Do we think it's a coincidence that the IRL royal family dropped some pretty big news just a week or so before season 2 of The Crown dropped on Netflix? I won't pretend to know. All I can tell you is that the world has never been more ready to step back into Buckingham Palace. Claire Foy and Matt Smith return to our screens as strained and complicated lovers in the midst of a monarchy that's struggling to maintain its relevance, and season 2 wastes no time in getting to the drama and gossip that's kept us guessing since the show first debuted in 2016.
In the spirit of not wasting time, let's dive right in. Get ready for a history lesson — and a whole lot of corgis.
Episode 1: Misadventure
Episode 1 wastes no time getting to the big questions of the series. In fact, our first glimpse at the royal couple occurs five months in the future, when both Queen Elizabeth (Claire Foy) and her sulking teenager of a husband, Prince Philip (Matt Smith), are approaching Setubal Harbour in Lisbon. As the ship nears closer to the dock, the tittering of the press laps over one another like the waves of the rough ocean, or, if you will, the swooping layers of Matt Smith’s hair. What’s going on with Philip? Is the royal marriage doing any better? Will the queen address rumors of his infidelity? No, no, and no.
Cut to: the inside of the ship, where Elizabeth has just gotten off the phone with the press secretary. The steps they’ve been taking haven’t worked, apparently, and the rumors of their instability and Philip’s womanizing haven’t gone away. She asks him frankly: What will it take for him to be happy?
Because, five months earlier, everything seemed fine. Just as soon as the scene on the boat begins, we’re whipped back to the past, in Buckingham Palace just before Philip embarks on a five-month tour in lieu of the Queen herself. You’ll remember that in the scene we just saw, he described this as “being sent away,” but back when things were happy between the couple — when they spent their days flirting and stealing kisses before diplomatic events — he seemed pleased as punch to be jetting off on such a royal journey.
While things may be happy in their marriage, the same can’t be said for Britain. Over at the Suez Canal, the Egyptians are growing restless. In the words of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the president of Egypt at the time, the Suez Canal rightfully belongs to his country, but is currently in the hands of the British and French, whom he refers to as colonial oppressors. In the midst of a speech given to his citizens, he mentions the name Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French diplomat and developer of the canal in 1869, and also the code word for Nasser’s men to overtake the Port, bringing the canal firmly into the hands of Egypt.
Sir Antony Eden, the Prime Minister, learns of this uprising in the middle of a speech of his own. In address to students at his old school, Eton (an independent boarding school for boys in England that is just as posh as it sounds), he clearly lays out another theme of The Crown’s second season: change. He’s against it. He says citizens have expressed the desire to diversify their leaders, rather than having them all come from elite boarding schools and other upper-class institutions. But according to Eden, there’s nothing wrong with that. He says they all have a “shared language” that makes them good leaders, but before he’s allowed to spout off any more classist nonsense, he’s interrupted by officials, and makes a quick exit to deal with the situation in Egypt.
As for Elizabeth, well, you knew from the trailers that this honeymoon period with Philip couldn’t last long. As she sneaks a present into his briefcase before his trip, she finds a picture of another woman in one of the pockets. She’s a ballerina, but before Elizabeth can learn more, she meets with the Prime Minister to get briefed on the Suez Canal. According to Eden, the best course of action is to pay off the British and French pilots, leaving the Egyptians ill-equipped to maneuver the canal, essentially paralyzing it until Nasser comes crawling back. Philip, who already heard the news at Lunch Club, later tells his wife that it’s a gamble, but Elizabeth isn’t interested in what he has to say, thanks to the aforementioned picture she discovered in his bag. Much to Philip’s perplexion, she cuts their dinner short and retires to their room.
The next day, they’re saying their goodbyes on the plane. Mike Parker, Prince Philip’s secretary and overall bad influence, bids farewell to his (rightfully) pissed-off wife, who knows neither she nor their children will hear from him for the next five months. As for Philip, his goodbye with Elizabeth is perfunctory, and he doesn’t understand why until opens his suitcase, where he finds the gift, and also a note. It reads, “Always remember you have a family.” The jig is up.
The situation in Egypt is going just as off-course. Nasser brought in Russian mariners to train the Egyptian pilots, and it looks like the Canal won’t be in shambles after all. As a result, Eden decides war is the only answer — both to the Suez Canal issue, and the fact that he feels like he’s still in Winston Churchill’s shadow. However, he can’t go to war without UN approval, and some members of cabinet — mainly the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs — feel that Eden’s motives are personal, rather than political.
