particular visit, Imelda, in a pink terno, is shown flipping the pages of a book, as if explaining its contents to her guest who was in a white dress and wearing a crown. Princess Margaret graced the inauguration of the Lungsod ng Kabataan’s Children’s Hospital, and reports say she was also indeed honored at a dinner and shown a collection of seashells.
In “The Crown,” the Princess gets to continue on with her story about Mrs. Marcos. The entire dinner party, she says, “decants into a convoy of limousines” and takes to the streets of Manila until they reach Imelda’s “private aquarium where she keeps a vast portrait of herself wearing…” And she’s interrupted again, this time by the series editor who cuts to the next scene: the announcement of the royal betrothal.
After Imelda left Malacañang Palace, she was found to have left behind 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 888 handbags and 3,000 pairs of shoes. Some news reports estimated that there were up to 7,500 pairs, but Time magazine reported that the final tally was 1,060.
Although “The Rise and Fall of Imelda Marcos” was first published abroad by St. Martin’s in New York, it was eventually republished by Weidenfeld and Nicholson, a reputable publisher of biographies in the UK. I was informed it was selling at Hatchard’s, a high-end bookstore in Park Lane. I rushed to get a copy but it was all sold out.