In what promises to be the best series of The Crown yet Olivia Colman makes her debut as the Queen. With sibling rivalry, Miners strikes and the Jubilee celebrations it is set to be unmissable.
Election day and Elizabeth’s first Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, wins. After hearing rumours that Wilson is a Russian spy, Elizabeth finds herself unsettled by her first audience with this unfamiliar breed of politician. Magnifying the sense of the passing of an era is Winston Churchill’s death, Elizabeth’s first Prime Minister as Queen. At his state funeral, Elizabeth’s suspicions about Wilson grow as she sees him talking to the Russian delegation. Meanwhile, the Head of MI5, Martin Furnival-Jones, receives intelligence about a senior KGB mole. In an audience with Elizabeth he tells her that there is indeed a Russian spy at the heart of the British Establishment. Elizabeth is shocked however to discover that itis not Wilson, but Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, Sir Anthony Blunt. When Furnival-Jones argues that to expose the truth risks damaging the intelligence service’s reputation, Elizabeth feels compelled, reluctantly, to agree to a cover up.
As Tony and Margaret depart on a tour of America, they vow to be kinder to one another. Meanwhile the ‘special relationship’ is at an all-time low, prompting Wilson to ask Elizabeth for her help. Royal invitations are extended to the White House but ignored. Finally, in a risky move Elizabeth sends Margaret and Tony to Washington on a mission to “make nice” with Lyndon B. Johnson. To everyone’s surprise, and great relief, Margaret enchants LBJ and secures a bailout for the UK. On her return, Margaret admits to Elizabeth that having a purpose, deputising for the Crown, might be the thing that she needs to survive. Elizabeth is sympathetic to Margaret’s plea, until Philip impresses upon her that there are some family members who are too dangerous to be given power. Elizabeth is forced to accept that, once again, she cannot help her sister.
A colliery tip collapses in the Welsh town of Aberfan burying a primary school, killing 116 children and 28 adults. Despite the swift visits of other members of the Royal Family, Elizabeth decides that her presence would detract from the rescue efforts, underneath however she fears she lacks empathy. Meanwhile, members of Wilson’s cabinet determine to deflect attention from the cause of the disaster, the failings of the National Coal Board, by shifting focus to Elizabeth’s absence. Finally, eight days after the disaster and under political pressure, Elizabeth visits Aberfan and appears to be moved by the experience, dabbing her eye with a handkerchief. Later, she admits to Wilson that her eyes were dry. Wilson replies that it does not matter -her presence in Aberfan was all that was necessary -she does not have to reveal her true self to be a good monarch to her people.
When Sister Alice, the Queen’s mother-in-law, is rescued from a convent in militarised Athens, and brought to live in Buckingham Palace, Philip struggles with a deep-seated resentment towards her for his unorthodox childhood. In an ill-judged attempt to make amends for his imprudent remarks on the government’s Civil List allowance, Philip spearheads the filming of ‘The Royal Family’ documentary. The awkward result is a far cry from the portrayal of normal, hard-working people he had hoped to depict so Philip requests that Anne, as the most unpretentious Royal, give an interview to the press. Anne, however, has other ideas and engineers that Princess Alice be interviewed instead. What results is a most unforeseen love letter to a royal who has suffered more, worked harder and produced more good than anyone might expect. Humbled by her suffering, Philip at last makes peace with his mother and lets go of his past.
Upon the devaluation of the pound, Cecil King, Director of the Bank of England, approaches Mountbatten to lead a military coup against Wilson’s government. Having recently been ousted as Chief of Defence Staff Mountbatten lacks a sense of purpose and after great thought, eventually agrees. Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Porchey visit international horse breeders where she gets a glimpse of the life she could have led, were she free to pursue her passions. When Wilson discovers King’s plot he informs the Queen and retaliates with a scheme that could take the city down in flames. Forced to return and with the proposed coup thwarted, Elizabeth instructs Mountbatten that he must accept the constraints of his retirement and try to be the best mentor he can to Charles. A happy reunion with Philip reminds Elizabeth that, although this may not be the life she would have chosen, it still has many blessings.