But I can’t get too upset because Margaret! Is! Back! She’s my favorite character from season 1 and therefore can do nothing wrong in my eyes, nor in this recap. She’s still drunk when Elizabeth calls her to meet for lunch, and after she manages to drag herself out of bed, she gives Elizabeth all the tea (this metaphor works great here because, well, England) on Mike’s reputation, and her unabashed opinion of Elizabeth and Philip’s relationship. She fears Mike will bring the Queen’s husband down the wrong path, and judging by the fact that the couple hasn’t spoken since Philip embarked, it looks like he may already have.
Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs has sought out the advice Lord Mountbatten, Philip’s uncle. He relays his concerns, which Mountbatten relays to the Queen. Mountbatten also gives some relationship advice after he realizes that Philip and Elizabeth haven’t spoken. Mountbatten himself is in an unhappy marriage, and he warns that trying to tame these wild spirits is no use. It’s better to put up with it, because the alternative is worse.
That being said, Elizabeth certainly isn’t doing anything to soothe her worries. In fact, she’s headed to the Royal Ballet to see the woman in the picture, who it’s revealed is ballerina Galina Ulanova, in action. Ulanova spots the Queen during her performance, and while Elizabeth is enough of a masochist to watch her show, she stops short of accepting an invitation to meet her. Probably for the best.
Besides, she has to focus on this Suez Canal situation. While looking over top-secret notes, she discovers that Eden has been colluding with Israel. In an agreement that Eden later admits to, Israel attacked Egypt as an excuse for Britain to offer to come in and “keep the peace.” If Nasser doesn’t agree to those terms by the deadline (which happens to be the next morning), then England has no choice but to enter a war. And of course, Egypt won’t agree, and airstrikes are already planned for the next day. Wary of the fact that Eden tried to lie to her, the Queen still offers her support, but it’s safe to say this isn’t the last of her issues with the Prime Minister.
The next morning, airstrikes begin, but it’s nothing compared to the turmoil in Elizabeth’s head. Later that night, she can’t sleep, and shuts the door the Philip’s quarters — but don’t be fooled. This story is just getting started.
Episode 2: A Company Of Men
Philip’s voyage is fully underway, and already I smell trouble. As the crew travels to places like Mombasa and New Guinea, things are seeming less royal and a little more...bachelor. While Philip is careful to rebuke the advances of local women, Mike has no problem indulging in infidelity — and relaying their adventures back to the men of their lunch club via snail mail.
Back in dreary in England, spirits are not as high. In fact, the citizens are downright livid about the war on the Suez Canal, which, despite Prime Minister Eden’s assurances, is not going well. He ended up declaring a ceasefire and ordering troops to retreat. Not only did they not win back the Suez, they damaged both Britain’s economy and energy, resulting in, as Mountbatten describes, the worst week for the country since 1939.
This bleak update is interrupted by what should have been good news: a call from Philip. However, as soon as the Queen gets on the line, their connection is lost. She can hear Philip, but he can’t hear her, and that’s what we English majors call a metaphor, baby!
Things have taken a turn for Philip as well, who announces to the men of the ship that he must leave the debauchery of their voyage to pop over to Melbourne and open the Olympics. However, the see is his one true love, and he tells them he can’t wait to return. However, he is still in good spirits, and I can’t help but think back to the very first scene of the season. He was so bitter, so morose! I can’t help but wonder what’s ahead that will ruin this good mood.
Perhaps it’s Helen King, a reporter who documents all his stops in Australia for The Age. The two have been making googly eyes at each other during the entire trip, so when she asks to meet the Prince for an interview, he of course says yes. Little does he know, however, that she’s not there to flirt. She has hard-hitting questions about his childhood, his mother’s mental health, and his sisters’ Nazi ties. This dredges up some traumatic memories for Philip, who ends up storming out of the interview.
Mrs. Parker has also had enough — of her husband, Mike. She has gone to a lawyer in pursuit of a divorce, but he tells her that she needs proof of adultery, unreasonable behavior, or insanity to have grounds for filing. While she’s certain there’s been adultery, she doesn’t have proof, but sets out determined to find it.
So, as the Queen chats with Prime Minister Eden about how he’s taking time off to go to Jamaica (“for his health”), Mrs. Parker waits outside of the lunch club her husband and Philip so often frequent in search of someone, anyone, who can make the divorce “easier” for her. That’s how she explains it to a waitress at the club, who at first says she knows nothing about Mike, but later calls Mrs. Parker with information. She tells Mrs. Parker and her lawyer that she met up with Mike a number of times, but was never told he had a wife or children. However, this information is only useful if she gives an official statement, which she refuses to do because she’d lose her job.
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as secrets when it comes to the royal family. Sir Martin Charteris and Sir Michael Adeane have gotten wind of Mrs. Parker’s movements and motives, and the fact that a waitress confessed to a tryst. If Mrs. Parker successfully files for a divorce and Mike’s adultery becomes common knowledge, then the press and public will likely suspect that anything Mike has done, Philip has done as well. It would jeopardize both his marriage with Elizabeth and the monarchy.
