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Wherever faith resides

  • 29 April 2021
While watching the coverage of Prince Philip’s funeral, I was reminded of an episode of the Netflix series The Crown which has stayed with me. In Moondust (Season 3, Episode 7) a fictive Philip, played by Tobias Menzies, watches the 1969 moon landing and it provokes in him a consideration of what his life has been. He becomes despondent and lost in an episode focused on his ‘midlife crisis’, something maybe more imagined than real. After much deliberating, he turns to the Dean of Windsor, Rev Robin Woods — in real-life a dear friend — for solace.

With Dean Woods, Philip explains his experience of desolation, of dryness and frustration, does not flow from a single event, or a single moment of crisis. Rather it’s the ‘drip, drip, drip of doubt, disaffection, disease, discomfort’, prompted in part by his mother’s death, and by ‘an almost jealous fascination with the achievement of these young astronauts’ so recently landed on the moon. The fictitious Prince finds himself with ‘an inability to find calm, or satisfaction, or fulfillment’. 

Something is ‘amiss’. Philip identifies that something missing as faith. ‘I am here to admit to you that I have lost it and without it, what is there?’ he says to the group of clergy. The moon landing itself stops being the basis for the loss, but rather a motif that characterises how empty even apparently extraordinary moments can be without faith.

Philip says, ‘the loneliness and emptiness and anticlimax of going all that way to the moon to find nothing but haunting desolation, ghostly silence, gloom. That is what faithlessness is. As opposed to finding wonder, ecstasy, the miracle of divine creation, God’s design and purpose.’

His perception changes, seeing the solution not residing in the apparently heroic human act but instead ‘wherever it is that faith resides’.

Philip says all this before a group of Anglican clergy engaged in courses for renewal whom he has ridiculed for their seemingly inert introspection. Towards the end he says, painfully and poignantly, ‘I now find myself full of respect, of admiration and not a small part of desperation. As I come to say, help. Help me.’

"One thing to notice is that this claim of faith isn’t an extra hobby; it’s a deeper, grounding reality in which life is understood. That is surely something striking given the usual dull coverage of royal personality politics."

This is a dramatic moment of metanoia, of