No spoilers here, I promise, but The Crown has brilliantly transformed the history of the most powerful monarchy in the world into entertainment. The Netflix original released its second season in December with promises of heightened drama surrounding the Royal Family from the beginning of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign in 1953 until now. In addition to the elegant costumes and stunning filmography, the show accurately depicts historical figures and events within the walls of the Buckingham Palace; education through entertainment, if you will.
When watching the show, I often forgot that the characters and scandals were not fictional. The real Queen Elizabeth II actually faced the political and marital obstacles dramatized in the series, which makes The Crown that much more compelling. It makes me wonder if Her Majesty approves of this exploitation of her early personal life or finds it to be an inaccurate representation.
One of the most salient themes throughout the show is the unhappiness associated with being a member of the Royal Family. It is revealed that Queen Elizabeth II, portrayed by Claire Foy, dreaded being forced into her coronation after the sudden death of her father, King George VI. Foy is a master of subtle emoting. She expresses constant sadness in her eyes at just the right intensity in the scenes where The Queen’s royal status is emphasized, drawing a tight connection between royalty and sorrow. It is evident from the beginning of season one that the Royal Family resents being gifted with the divine rights of the monarchy.
Unsurprisingly, the most dramatized aspect of the Royal Family’s history is the lust and love between the characters. Season two starts off with the prospect of Prince Philip’s infidelity. The marriage between The Queen and Prince Philip has been illustrated as tainted since season 1 when Philip throws a tantrum about bowing down to his wife at her coronation. He is constantly brushing her off and upset about walking behind her wherever they go. In season two, he is sent off on a six-month tour and rumors of a love affair bubble to the surface, thrusting a wedge in his marriage to The Queen. Their relationship remains tense throughout the show, with glimpses of true affection for each other. Again, the sadness and inauthenticity that lie on the throne are unexpected, yet enthralling. Not all that glitters is gold, I guess.
Princess Margaret, The Queen’s sister, has quite the rebellious and atypical personality for a member of the Royal Family. To me, she is the most fascinating character because she has been screwed over by the rules of the monarchy more than anyone, especially when it comes to her love life. She knows she will never be the sovereign, so she is always bitter about abiding to the societal expectations of a princess. She gets drunk until the late morning hours, sleeps until noon every day, and is unapologetic about expressing her sexuality – quite the opposite from her sister.
In season one, Margaret falls in love with a man she knows she cannot marry, yet requests permission to do so from The Queen anyway, only to be swiftly disregarded. Her heart breaks man after man and she spirals into her own inescapable hell, all because of the rules of her role. However, she clearly enjoys her title, privileges, and rank far more than her sister. She is defiant, yet a prisoner of the throne who indulges in the palace parties. Her romantic status is jolted in season two when she meets a photographer and eventually marries him but is blind to his secret, active sex life outside of their relationship. Princess Margaret demands our sympathy and is the perfect tool for entertainment.
Season three is sure to deliver just as much drama as the first two seasons. It will take place two decades after the end of season two, so the cast will be completely different in order to accurately represent the aging of the characters. Rumor has it that Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange, anyone?) will be playing Princess Margaret. If that’s not enough to draw you in, I don’t know what is.