Meanwhile, blissfully unaware of the drama unfolding at home, Philip and Mike have a new kind of adventure ahead: a rescue mission. They pick up the only surviving man aboard a wrecked and stranded fishing boat, who is suffering from a broken rib and possibly a punctured lung. Once he is healed by the doctor on board, Philip insists they take him back to Tonga where his family is from, much to the displeasure of the ship’s Flag Officer. There, the English men are welcomed with open arms. Upon returning the fallen sailor, they indulge in a night of celebration and, in Mike’s case, adultery, that he once again relays back to his lunch club — only this time, the waitress who has been in contact with Eileen snags the letter. Boom: proof.
But before that shoe can drop, it’s Christmas time! This year, at the urging of Martin and Michael, who are likely doing damage control ahead of Mike’s impending divorce, Philip will be giving his own Christmas speech back-to-back with the Queen’s in order to convey that “all is still well.” In his own words, he tells the people of England — but, mainly, his wife — that seeing all these different cultures has caused him to reexamine his own life, and that he feels alone at sea.
In her address, Queen Elizabeth gives thanks for Philip’s speech, and tells him that his family is, and always will be, waiting for him, before going into the more formal speech.
Their speeches touched the other more than either of them expected and for the first time, as he stares out over the sea, Philip admits that there might actually be no place like home, after all.
Episode 3: Lisbon
Aaaaand we’re back. As in, that “Lisbon” title should give you some clues for what’s about to go down, since that’s where the season kicked off. This means we’re about to catch up to what exactly goes wrong to make Philip and Elizabeth's reunion so tenuous. Until then, however, Elizabeth explains to her children, Anne and Charles (and also me, the viewer), that Philip still has the South Shetland Islands, the Falkland Islands, and Ascension Island ahead, but has sent along some footage from his trip that will hopefully sustain them during this last leg.
The Queen gathers her family to watch, while reading his accompanying notes, as Philip plays with penguins and huskies on screen, looking like the perfect family man. In response, she sends back a letter of thanks, filled with affection that Philip can’t repeat to the men on board.
Meanwhile, it’s full steam ahead on Mr. and Mrs. Parker’s divorce. In a last-ditch effort, Tommy Lascelles comes out of retirement to approach Eileen and attempt to convince her otherwise. She sees right through him, and intends to go forward with the divorce.
As for Eden, he’s returned from Jamaica prepared to resume business as usual, but things have changed. The cabinet is upset that he left them with a mess to fix, and says he’s lost both the trust of the people and the party thanks to his illegal war. He has no choice to resign, and heads to Queen, who is taking a few days off, to inform her of the news — except he says he’s leaving for his health, conveniently leaving out that he wouldn’t be allowed to stay if he tried. Macmillan will step up as his successor.
That isn’t the only change the Queen must brace for. Tommy relays to Michael that they have no choice but to tell the Queen about Mike and Eileen’s divorce, and to prepare her for the rumors that are going to start circulating based on Eileen’s reasons for suing — a.k.a., adultery. The Queen is visibly shaken by this, as this news brings her one step closer to confirming her fears about Philip.
The other person finally getting clued in? Mike himself, who learns of the news via telegram. He interrupts Philip, who is busy innocently painting birds, and comes clean. He reveals that he’s been writing letters — even though Philip told him not to — and gives him reason to suspect the worst: the Queen definitely knows.
Not only does she know, but she’s gone straight to Eileen in a last-ditch effort to stop this news from blowing up. Elizabeth asks her to do the favor of holding off until the monarchy can figure out how to handle it, but Eileen is done with all that bullshit. She’s tired of doing favors for the crown, and her solicitor goes ahead and makes a public announcement.
The next few things happen in quick succession: the headlines and rumors begin, Philip makes Mike resign, the headlines subside in the British newspapers, but are quickly replaced by speculation abroad, specifically a Baltimore newspaper reporting details of an alleged affair Philip once had. They can’t cut his trip short, because that would only fan the flames, so instead the Queen heads to Lisbon early to meet him for a reunion photo.
Up until that moment, however, Philip still seems in good spirits! It’s only when they finally reunite, when he finally boards the plane to see her, that there’s a shift. His smile fades as the Queen shows no delight in her return. Her stare is cold, and without so much as a hug, she heads outside for the photo. Unsurprisingly, this does nothing to quell the rumors, and we’re back where we started. Except this time, we get to hear Philip’s answer — what will it take for him to be happy?
The answer is simple: respect. Not only does the Queen give him a Prince title so he has more standing in the palace, she also asks the men they work with to shave so the Philip will stop referring to them as “moustaches.”