- TYWYSOG CYMRU/ (PRINCE OF WALES)
Wilson and Elizabeth send Charles to learn Welsh at Aberystwyth University for a term in order to mollify mounting Welsh nationalism. Whilst there, Charles struggles to grasp the true meaning of his title under the tutelage of Edward Millward, a prominent Welsh nationalist who hopes to instil the importance of the Welsh language and identity in his royal pupil. After a fractious start, Charles embraces Millward’s instruction and learns that he has more in common with the Welsh than he had imagined. Without the knowledge of his parents, he alters part of his speech to reflect his own feelings and asks Milward to translate it. Charles’ speech is a great success, but Elizabeth is angry that he broke protocol and embarrassed the family with his pointed words. They part on unfriendly terms and Charles returns to Cambridge, knowing that his family have no interest in him expressing who he truly is.
Beginning to age and bored by a series of dull engagements, Philip ponders the life unlived, and what he might have accomplished had circumstances been different. Tired of the archaic lectures by the aged clergymen of the Chapel at Windsor, Philip is inspired and invigorated by the Apollo 11 space mission to the moon: the astronauts are real heroes, triumphant through action, not sermon. He longs for adventure, and searching for an elusive fulfilment, begins to act recklessly. When the astronauts visit the Palace, Philip’s excitement swiftly turns to disappointment upon discovering that they are simply talented engineers, who only hoped to complete the job they had been assigned and return home safely. It is only with the persistent encouragement of an inspirational new Dean of Windsor, Robin Woods, that Philip learns that real bravery doesn’t always lie in attempting the extraordinary, but in asking ourselves the most difficult questions.
- DANGLING MAN
In Paris The Duke of Windsor is dying, but hopes that through Prince Charles’ visit his legacy will live on. Back in England, Charles, encouraged by Mountbatten to ‘sow his oats’, begins an unexpectedly intense relationship with Camilla Shand, while her erstwhile boyfriend, Andrew Parker Bowles, pursues a fling with Princess Anne. Meanwhile, Elizabeth visits France to reluctantly help secure Britain’s entry to the EEC on behalf of her new prime minister, Edward Heath. There she visits the Duke of Windsor and in a poignant meeting the Duke finally apologises, prompting a tentative reconciliation. The Duke also reveals that Charles and he have been writing to each other and that Charles is in love. He implores Elizabeth to read Charles’ letters, since they concern the future of the Crown. Elizabeth must not let history repeat itself. At last, David passes away, with Wallis, his great love, at his side.
At the Duke of Windsor’s funeral Wallis Simpson offers Charles some advice: never turn your back on true love; and watch out for your family. With this in mind Charles tells Mountbatten that he intends to propose to Camilla. Alarmed by Charles’ plans to marry an ‘unsuitable’ woman, Mountbatten enlists the Queen Mother’s help. Alert to the dangers of denying an heir to the throne his choice of bride the Queen is initially furious at their meddling, but when Princess Anne reveals that she believes Camilla is still in love with Andrew Parker Bowles, Elizabeth assents to the separation of the young couple. Mountbatten breaks the news to a heartbroken Charles whose sense of betrayal seems only to prove Wallis right. While Charles is posted to the Caribbean, Camilla marries Andrew Parker Bowles. Meanwhile, blackouts wreak havoc across the country as Heath fails to strike a deal with the miners.
- CRI DE COEUR
Wilson returns to power, but Elizabeth worries about his health. Meanwhile Margaret tells the family that she cannot tolerate Tony’s public betrayal with girlfriend Lucy Lindsay-Hogg and demands they deny him royal privileges. To her disgust the Royal Family praise Tony once again. At a weekend house party Margaret begins an affair with younger lover Roddy Llewellyn. The couple are photographed in Mustique causing uproar back home. On her return a humiliated Margaret is confronted by Tony; divorce is now inevitable. Coming to terms with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, Wilson resigns. As a coda to their friendship, Elizabeth requests to dine at Downing Street, a privilege previously only given to Churchill. As Margaret recovers from an overdose Elizabeth tells her sister that she is one of the most important people in her life. In turn Margaret encourages Elizabeth to embrace her Jubilee celebrations, despite the Royal Family’s instability and increasing unpopularity.
Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II
Tobias Menzies as Prince Phillip
Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret
Ben Daniels as Tony Armstrong-Jones
Jason Watkins as Harold Wilson
Erin Doherty as Young Princess Anne
Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles
Marion Bailey as The Queen Mother
The Crown Season 3 streams on Netflix from Sunday 17th November 2019