The marriage of writer Peter Morgan’s canny empathy with the Windsors and Netflix’s bottomless coffers created a sensation in 2016 and series two more than lives up to the drama’s acclaimed original run. From palatial backdrops to cracking dialogue and a persistent air of tragedy, The Crown 2.0 has more – much more – of everything fans loved about the first season.
Once again the fault line running through the story is the relationship between the starchy, self-contained Elizabeth (Claire Foy) and an increasingly caddish Philip (Matt Smith). Fed up playing second fiddle to his wife , Philip sets off on an overseas trip where he may or may have have participate in adulterous japery (his unfaithfulness is all but spelt out, yet The Crown, demure occasionally to a fault, can’t quite bring itself to show us the thinkable).
Equally miserable is the society icon / world’s loneliest woman Prince Margaret (Vanessa Kirby). Forbidden from marrying her true lover, Captain Townsend, she falls for slithering society snapper Anthony Armstrong-Jones (aka Lord Snowdon) – though it’s clear from early on that he regards her as a conquest to be crushed not a soulmate to be nurtured.
Against these personal shenanigans unfold great historical events – the Suez Crisis, the launch of Sputnik, the election of President Kennedy and, finally, the Profumo Affair. There are modern resonances , too, particularly in the episode in which an uppity magazine editor attacks the Queen as boring and out of touch.
The Common Market, he tells his reporters, has just come into existence and it is time for Britain to decide whether it is “in our out”. Sixty years later, writer Morgan appears to be saying, Elizabeth remains on the throne and the UK still can’t quite make up its mind about Europe.