One benefit to a recent cold snap we’ve had is that it’s given me plenty of time to re-watch Season 2 of the The Crown in anticipation of this weekend. While I think I have watched it since its premier two years ago, I honestly can’t remember when that was, so it’s been a minute and was definitely necessary for re-acclimating myself to where we left off with the characters. I also went back and re-read my wrap-up of the second season, and, well, apparently I was quite displeased with the lack of character development the show focused on its central figure: the Queen(!)
Re-watching it now, I don’t feel that quite as strongly, though it still remains true that Philip and Margaret shine through as far more compelling characters, and that does appear to be a central hypothesis to the show: that humanity is lost within the institutional machinery of the monarchy. Elizabeth has given in to that, and Philip and Margaret pushed back harder. It’s a fair argument.
So, where did we leave off with everyone?
- Elizabeth – Very displeased with her third PM’s resignation and having just given birth to her fourth – and final – child.
- Philip – Newly re-committed to his marriage and thoroughly chastened
- The Queen Mother – Frankly a bit of a non-entity in the second season, but I remain fascinated that the show refuses to support her warm and cuddly persona. Their version of her is cold as ice, and frankly that’s always been my sense of her from the history books.
- Margaret – Unhappily married with two children and in the throes of “modern” renovations to her apartments in Kensington Palace. Those same apartments are now used by William and Kate, for those keeping track, so that’s one for your back pocket as we watch her inhabit them this season.
- Tony – Apparently open to covering for Philip’s affairs, per the finale. The show abruptly pulled away from the Snowdons after the wedding episode, while setting up their unhappiness at the very end.
- Charles – Miserable at boarding school. Not an athlete. Much closer to Louis Mountbatten than to his parents. N.B., the boarding school episode noted at the end that Charles sent his own sons to Eton College, which begs the question of whether the show means to end before 1995 (the year in which William enrolled). *More on this at the end of the post.
- Anne – Only seen as a child in the second season, and I’m not sure she actually had any dialogue? So, she’ll be a fresh introduction in the third season.
- Andrew & Edward – Both were born in the second season, but teed up as “second chance” children for Elizabeth…and Philip, to a certain extent. I hope the show explores this more, even if that has little to do with their actual character development.
- Martin Charteris – Real voice of the people, apparently. We’ll finally see him take over as Private Secretary in the ‘70s.
- Alan Lascelles – Hands down my favorite character and I refuse to acknowledge the show trying to paint him as a villain. I love him. In real life, he lived until 1981 so I do hope we see him again. (It’s a crying shame we won’t be able to see him go up against Diana. And my God, can you imagine if he lived to see the current Sussex situation?)
- The Duke of Windsor (Edward VIII) – I don’t know that we’ll get much more out of this character; his big episode in the second season seemed a fitting finale, if an indictment, of him. But I do expect the show will cover his death and funeral, as well as the Duchess of Windsor’s attendance of it in England. At some point, the real Charles visited the Windsors’ home in Paris, but I can’t for the life of me remember if that was before or after his death…if it was before, then I expect the show writers had a field day with it.
One the more persistent complaints about the second season is that it took more liberties with actual events than it did in the first. By all accounts, the show isn’t shying away from poetic license in the third season, so I think we’re going to keep hearing that refrain. The show creator has defended this by saying he absolutely does use his discretion to connect dots for the audience, which is somewhat understandable when you consider that most people watching have little to no background in what they’re viewing.
I think more and more that will change as we inch closer to present-day, if for no other reason than more people have an opinion about the Prince of Wales’s marriage than they do about the tail end of George VI’s reign. Re: liberties the show has taken so far, there are two that pop up out at me as particularly egregious…actually no, three. The first is that the show put an actual face and name of a real-life person on Philip’s rumored infidelity. That felt very strange and unnecessary. The second was the insinuation of physical violence in the Kennedy marriage. And the third – and the worst of the lot – is having Philip “blamed” for his sister’s death by his father in the ninth episode. All of those do little to “connect dots” for viewers, and instead just ramp up the drama for drama’s sake…at the expense of real people.
So, no, I don’t love this trend. That said, I’ve also read criticism as petty as pointing out the actual Margaret wasn’t at Prince Edward’s christening (shown in the final scene of the tenth episode) because she had just given birth to her daughter. Things like that, I don’t mind. It’s a great finale scene and it thematically captures the family’s dynamic in a way that serves the show.
This season it sounds like we’re not done with picking apart Elizabeth and Philip’s marriage…only this time with Philip’s suspicion that Elizabeth is having an affair. This is based on an actual rumor, though not one with a ton of credibility. We’re also going to delve into the personal lives of Charles and Anne as young adults, which naturally means the introduction of Camilla Shand and Andrew Parker-Bowles, as well as Anne’s marriage to Mark Phillips. We’re going to be gifted a plot in which the Royal Family works behind-the-scenes to sour Charles’s relationship with Camilla, which is not quite what actually happened.
But it raises the interesting question of how sympathetic the show intends to be towards Charles. So far, it’s focused a good deal of attention on Philip and how he’s handled his role as Elizabeth’s consort. I don’t know that I would say it’s been sympathetic per se, because we do see him behaving badly, but it certainly contextualizes him. The show has also been pretty clear in establishing Philip and Elizabeth are less than ideal parents, particularly for Charles. Philip is too harsh and Elizabeth is too weak. But while it’s easy to show a young boy as the victim, it remains to be seen how they’ll treat Charles in maturity, particularly as we start delving into his relationships with women.
Yet another theme we’re apparently doubling-down on is the emphasis on Margaret, which I have no problem with. While controversial, I loved her sub-plot in the second season, which may have something to do with me borderline fangirling Matthew Goode, but who’s to say? The addition of Helena Bonham-Carter to the cast – and the fact that this season will cover the implosion of her marriage to Antony Armstrong-Jones – makes it clear we’re definitely going to be in the thick of Snowdon dysfunction. Personally, I’m looking forward to it.
I had lofty goals of writing up posts that cover some of the real-life events the show will be depicting…but I didn’t, so here we are. Real life is a constant hindrance, tbh. My fact checks will come in the recaps, and for a handful of the events I will do my best to follow up with full posts that go into greater detail. If there are any specific requests as we go along, let me know! In the meantime, enjoy the premier and talk to you all tomorrow 🙂
But real quick, back to the question of when the show will end…the first season covered 1947-1955, and the second covered 1955-1964, while the third will apparently cover 1964/5-1977. That means it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the fourth will cover the entirety of the Waleses relationship, 1978/9 – 1992. We know the fourth season is filming now so there won’t be as much of a lag between the premier dates, and that the show intends for there to be two final seasons after that. So, if my guess on the fourth season is correct, the fifth season could well take us through Diana’s death, Tony Blair, and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002, as well as the deaths of her mother and sister. Where does that leave us for the final season? Charles and Camilla’s marriage? The phone hacking scandal? William and Kate’s wedding? That seems aggressive, but also possible. The other possibility is that the show ends in 2002, which does seem like a fitting stopping point given the jubilee and the death of the Queen’s first nuclear family. It would also keep the show from bumping up too closely on current events. If so, then that would truncate the time-tables for the fourth and fifth seasons, and likely mean that we’re going to spend a *lot of time with Charles and Diana. TBD, of course, but I enjoy speculation.