The Crown returned to Netflix last month with its second season, which continues to follow the intimate lives of Queen Elizabeth II and her immediate family. The first season focused primarily on Elizabeth and her childhood as well as the death of her father. This season, however, focuses on her sister Margaret and Prince Philip more than Elizabeth herself which makes for an interesting set of episodes.
The first episode of the season, “Misadventure” was a controversial start as it revolves around the rumours that Philip had an affair in 1957. The subsequent episodes follow this up by presenting Philip, played by Matt Smith, as a red-blooded “man’s man” with this overbearing masculinity being evident in the subsequent episode’s title: “A Company of Men”. Philip’s activities onboard the Royal Yacht Britannia come under scrutiny when his right-hand man, Mike Parker, is found to be having an affair after his wife began divorce proceedings. This episode, as well as bringing Philip’s character into question, was insightful as it reminds us how hard it was for women to get a divorce at the time, even when their husbands were having an affair.
The other episodes focus on the political troubles in 1957, principally the loss of control over the Suez Canal. Jeremy Northam gives a convincing performance as Prime Minister Anthony Eden and the political hurdles that he faced. This season also manages to show us the amount of power that Elizabeth had and how independent her decisions were as she constantly clashes with the high-status political figures in the patriarchal society.
Another revealing episode was “Beryl” which saw Princess Margaret decide against releasing a traditional Birthday Portrait to be published in the newspapers, instead choosing a more risqué photograph. Whilst this episode highlights the old-fashioned approach that the monarchy had at the time, it also presented Margaret as someone who was critical of the Crown.
The episode “Marionettes” features the character Lord Altrincham, who writes an article that is critical of the way that royalty communicates with their subjects. At the end of this episode, we are reminded that simple things, such as the Queen’s speech being televised, was an improvement suggested by Lord Altrincham. In the penultimate episode, “Paterfamilias” we see a cruel side to Philip when he forces his son to go to his old school in Scotland rather than Eton, adding to the already rather damning portrait of the allegedly adulterous Prince.
Overall, this is well worth watching if you know a lot about the royal family or, for that matter, if you know very little. The cast portrays the monarchy and the other characters well, and the plot is constantly intriguing and exciting. I highly recommend this season of The Crown; it builds nicely upon season one and has some thoroughly interesting and thought-provoking messages.