1956 – 1963: Netflix continue to take us on this journey through the mid-twentieth century, with the British Royal Family as guides, including an ageing Elizabeth (Claire Foy) and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh AKA Prince Philip (Matt Smith) and her sister Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby). Season two continues to show how Crown and government are linked. From the Suez Crisis in 1956 to the departure of prime ministers Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan (Anton Lesser) to the Profumo Political Scandal, season two is just as event-riddled as its predecessor, as the colonies start pushing for independence and it questions “do we really need a royal family?”
The war has been done for over ten years and the royals are stuck in the past. It’s a new world but “the monarchy continues its pre-war routines like nothing has happened” says Lord Altrincham (John Heffernan), a man who became a fast favourite of mine. Simply the idea of criticising the establishment in the way he did would not have been tolerated before the war: big, bold, on television and in his own written publication. Also, a journalist on Philip’s tour in 1956 was shouted at (by Philip) for doing her job. She was asking questions, and says: “I think people have a right to know about their leaders, especially ones who can’t be thrown out with free and fair elections”.
I enjoyed the Suez Crisis arc in Misadventure which seeped into A Company of Men. Those who were around at the time will know their history better than me but the way Peter Morgan wrote this episode was with decorum and grace, showing both points of view; he showed the way the colonials viewed the monarchy and how the the UK viewed its territories. More so in the season premiere, it is perceived that Britain viewed colonies like Egypt as economic ventures. PM Anthony Eden (Jeremy Northam) makes a comment about the illegality of the locals’ uprising in Egypt. Then sends troops into Egypt without the UN’s permission. I’ll never tire of hypocritical politicians!
It’s no secret that Philip (Mountbatten) is Greek. His sisters were married to Nazis, “prominent Nazis” comments Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) in season one. However, in Britain’s long monarchical history, the government has always had issues with foreign royals ruling this country. Look no further than Prince Albert being married to Queen Victoria. Moreover, It is noted in this series that the Mountbattens were on a first-name basis with Hitler (before the war). With the Marburg Files revelation in Vergangenheit, it depicted events within the family as “need to know”. This was a great episode; it showed they’re as guilty as politicians when it comes to cover-ups.
The Queen (Claire Foy) is surrounded by people who don’t know what they’re doing. They’re either too old with their heads still in the Edwardian era or they’re sticklers for tradition and can’t see the world changing. Such characters include the slippery, ex-private secretary, (but still consulted) Tommy Lascelles (Pip Torrens) and her private secretary Michael Adeane (Will Keen). Why she did not go with the progressive Martin Charteris (Harry Hadden-Paton) is beyond me! However, the aura of change in the palace is given life through Philip but more so Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) who finds controversy wherever she goes. Enter, Tony Armstrong-Jones (Matthew Goode).
Margaret is the 1960s embodied: sexual freedom, counterculture (kind of) and individualism. She’s her own person with her own thoughts and ideas. Then she marries photographer Tony Armstrong-Jones (Matt Goode). Her scenes with him, are, well, good. Her scenes with Elizabeth continue to wow. She’s set on marrying this photographer in Westminster Abbey as revenge for Peter. It really doesn’t help that Elizabeth is also competing with Jackie Kennedy (Jodi Balfour). Elizabeth is The Queen but she is constantly being outdone by her sister, and Jackie (Dear Mrs Kennedy). Mainly because she’s being a pre-war monarch that won’t adapt to the new world, no thanks to Adeane!
From the flashbacks of Philip’s childhood (soul-destroying) in Paterfamilias to scandal in Marionettes to acting to score to soundtrack to photography, season two eclipses season one. However, this is Matt Smith’s season and his stint as Philip is a rival to Foy for sure. The Crown is an unrivalled modern masterpiece (of the teenies), and in terms of long-form television (this decade), there is nothing better.