Royals face the Swingin’ 60s in ‘The Crown’
Time jumps ahead to the Swingin’ 60s for the British royal family as “The Crown” returns for Season 3 with the principal characters – and by extension, a new cast – now in middle age.
Kicking off Sunday, Nov. 17, on Netflix, the 10-episode season covers the years 1964-77 and finds Britain in the midst of change as Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman, “Fleabag,” taking over for Claire Foy) and the royals adapt to an era of Cold War paranoia, more liberal social mores and turbulence, as exemplified by the government’s move left with the election of the Labour Party’s Harold Wilson (Jason Watkins, “A Very English Scandal”) as prime minister.
Her husband, Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies, “Outlander,” succeeding Matt Smith), remains staunchly by her side, even as he’s frustrated by the mundanity of his role. Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter, “The King’s Speech,” taking over for Vanessa Kirby), too, is frustrated – in her case, by the long shadow cast by her powerful sister – as her marriage to Tony Armstrong Jones (Ben Daniels, “Flesh and Bone,” succeeding Matthew Goode) crumbles. And shy, sensitive Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor, “God’s Own Country”) must choose between love and duty as he embarks on a relationship with Camilla Shand (Emerald Fennell, “Killing Eve”) – about which his mother is not amused.
“The Queen wants to protect him but also needs him to know he’s going to be next,” Colman explains. “There’s some friction as well, as there would be. Show me a mother and young adult who are fine with everything. Some of his decisions are quite difficult for her and vice versa.”
Also experiencing friction with the Queen is Margaret. The two sisters are polar opposites – Margaret, free-spirited and fun-loving but also unreliable; and Elizabeth, a leader whose stolid, reserved demeanor is sometimes mistaken for a lack of empathy. At times their sibling rivalry can be amusing, as was the case in one episode where Margaret scores a diplomatic victory with a foreign dignitary, much to Elizabeth’s obvious envy.
“Having spoken to Margaret’s friends,” Bonham Carter explains, “it seems she profoundly loved her sister and they regretted losing that closeness. There’s a great scene this series where you’ll see just how important they are to each other but prior to that, there’s a lot of rivalry. There’s an ambivalence, which is quite realistic with siblings, and it’s exacerbated by the fact that one becomes Queen and has a happy marriage and the other slowly disintegrates.”
Bonham Carter, in fact, sees similarities between Colman and Elizabeth.
“The very first scene Olivia and I had to do,” she explains, “was where I tell about the disasters of Aberfan (a Wales coal mine disaster that killed 144 in 1966). Olivia really can’t not have empathy, so in order not to sob, she had to listen to the shipping news. She’s very available but also very unaffected, which is what I think the Queen is like, too. Olivia is very down to earth and has a real social responsibility so I think she’d make a really good Queen actually. There’s a lack of self-importance about both of them.”