It’s unclear if this has fixed anything, and when Philip visits Mike before Mike moves back to Australia, he half-heartedly asks if he can come with. The Queen wants more children, he tells him, and Mike understands why. Before he heads out, the two say goodbye — but Mike refuses to call him “Philip.” “Sir” is fine. That friendship, like so many other things in Philip’s life, has come to an end.
Episode 4: Beryl
This episode, it’s Margaret’s turn. We open on: a wedding. No, not Margaret’s, a fact that only becomes more painful to the princess as the ceremony goes on. In the midst of her despondency, she turns to her friend Billy Wallace to lament her loneliness, and he responds with a proposition. Why shouldn’t they get married? They’re friends, they have the same values. It’s perfect, right?
The Queen agrees when Margaret relays the news over the phone later that night. As she knows all too well, she has to ask her older sister for permission, which Elizabeth gives readily, suggesting that they make the formal announcement at her and Philip’s 10 year anniversary party.
As for politics, things with Russia are getting tense. Prime Minister Macmillan says they must unite with America to face the mounting nuclear threat, but he’s dealing with his own alliance issues. His wife has been having an affair, and the two ride together in the same car so she can end the relationship, but that’s easier said than done.
As for Margaret, she’s still struggling against the confines of the monarchy. She tries to do the right thing, posing for her official birthday portrait despite it being stuffy and old-fashioned, as well as pursuing her engagement to Billy despite the fact that his upcoming nuptials have turned him into a ladies man. So much so that he actually got into a duel with one of their friends over a pass he made on his wife — something he openly admits to Margaret when she comes to see his wounds, although he omits the part about him screaming and crying the whole way to the fight.
He can’t make the engagement, he says, and she reads him for filth, calling the whole thing off. Her actions may be powerful, but that doesn’t mean she handles it well. She leaves the anniversary party mid-toast, and is found by her lady in waiting that night, drunk and throwing things around her room.
The next day, still in a depression that’s only worsened by her birthday portraits arriving and her mother’s attempts to matchmake her, she gives her lady in waiting a call. She wants to spend time with normal people, and her lady happens to be throwing a party that night.
It’s there where Margaret meets Tony, who she had seen previously at the wedding, who is a photographer and socialite who has all the gossip about everyone in the room. He shows her some of his portraits, and Margaret asks if he can’t take a picture of her. Tony readily agrees, under the condition that Margaret does everything he says.
Turns out, his whole thing as a photographer is putting people in uncomfortable situations to capture their most authentic selves. After Margaret arrives at his studio, she’s made to wait in front of the camera for a tedious amount of time as Tony stomps around upstairs making strange noises to try to shake her up. By the time he comes back down, she’s clearly irritated, but he’s not finished. He’s having a hard time finding her essence because it’s clear Margaret doesn’t really know who she is. The only way he’s able to draw true emotion from her is by mentioning Peter Townsend. Snap. They’re done, and after a drink or two, he takes her home on his motorcycle.
Their whirlwind night is a stark contrast to Elizabeth and Philip’s staunch routine, which is disrupted only by the front page of the newspaper the next morning. Margaret had instructed Tony to send the photo to the publishers, and now the dark shot, which shows the princess looking naked from the chest up and staring darkly to the camera, has officially wowed all of Britain.
Episode 5: Marionettes
Not unlike the premiere, this episode stars in media res, this time as newspapers print news of the Queen facing criticism from one of her peers. Specifically, Lord Altrincham, who ends up on the receiving end of a punch from a monarchy loyalist. To find out just why, we have to back to one month earlier, when the same Lord Altrincham is struggling to assign stories for his publication, the National and English Review.
Meanwhile, Martin is feeling uneasy about the Queen’s upcoming speech. Having read Michael’s transcript, he’s worried it strikes the wrong tone — paternalistic, old-fashioned, practically begging to be critiqued. His criticisms are waved away as nonsense.
Speaking of criticism, Philip is being rude as hell about Elizabeth’s new haircut. He says it doesn’t entice him to procreate with her. This isn’t an important plot point, I just didn’t like it!
What is an important plot point is Elizabeth giving the aforementioned speech which does exactly what Martin warned. It implies that the people of Britain have dull and lonely lives, that they are average and doing this repetitive work for the good of the community. Altrincham, along with the rest of England, hear the speech on the radio. Unlike the rest of England, however, he takes to his typewriter, and pulls together a scathing response accusing the monarchy of losing its magic, and predicts that it won’t survive this post-war future.
As all of this is unfolding, the Queen and her family have retreated north to Balmoral Castle in Scotland. After a quick hunt, she’s informed of the negative article, and the fact that many prominent British newspapers have picked it up.
But, not to worry! 85% of the county disagrees with him, and he’s about to be interviewed on TV for a show called Impact, which is home to a notoriously tough host who will likely read him for filth. It’s for this reason that Altrincham is nervous about the appearance, but his staff assures him that as long as he’s cool and collected, he might just be able to turn public opinion around.
