Season three of the Netflix series on the British monarchy has just been released, and this time it’s set in the sixties and seventies.
With a scene concerning the replacement of the image of Queen Elizabeth II on British postage stamps and a couple of references to the passage of time, screenwriter Peter Morgan substantiates the principal novelty in The Crown (Netflix) season three: the complete overhaul of his fictitious British royal family, now led by Oscar-winning Olivia Colman. Far from being an inconvenience, the actors in this mature version of the sovereigns and their relatives move even more comfortably through the halls of Buckingham Palace than their predecessors. What hasn’t changed are the hallmarks of The Crown: exquisite production values, intelligently penned screenwriting packed with double-entendres and an entertaining meshing between the monarchy’s private and public lives.
By combining historical fact with conversations of the royal couple during the meal and complaints from children seeking their own voices amidst strict protocol, The Crown is shooting for all audiences: political thriller and espionage series buffs, all the way up to the romantic drama and soap opera lovers. And herein lies its greatest advantage. You don’t even have to be a royalist to enjoy it. Olivia Colman herself recognized in an interview with The Guardian that she’s gone from being a progressive who didn’t really give the Queen that much thought, to admiring her to the point that she now considers her a “total feminist.” Even the “Republican” Tobias Menzies, the new Duke of Edinburgh, has surrendered to the “unquestionable dedication and service” of the current British sovereigns.
The historical account of The Crown 3, not always so benevolent with its protagonists, begins in 1964 with the arrival of Harold Wilson (Jason Watkins) to Downing Street. Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost / Nixon) also rescues a series of events from the annals of history, including the death of Churchill, the Aberfan disaster, Princess Margaret’s trip to the United States, the death of Edward VIII, Man’s arrival on the Moon, the appointment of Charles, Prince of Wales and the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II to mark the 25th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. It’s clear as day by watching any of the recent episodes that The Crown is one of the most expensive series on the scene (coming in at over €10 million per episode), at least until Game of Thrones decided to start showing off in those final battle scenes.
Without Lady Di
The juiciest storylines of all are straight out of the gossip-columns, tabloids or just the realms of pure fiction: the return of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh’s mother, Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark. (which in itself deserves a spin-off), the relationship between the reliable and stoic Isabel II and her crazy sister Princess Margaret (here a contained Helena Bonham Carter) and her stormy divorce, Princess Anne’s rebellion (Erin Doherty), the loneliness of Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) in the absence of his mother’s empathy and the beginning of his love affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, then Camilla Shand. The plot to avoid this marriage is so incredible that it hasn’t survived the fact-checking historians. However, we won’t be able to enjoy one of the most anticipated moments for the nostalgic among us; the arrival of Lady Di (Emma Corrin) into the Windsor Family until season four, which is already being filmed and has been on location in Spain. Another aspect of this season which hasn’t avoided criticism, is that of the Queen’s former press officer and close friend, as depicted by the series, between Isabel II and Lord Porchester, who she affectionately refers to as ‘Porchey’.
With so much conflict and institutional goings-on, The Crown is not a bingeworthy series, but rather one to be savored and enjoyed like a fine wine. When referring to the royal family, the character of Harold Wilson summarizes the very essence of the show: “Madam, they are not normal. The people don’t believe they are and, if I may be so bold, they do not want them to be either. The truth is that we don’t know what we want, apart from wanting them to be extraordinary, an ideal.” The Crown is not normal, and we don’t want it to be either. We want it to remain magnificent. And the best part is that we have three more seasons of the royal biography to look forward to.