The Crown returns to Netflix for its second season this month, which incidentally, also serves as Claire Foy and Matt Smith's final turn as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Season 3 will start up again after a time jump with Olivia Colman taking over for Foy as the Queen enters the next phase of her life. Meanwhile, Season 2 covers her reign from around 1956 to 1963. But how accurate is The Crown Season 2? Its bookends are rooted in historical events, and several real life figures will enter this season, too.
The season begins with the Suez Crisis of 1956, during which Israel, followed by the United Kingdom and France, invaded Egypt to regain Western control of the Suez Canal and unseat Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. The three nations eventually withdrew, after pressure from the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Nations, leaving the United Kingdom and France humiliated and Nasser in power. British Prime Minister Anthony Eden (played in Season 2 by Jeremy Northam) was eventually forced to resign over the matter. He's succeeded by Harold Macmillan (played by Anton Lesser), who is credited with rebuilding Great Britain's relationship with the United States following the crisis and with decolonizing sub-Saharan Africa, but who also resigned in disgrace following the Profumo affair, which ends the season in 1963.
The Profumo affair involved a sexual relationship between John Profumo, Macmillan's Secretary of State for War, and a 19-year-old aspiring model named Christine Keeler. She was 27 years Profumo's junior and also reportedly romantically linked to Captain Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet naval attaché, which posed a possible security risk. Profumo eventually resigned and the scandal was credited with contributing to the Conservative Party's defeat in the 1964 general election.
Other real-life cultural events which inspired The Crown during Season 2 were the British obsession with the Kennedys, the moment Queen Elizabeth was informed that Russia had successfully launched Sputnik, and, of course, Princess Margaret's continued romantic endeavors following her tragic, Crown-commanded breakup with Peter Townsend.
As The Hollywood Reporter notes in its review of Season 2, Claire Foy's diminished role this season mirrors the British crown's waning political power amidst government scandal and ever-shifting global politics:
The opening season could focus on a young woman coming of age in a position of unimaginable visibility when all she wanted was to be a wife and mother, but the new season positions her in the middle of a tumultuous historical moment in which her active participation was less easy to see...If the first season was a superhero origin story, the second season is Elizabeth testing the limits of her powers...
As for Prince Philip's rumored (but never proven) infidelity, the show nods to it by depicting Philip with a "wandering eye," as opposed to writing in an as-of-yet unsubstantiated full-blown affair. This season also cover Princess Margaret's introduction to and subsequent relationship with photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones, the first Earl of Snowdon. Vanessa Kirby, who plays Margaret, told Variety of her character's romantic evolution this season:
It’s more about how Margaret is wrestling with remaining part of her family and not having a choice of the way she wants to live her life — the man and the children she would have had. She’s attempting to define herself in contrary to it. That’s why she finds someone very distinctly unroyal, that’s not approved by the establishment, that’s not aristocratic. She finds her salvation in [Snowdon], who is the antithesis of her life and past.
While she and Armstrong-Jones eventually got married, supposedly sparing her from marrying a divorcé in Townsend, their relationship ended in a scandalous divorce of its own. As you can see, the series sort of puts Queen Elizabeth's storyline on the back-burner for Season 2, but that also reflects her role and her personal life during the time period.
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