Turns out, he does just that. He explains to the country that he’s a passionate monarchist, and it’s for that reason that he is criticising the Queen. He believes the monarchy can unify society, but right now is dividing it thanks to the Queen’s stiff personality and indifference, and the monarchy’s insistence to adhere to pre-war routines as if nothing has changed.
Suddenly, half the country agrees with Altrincham, and despite the punch the awaits him as he leaves the TV studio, he’s later greeted by handshakes and cheers. When the Queen hears the news, she’s living, blaming Michael for his poor speech. Scrambling, Martin invites Altrincham in for a chat to discuss the Lord’s thoughts on how the monarchy can improve.
However, it’s not Martin who is waiting for Altrincham when he walks into Buckingham Palace — it’s the Queen. Her disdain for him is clear, and she makes a point of asking if her voice is alright — “Not too strangled?” — a direct callout to his criticism. He lists his suggestions for how the monarchy can become more relatable, which include putting an end the debutante ball, allowing divorced people to move more freely in royal circles, eliminating an entire generation of courtier, televising the annual Christmas speech, and making an effort to spend time with normal, down-to-earth people.
Despite the fact that Altrincham is not allowed to tell anyone he met with the Queen, Elizabeth takes the last two suggestions to heart. Her Christmas speech’s television debut acknowledges the monarchy’s need for change, and amidst the Queen mother’s protest that absolutism is slipping away, the two women later receive a crown of boxers, restaurant owners, policewomen, and other “ordinary” folk.
As the episode end, it does my favorite thing, which is give a little extra history in the titles. Later, almost all of the suggested changes were implemented, and in 1963, Altrincham renounced his title and became John Grigg, the writer and historian who passed away in 2001 and is now credited for much of the monarchy’s twentieth century policies.
Episode 6: Vergangenheit
Get ready, because this episode is one big history lesson. Back in 1945, a bunch of old files were dug up in the Thuringia Forest in Germany after Carl von Loesch, one of Hitler’s translators, revealed their whereabouts in exchange for a pardon. These documents, in the form of microfilm, contained all manner of agreements and communications — including communication between the disgraced Duke of Windsor and the Nazis, something the royal family has been trying to keep quiet for years, and something Queen Elizabeth, until the end of this episode, has never known about.
This history becomes more relevant later in the episode, but before all that, the Queen is blissfully watching the evangelical Reverend Graham on the television. While the Queen Mother and pretty much everyone else surrounding Elizabeth dismiss him as a zealot, the Queen is intrigued, and asks Michael to invite him to the palace to give a sermon and have lunch. However, Michael brings up something even more controversial:The Duke of Windsor would like to be allowed back into the country for a visit.
Her uncle had written to the palace earlier that week following a montage of costume parties and dog birthday celebrations during all of which he looked absolutely miserable. He desires a purpose, and says he’d like to return to England to work on a book. In actuality, he’s there on a secret mission to find a job.
Philip sees through Edward’s request, and advises the Queen to reject it. However, she’s sympathetic to her uncle, and allows him to come through.
Over at the Captured German War Documents Publication Unit in Waddon Hall in Buckinghamshire, archivists have stumbled upon the aforementioned documents, known as the Marburg Files, and tell their boss, Mr. Wheeler-Bennett, they have a duty to publish them. They refuse to protect Nazis, and if they can’t publish it, then they will urge America, who has copies of the files, to do it for them.
With this ticking clock, the Duke of Windsor heads to England to stay in Sussex with his friend George, who has set up a dinner of influential people to help him find a job. He sees himself taking on some sort of liaison post, perhaps a roving ambassador. They come up with three options: an ambassadorship to France, a liaison to the board of trade, or high commissioner of the commonwealth relations office. Now, he must wait for the attendees to make representations on his behalf.
Meanwhile, Mr. Wheeler-Bennett approaches prime minister Macmillan with the documents, and it becomes clear they have to publish them. The Queen, fresh off of her inspiring meeting with Reverend Graham, is informed of the documents, and all of their contents, which reveal that she allowed a man who was friendly with Nazis back into the country.
This very same man then arrives at the palace in hopes of the Queen giving her blessing for him to take on one of the three proposed jobs. It’s here she reveals she knows his secrets, that he had considered going against the government and pledging support for peace talks with Germany, that they’d give him a house in Spain to wait out war in peace while his fellow men died at war.
The Duke, on the other hand, says he did everything in hopes of ending the war for Britain, and when later the Queen expresses wanting to forgive him, Philip disagrees. He suggests she seek out Tommy Lascelles’ opinion, since he was the Duke’s private secretary.
