After nearly two long years we finally have a release date for the third season of Netflix’s award-winning The Crown. Mark your calendars for midnight on Sunday, November 17, because 10 new episodes are going to pick up where the second season left off, only this time featuring an entirely new cast.
Now, despite how the above might read, I am not in fact running an advertorial for this show, but for those of you who are newer to this site back in November and December of 2017 I wrote recaps for each episode of the first two seasons that offered, when necessary, some light fact checking and additional context, as well as [delightful] running commentary.
We’re going to do that again – of course! And in addition to a rundown of each episode, I’ll also publish a catch up post ahead of the season’s release, and then a summary at its close, which will likely delve more deeply into how the season as a whole covers the Queen. (As a reminder, this is one of the series’ criticisms – that it has thus far focused too much on the men in Elizabeth’s life, particularly her husband.) You can read the posts for Season 1 and 2 here and here, but the quickest way to get to individual recaps is to click “Recaps” on the right-hand side navigator under “Categories.” Or click here.
Anyway, since we have the benefit of some waiting time, and since frankly I’m impatient for the new episodes, I’ve decided that today we’ll take a quick look at what we know about the third season, and then I think I will plan to write a few posts that cover some of the likely plot points from a historical perspective.
So! The second season closes with the 1964 christening of Prince Edward (now the Earl of Wessex). Elizabeth and Philip have ostensibly segued into a more peaceful period of their marriage, Prince Charles is suffering at his boarding school (Gordonstoun), Prime Minister Harold Macmillan has resigned to Elizabeth’s disdain, and Margaret’s marriage to Tony Armstrong-Jones (the Earl of Snowdon) is already beginning to unravel.
The showrunners haven’t formally announced a set time frame that the third season will cover, but they have mentioned a few events that give us a pretty good idea. One major theme will be the continued decolonization of Africa that unfolded throughout the 1960s. All of Britain’s African colonies – with the exception of Southern Rhodesia – were granted independence by 1968, however withdrawal wasn’t seamless (duh) and I would expect these stories will cover how it felt for the UK to lose what remained of its “empire” luster, as well as for Elizabeth to cede ground on a legacy protected by her father (and his father, grandfather, etc.). Given the emphasis that the Queen herself has always placed on the concept of the Commonwealth, and the recent announcement that the Prince of Wales will in fact succeed her as its head, it’ll be interesting to see if the series explicitly makes this tie.
The inner psychology of Philip will continue to be a plot point. Apparently the 1969 moon landing will be a major moment, and Philip will compare himself unfavorably to the work of the Americans who made that possible. To be fair, most of us can be compared unfavorably to them, but I’m always on board for unnecessary neuroses.
The biggest shift will be new focus on Philip and Elizabeth’s eldest children, Charles and Anne. We definitely saw more of Charles in the second season, particularly his difficult relationship with Philip, and Elizabeth’s own limitations as a mother, but the third season will finally see him emerge as an adult. We’ll see him enter Cambridge, which he did in 1967, and we’ll see him formally invested as Prince of Wales in 1969, as well as him beginning to define what his public role will look like.
Given that this year marks the 50th anniversary of that investiture (which has been publicly noted by the RF), I’m planning two separate posts – one that covers his university education, which was groundbreaking for its time, and one that delves more deeply in how Charles began his public life. The latter, in particular, is relevant in light of how his sons have done so in the last couple years.
On the character front, we will also be introduced to Camilla Shand (aka Camilla Parker-Bowles, aka the now Duchess of Cornwall). There was a rumor that we would be introduced to Lady Diana Spencer at the end of the third season, but the showrunners have since confirmed that she won’t appear until the fourth. For those unfamiliar with the tale, Charles and Camilla famously dated in the early 1970s, then broke up and maintained a friendship that eventually evolved into an off-again, on-again affair that occasionally overlapped with both of their marriages.
I suppose that sounds complex enough, but what is less well-remembered is that Camilla dated Charles the first time while on a break from her then-boyfriend (and later husband) Andrew Parker-Bowles…who during said break dated Charles’s younger sister, Anne.
I would imagine that the season will cover Camilla’s marriage to Parker-Bowles (and Charles’s reaction to it), as well as Anne’s own marriage to Mark Phillips. Both events took place in 1973. I’ve actually covered Anne’s first wedding here, but I definitely plan on writing up a new post or two on Charles and Camilla in the 1970s.
It’s also a safe bet that the season will cover the 1974 kidnapping attempt of Anne (another blog post, for sure), and may well go as far as the 1977 birth of the Queen’s first grandchild, Peter Phillips. If it does extend that far, then this season will cover more ground than the first two, but if we take the showrunner’s word as gospel that Lady Diana Spencer is introduced at the start of the fourth season, then that would mean the ’70s are pretty well baked in the third.
Another possibility is that the season ends in 1976, the end of Harold Wilson’s tenure as Prime Minister. In which case, a few other major events that will likely be included are the Queen’s state visit to France in 1972, the Montreal Olympics in 1976, and England’s World Cup victory in 1966.
One of the biggest storylines will be the dissolution of Margaret’s marriage to Tony Armstrong-Jones, which was too dramatic in real life to give it short-shrift in a television show. The ’70s saw quite a bit of infidelity and knock-down, drag out fights, not to mention the series already foreshadowed that Tony’s illegitimate child (conceived rillll close to the couple’s engagement) will come to light. The couple separated in 1976 – the first truly senior members of the modern Royal Family to do so – and given the Windsors’ subsequent divorces, that will be major…and possibly another indication that the season will end right around there.
In an interview with Olivia Coleman, who succeeds Clare Foy as Elizabeth, Vanity Fair reported that two more moments covered will be Elizabeth’s decision to “flout” protocol to honor Winston Churchill’s death and the 1966 Aberfan tragedy in which 114 Welsh schoolchildren were killed.
One more possibility is that the season takes us as far as 1979 when Louis Mountbatten – close to both Philip and Charles – was assassinated by the IRA, but I have a feeling that will hold until the fourth season given that its consequences tie very closely into the launch of Charles’s relationship with Diana.
My best guess is that we’re looking at 1965 to 1976 or 1977.
In other words, a lot to cover!
One of the biggest questions the series has prompted is whether members of the Royal Family actually watch the show. Reportedly, the answer is yes. The Duke of Cambridge (Prince William) apparently spoke with a (non-Crown) actress about the series, while the Earl and Countess of Wessex (Edward and Sophie) are also rumored to be big fans. Such fans, in fact, that they are believed to have talked the Queen into watching some of the show, but that’s highly debatable if for no other reason than I can’t imagine anything more awkward than watching a dramatized depiction of your parents’ marriage while sitting next to them.
Camilla’s nephew, Ben Eliot, told Vanity Fair that his aunt is definitely a fan, which indicates it’s very possible that Charles has also seen some of it. She’s not, however, looking forward for “what’s to come,” so TBD on whether she continues to tune in.
Finally, I posted to the site’s Instagram account over the weekend what historical subjects everyone would like to see more of (since I’ve been wildly lax on that front) and the answer was overwhelmingly pro-Medieval. I’ve been meaning to delve more deeply into Richard III here, so I think my goal over the next few weeks and months is to tackle him and some of the above more modern topics. A mix, if you will, mingled with what will likely be a busy autumn for royal news and recapping the actual season.