The seven-year itch hits Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, and her marriage in the second season of The Crown. That and other intriguing dramas, both political and personal, are hinted at the official trailer just released by Netflix in advance of the Dec. 8 release of its 10-episode season 2.
The new season, which will cover the tumultuous years from 1956 to 1964 will see the sun finally set on the British Empire as colony after colony become independent, often cutting their formal allegiances to the Crown. Britain can do little to stop them—the nation has never recovered from the financially ruinous Second World War, and, as the Suez Crisis shows, cannot afford to back up its ambitions with action.
Queen Elizabeth under attack
The political intrigue is only hinted at in the official trailer. Instead, most of it is devoted to the turbulent personal lives of Queen Elizabeth II and her younger sister, Princess Margaret. Whereas Elizabeth was the bright shining light as she inherited the throne as a young woman, now she’s slowly, inexorably becoming an old-fashioned, even fusty monarch seen as someone who shuns change. Her royal household, inherited from her father and grandfather, has changed little in generations.
In 1957, John Grigg, 2nd Baron Altricham, gave voice to the condescending criticism often muttered quietly among the upper classes. He publicly attacked the Queen. “Like her mother, she appears to be unable to string even a few sentences together without a written text,” he wrote. “The personality conveyed by the utterances which are put into her mouth is that of a priggish schoolgirl, captain of the hockey team, a prefect, and a recent candidate for Confirmation.” Grigg’s essay was denounced as that of a cad, but privately, many agreed with him (among them, reportedly, Prince Philip.)
Her Majesty is left to ponder how to change without seeming to change, how to modernize without throwing out beloved traditions, how to be relevant while living a rarefied live few get to see, much less experience.
Queen Elizabeth’s marital angst
The mid 1950s were also marked by personal turmoil for the Queen. While she focused on her duties as monarch, her hard-driving husband was at sixes and sevens, unsure of his place in royal palaces as well as British society. Though foreign tabloids were full of rumours that he was unfaithful, the British press was largely silent. From mid 1956 until early the next year, Philip was gone from Britain, travelling nearly 40,000 miles through New Zealand, Antarctica and even the Falklands on the new Royal Yacht Britannia. Those 110 days at sea spawned unceasing rumours about Philip’s infidelities that the press secretary, Commander Colville, issued a denial: “It is quite untrue that there is any rift between the Queen and the Duke.” Soon, the British papers were awash with rumours and stories of their own, though that’s how they have remained for nearly 70 years: unconfirmed rumours. (Regardless of how The Crown portrays the drama.)
Princess Margaret steals her sister’s thunder
While Elizabeth and Philip are mired in contretemps, the limelight shifts to vivacious Princess Margaret, who plunges into a risque artistic social set unafraid to break rules and customs. She may exhibit no artistic talents of her own (though she was a good singer and pianist) but still, even with some of the leading lights of London, Margaret, being Margaret, is determined that everyone acknowledges her top spot as princess.
Soon, she falls for the dashing, controversial Antony Armstrong-Jones, who is as headstrong and willful as Margaret. The relationship follows Icarus’s trajectory and ends falling to earth with a thud. But that’s for another season, when the royals are older, and hopefully wiser.