The information Lascelles reveals is even more damning. The documents only contain half the story. Not only did the Duke do all of that stuff, be he also *deep breath*: shares classified information with his wife, who then relayed to the German ambassador she was sleeping with, visiting Hitler in Germany after in abdicated in order to plan a secret agreement to reinstate himself as king in return for German forces getting free reign, relayed information from the allies to his Nazi friends that changed the course of the war, and, last but not least, encouraged continued bombing of his own country because that would make Britain “ready for peace.”
Upon hearing this information, the Queen returns to the Duke and rejects his request. He’s no longer welcome in England, and says there’s no question of her forgiving him.
“How on earth can you forgive yourself?” she asks. Shortly after, the documents are published.
However, the Queen is still troubled by her inability to forgive her uncle, worried that it’s “un-Christian of her.” The Reverend tells her however that when you can’t forgive someone, ask for forgiveness for yourself, and pray for those you cannot forgive.
Philip has a different take. In fact, he’s just returned from getting drunk with none other than the Queen Mother and Tommy Lascelles. They were celebrating the amazing way the Queen kicked the Duke out of the country, and, as one final act of triumph, Philip crawls into her bed for a night I’m sure the Queen would not want me repeating.
Episode 7: Matrimonium
Remember Peter Townsend? I kind of thought he disappeared forever after Queen Elizabeth didn’t allow Princess Margaret to marry him — and he kind of did. He went off to live in Brussels in Belgium, which is where he’s writing from when he alerts Margaret that, despite their pact, he’s going to marry someone else. Specifically, a 19-year-old who accompanied him on his trips. Not only is this a violation of their promise not to marry anyone but each other, but it also means he’s moved on faster than Margaret, and she can’t have that.
She relays all this to Tony, whose exhibition she’s attending. As far as he sees it, it’s a win. Who would want to get married? Well, Margaret would, actually, and perhaps marriage would be fun and unconventional if the two of them decided to do it together. Tony brushes off this bold proposal and Margaret leaves in a huff.
Tony, during an uncomfortable dinner with his mother, whose approval it’s clear he would never admit to needing, tells her that he turned down a proposal from Princess Margaret, a decision she obviously condemns. But it turns out, Tony is a little tied up at the moment. As in, he’s in the midst of many relationships, including one with a dancer named Jacqi and with his friends Jeremy Fry and Camilla Fry, with whom he regularly engages in group sex.
However, it seems he’s ready to put them all behind him for Margaret, whom he picks up in front of the palace on his motorcycle to take her to his apartment. It’s there where they have sex, and shortly after, in a box that was in a box that was in a box, Margaret finds a ring, and just like that, he’s proposed. His only condition? Not to bore him. Margarets? Not to hurt her.
Margaret delivers news of her engagement curtly to the Queen, wanting to announce the engagement as soon as possible in order to beat Peter Townsend’s. Unfortunately, there’s some news that takes precedence: Elizabeth’s pregnancy. It’s royal protocol to not announce anything until after a baby is born, much to Margaret’s continued frustration with the monarchy. Instead, they must spend sixth month torturously keeping things private, but no matter — the Queen promises to throw a party to show her support for the happy couple.
At the party, however, the now heavily-pregnant Queen sours a bit. She’s put off by Tony’s friends, especially the weird relationship she senses between Camilla Fry and her soon to be brother-in-law. Philip has his own reasons for being upset, mainly that the palace is welcoming Tony with open arms after resisting Philip’s marriage to the Queen, even though he ranks much higher.
Due to the bad vibes of the night, the queen asks Michael to dig up any information on Tony that they would want to know before he joins the family, and boy, do Michael and Tommy Lascelles deliver. They reveal most of what we already know: Tony is in three other “natural” intimate relationships, not to mention the ones he has with other men, and that Camilla is expecting a baby that is likely his.
Upon hearing this news, Elizabeth goes right into labor, clearing the way for Margaret to make her announcement. Once baby Andrew is born and declared healthy, Margaret wastes no time asking if it’s full steam ahead. Knowing what she knows now, the Queen cautions Margaret one last time, causing Margaret to bristle at what she feels is the Queen’s vendetta against her happiness. She sense that Elizabeth knows something, but Elizabeth decides not to come clean. Before we know it, the engagement is not only announced, but it’s the big day. The two say their vows, but judging by the rain in the sky, this isn’t just typical British weather — something ominous is ahead.
Episode 8: Dear Mrs. Kennedy
There’s trouble abroad again for England, but this time, philandering husbands have nothing to do with it. Instead, it’s all going down in Ghana, where Prime Minister Nkrumah has decided to shirk the monarchy in favor of the Russians, striving towards a more socialist Africa.
