Despite its plot lines being a matter of history, Netflix has a knack for keeping us glued to 'The Crown' ...
When Netflix last visited Buckingham Palace for its acclaimed series The Crown, Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) had just settled into the throne. And while the chair might not have been made of iron, it was pretty uncomfortable anyway — what with her father’s death, her hubby’s unhappiness, her sister’s wild affair and her abdicated uncle making trouble every which way he could. Plenty wondered whether she had the stuff to be a queen at all.
Well, Elizabeth made it through Season 1 — a season of monumental personal change for the young monarch. Now, in The Crown’s second season, she faces a rapidly changing world.
Netflix plans to air six seasons of The Crown, covering all of Queen Elizabeth II’s 65-year (and counting) reign. This season (released December 8) will cover a particularly tumultuous time in the monarchy, from the late 1950s to 1964.
Just how tumultuous? Well, at the risk that you may have already binge-watched all 10 episodes, let’s just take a look at some of what may be in store for you. Oh, and caution: Obviously, possible spoilers ahead.
The Suez Crisis
In late 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, a critical waterway formerly controlled by Britain. The British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden coordinated with France and Israel to wrest control of the canal from Nasser. The scheme fell flat internationally, though, with U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower allegedly furious with Britain over the whole matter and the United Nations eventually intervening.
Crown showrunner Peter Morgan knew that Season 2 would begin with Britain’s embarrassing stumble in Suez. He told The Hollywood Reporter, “I did get to the point where I thought, ‘… let’s leave [Season 1] on the knife’s edge of Suez because Suez feels like a changing point for the country. Britain was never the same again after Suez.’”
A plethora of prime ministers
After Suez, Eden resigned (due, at least nominally, to ill health). There weren’t any elections scheduled, and the Conservative Party (which Eden led) didn’t have a formal mechanism to choose a new leader. It fell to Elizabeth to select a new Prime Minister and so, after polling the Cabinet, she picked Harold Macmillan for the job. He held the post for six years, but another scandal (the Profumo Affair, a leading player in which died earlier this week) and Macmillan’s advancing age weakened the Conservative Party. He, too, resigned because of his health, and in 1963 Elizabeth selected another prime minister — this one Sir Alec Douglas-Home. It was a controversial choice, and he was in office less than a year before his Conservative Party was voted out, paving the way for the Labour Party’s leader Harold Wilson to take control in 1964.
A wandering prince?
The trailer for The Crown tells us that Elizabeth “married a wild spirit. Trying to tame them is no use.” Repeatedly it dredges up the word “scandal,” and it ends with the queen telling someone that, “There is no possibility of my forgiving you.” Could she be talking with her beloved, roguish husband, Philip (played by Matt Smith)? Is it possible that he had an out-of-wedlock dalliance?
Maybe more than one, according to some. At issue this season may be Philip’s four-month tour of Commonwealth nations. “Even now, people wonder how he could have left his wife and two young children — Charles and Anne — for a jaunt round far-flung outposts of the Commonwealth in late 1956,” author Ingrid Seward told the Express. But whether Philip strayed or not (and whether the show suggests as much), Morgan insists he’s not trying to “pick holes” in their relationship. As he told the Press Association, “Their marriage is a triumph by any standards.”
Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby), Elizabeth’s sister, was the glamorous Princess Di of her day, and she received a lot of screen time in The Crown’s first season due to her scandalous affair (and near-marriage) with Peter Townsend.
Well, Margaret didn’t end up with Townsend. But the resilient princess will get hitched this season anyway, to photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones. The match was again controversial, at least amongst the nobility: Though he was later known as Lord Snowdon, many did not approve of the common photographer marrying Margaret. (Prince Harry tying the knot with Meghan Markle — a lowly American actress — would’ve been all but unthinkable back then.) But when it came time for the wedding, thousands lined the streets to greet the royal couple.
Alas, the marriage was not to last. Margaret and Antony’s relationship was rocky almost from the start, and they finally split for good in 1978.
The Crown will have more — much, much more — in store for viewers, including a visit by John and Jackie Kennedy in 1961. Legendary evangelist Billy Graham shows up, too. Sure, we may know how Elizabeth’s story goes. But despite the historical spoilers, Netflix has shown a knack to keep The Crown interesting.