Come November, Britain’s favorite royal family—as fictionalized in Netflix’s award-winning television biopic “The Crown”—will return to viewers’ screens after a two-year absence.
Season three, focusing on the tumultuous period of 1964 to 1977, features a new cast led by Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies. Colman, newly minted Oscar laureate for her turn as the unstable Queen Anne in last year’s The Favourite, steps in for Claire Foy, who portrayed Elizabeth II in the series’ first two seasons. Menzies, perhaps best known for playing Edmure Tully in “Game of Thrones,” will replace Matt Smith as Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip.
Additional new cast members include Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth’s younger sister Margaret, Josh O’Connor as heir apparent Prince Charles, Emerald Fennell as Camilla Shand (soon-to-be Camilla Parker-Bowles), and Charles Dance (also of “Game of Thrones” fame) as Philip’s uncle Lord Mountbatten.
A trailer released ahead of the show’s November 17 launch finds England’s queen celebrating 25 years on the throne—a milestone dubbed the Silver Jubilee. But Colman’s Elizabeth finds little comfort in the pomp and ceremony, instead reflecting, “On days like today, ask yourself: In the time I’ve been on the throne, what have I actually achieved?” The answer, the two-minute clip suggests, is more complex than one might assume.
The season looks to chronicle such trying events as the election of anti-monarchist Prime Minister Harold Wilson; the unmasking of royal art adviser Anthony Blunt as a Soviet spy; and the 1966 Aberfan disaster, which buried a school in coal waste and killed 144 people, including 116 children. Other topics of interest include the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, the British Empire’s decolonization efforts in Africa and the Caribbean, and the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Whereas seasons one and two—covering the periods of 1947 to 1955 and 1956 to 1963, respectively—focused largely on Elizabeth and Philip’s relationship, seasons three and four will shift focus to the younger generation, with Charles’ burgeoning feelings for Camilla taking center stage.
Interestingly, showrunner Peter Morgan tells Entertainment Weekly, common perceptions of Charles and Camilla’s relationship contradict the actual timeline of events: “People always assume Charles cheated on Diana with Camilla,” Morgan says, “[but] it’s absolutely the wrong way round. He was deeply in love with Camilla and forced to marry Diana.” (Diana, set to be played by Emma Corrin, will not appear until season four, as the future royal couple only met in November 1977.)
The trailer’s closing lines offer an apt summary of the show’s underlying message: As Elizabeth concludes, “We have all made sacrifices and suppressed who we are. It is not a choice. It is a duty.”