Prime Minister Macmillan relays this news to the Queen, but she has her mind on other things. President Kennedy and the First Lady, Jackie, are on their way for a visit, and following Jackie’s success in France, Elizabeth is getting the creeping feeling that she compares in comparison to the American visitor. An an attempt to shine just as brightly, she opts for the most decadent dress she can find, but that doesn’t stop heads turning when the President and the First Lady enter the doors of Buckingham Palace — including Philip’s.
Philip and the rest of the guests spend the whole time fawning over Jackie, even though the Americans manage to screw up every single protocol. In an effort to learn just what’s so great about her, Elizabeth takes Jackie for a tour of the palace. It’s during this stroll that Jackie reveals she’s actually a shy woman at heart, and that her husband would rather talk to a crowd than be alone with her. The two end up bonding while petting corgi puppies — as I assume we all would — and the Queen leaves the encounter totally charmed.
That’s why this next part is such a punch in gut. While talking to Margaret about her new friend, Elizabeth learns that Jackie had a much different impression of their visit. After inviting Patrick over for a visit, she manages to get him to reveal what he overheard while at a dinner party with the First Lady. Apparently, despite all her smiles and compliments, Jackie found Buckingham Palace to be a second rate, neglected, and provincial hotel, and came away with the sense that the monarchy was a tired institution with no place in the modern world — and the middle aged, unremarkable Queen was the reason why.
But if there’s one thing you shouldn’t do, it’s feel bad for Queen Elizabeth. This gossip doesn’t hurt her, but instead inspires her to do something bold. After she finds out that the Americans have pulled out of the Volta Dam project following Nkrumah’s meeting with the russians, Queen suggest sending herself to Ghana. By suggest, I mean she insists, despite the protests of her counsel, and the even louder protests of the press.
At first, the visit seems to confirm their world fears. The greeting is warm, but is nothing more than a photo opp — made worse by the fact that Russian engineers have arrived to work on the Dam. The Queen, however, is determined to make this right, not through debating or talking, but instead through dance. She and and Nkrumah, to the surprise of everyone, do the foxtrot at dinner, and suddenly things are turned around. Ghana is once again back with the West, and President Kennedy credits Jackie as the inspiration.
This is how Jackie finds out that the Queen got word of her gossip, and organizes a private audience with her at Windsor Castle the next time she’s in England. It’s there she apologizes to Elizabeth, and explains that the positive attention in Paris was in antidote to her strained relationship with her husband, but it went to her head. That, and the “cocktails” their doctor administered them for their trip to pep them up. The particular night of the dinner party, she had been given a booster to be cheered up, and this loosened her tongue. Elizabeth accepts the apology, but it’s not until later that you realize just how strongly their relationship was repaired.
One day, Elizabeth is pulled from the grounds and alerted of the Kennedy assassination. When he is confirmed dead, she orders the palace to be in full mourning, and for the bell to be run at Westminster Abbey. This is normally reserved for family — which is exactly why the Queen demands it.
Episode 9: Paterfamilias
For perhaps the first time, it’s Philip’s episode. During these past two seasons, we’ve gotten hints to his past, but it’s not until now that we see just how tragic it all was. But first, it’s Charles’ story. The young heir has been struggling at school, bullied because he’s somewhat shy. This is why the Queen is easily convinced to send him to Eton where he’ll be respected and somewhat pampered.
But Philip, however, has other plans. He’s always wanted Charles to go to his alma mater, Gordonstoun, a tough school all the way up in Scotland that heavily values physical education.
Back in 1934, that’s exactly where he was sent, leaving his Nazi-sympathetic family in Germany to essentially get the shit kicked out of him. But that was Philip — Charles is different. While he gets a warm welcome at Gordonstoun and his father’s old bed, the pleasantries end there. The first night is rainy, and his bed is next to a broken window, and the boys have been given strict orders to throw out any “your royal highness” business. As far as they’re concerned, Charles is just like anybody else.
That is not how Philip felt on his first day. He got in fights with the boys, who taunted him for his Nazi sisters and mentally ill mother, and refused to lower himself to what he felt was beneath him. This results in him being totally miserable, just like Charles, and even though the Queen gets wind of her son’s unhappiness and wants to take him out of the school, Philip literally threatens their marriage. This is his decision, he tells Elizabeth, and Charles is staying at Gordonstoun.
It becomes understandable why Philip has such an affection for the place, since it was there for him during the great tragedy of his life. His antics at school require him to stay there over break as a punishment, meaning he can’t fulfill his original plan of going to spend time with his sister. That means his sister instead joins a group of peers heading to London — during which their plane crashes, and everyone on board is killed.
To make matters worse, Philip’s father blames him for his sister’s death since she wouldn’t have gotten on that plane had he not gotten into so much trouble at school. This sends Philip into a wild depression. He spends his first night back at Gordonstoun building the gate he was required to build as punishment before the death of his sister, and stays up through the rain to get it done. This accomplishment signifies a shift in his relationships — the boys of Gordonstoun are his family now.
The same cannot be said for Charles, who signs up for Gordonstoun’s annual tournament, which involves 18 miles of challenges, because he knows it’s important to his father. However, he falls behind almost immediately, and as Philip, who arrived to present the award, watches the boys return, he realizes Charles never made it back.
Charles is found crying some halfway through the course, and flies home to the Palace with his father in shame. Philip’s pep talk turns into a scolding, and it’s clear they’ll never see eye to eye.
The fact at the end of the episode only confirm this: Charles remained at Gordonstoun for five more years, later describing it as a prison and hell. When he had sons of his own, you can guess where he sent them: Eton.
Episode 10: Mystery Man
You knew we couldn’t end season 2 of The Crown without at least one more scandal — and this one’s a big one. It starts innocently enough, with Philip taking a trip to the osteopath due to pain in his neck. It’s there that the doctor, Stephen Ward, says something like this often is due to stress, and would Philip want to join him at a party he’s setting up in order to blow off steam?
Suddenly, it’s one year later, and a woman named Christine Keeler is being questioned about mysterious events that took place at that very party involving a soviet naval attache named Eugene Ivanov, the minister of war John Profumo, and the identity of a mystery man in the back of a photograph. I think I speak for all of us when I say: what the hell happened those past twelve months?
Well, if you asked the people of England, they’ll tell you that Profumo had an affair with Keeler, disgracing the government. The minister of war himself, however, would disagree. He maintains his innocence, both when pressed by Macmillan, and by the government. Macmillan, riddled with insecurity and doubt by his people, makes a statement in support of Profumo, which comes back to haunt him when Stephen Ward confirms all suspicions regarding the party, including the affair. Almost immediately, Macmillan offers his resignation, but the Queen rejects his offer, saying she needs him to hold the fort, because changes are afoot.
There’s still the question of the mysterious man in the photograph, but we’ll get to that later. For one brief scene, there’s happy news, as we learn that both the Queen and Margaret are pregnant. However, Elizabeth’s pregnancy is a tricky one, and doctors have advised her to get some real, solid rest in preparation for the birth.
She retreats the Scotland, but drama follows. Margaret passed along her and Tony’s suspicion that Philip is the mysterious man in the photograph, and with the man in question galavanting all over Europe every weekend, the Queen has no way of asking. Instead, she’s forced to sit with her own thoughts in this self-imposed exile, only to be interrupted by more bad news.
Ward, as it turns out, would rather take his own life rather than face the consequences of his actions, leaving behind an even bigger mess. While going through his house, the police find sketches and paintings done by the late doctor, including ones of Philip, who, up until now, has distanced himself from all this. While they manage to keep these drawings away from the press, they have to inform the Queen, and this news only furthers her suspicions that the man in the photo might just be Philip after all.
Prime Minister Macmillan is having his own personal issues. He’s been made a mockery of, just just by his own actions, but literally by the British comedy stage revue Beyond the Fringe, Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, and Dudley Moore don’t mince words when it comes to giving their two cents about the politician. After seeing the show himself, Macmillan offers his resignation once more, and he means it this time. The Queen reads him the riot act, considering this is the third Prime Minister she’s had quit early on her.
She also gets herself in another spot of trouble with his replacement, the Earl of Home. He comes recommended by Macmillan but the decision is abhorred by the public, causing the Queen to retreat to Scotland once again.
Finally, Philip decides it might just be time to see his wife. After learning of the recent backlash, he follows her to Scotland, but things remain tense. Finally, Elizabeth asks him the question point-blank: what does he know about Stephen Ward?
At first, Philip distances himself from the man, but the Queen catches his lies each time he whips them out. She knows he went to see him, she knows about the portraits, and even though Philip denies it, she straight up asks him about the party. Is he the mystery man in the photograph?
Philip continues to dodge, but Elizabeth has the trump card. She pulls out the picture of the ballerina she found back in episode one. I literally gasped when this happened, but Philip stays silent. At least, for a little bit. He’s the master of words, and after shutting the picture away, delivers a monologue about his dependability. Elizabeth isn’t stupid. She says they’re both adults, and that she understands that Philip may need to do these things in order to stay sane. She can look the other way, but Philip doesn’t want her to. It’s the first honest moment they’ve had all season, but there’s still so much unsaid.
This feeling doesn’t dissipate, even after Elizabeth gives birth. The final scene isn’t joyous or decided. As the family poses, a mish-mash of children and relatives all gathered in frame, nobody can hold still. Nobody is on the same page. The picture flashes, and the squabbling continues. The monarchy, like Britain, is still in disarray.
Read These Stories Next: