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Back-seat queen

Season 3 of The Crown portrays an insecure Elizabeth and further royal family drama

Tobias Menzies and Olivia Colman in The Crown Sophie Mutevelian

Back-seat queen
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Season 3 of Netflix’s The Crown would be worth watching for the production values alone: The music, the attention to detail, and the meticulous royal accents are captivating. But thorough research and perfect casting make this dramatized history of the modern royal family one of the best shows currently streaming.

The writers of The Crown continue to take well-informed liberties with this family. The show occasionally deviates from actual history to make certain events coincide (or to surmise about others), but otherwise it follows history in fairly close detail.

Which leaves the major update for Season 3: the new cast. When we last saw Claire Foy and Matt Smith as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, they were still wondering how to make marriage work within their royal roles. Now many years have passed, and the queen (played by Olivia Colman) is portrayed as rather glassy-eyed at a time when England is demoralized and struggling financially.

When we do see Elizabeth, the men in her life are constantly explaining things to her. She’s always the last to get the gossip. We wonder if she even cares that the government is ready to devalue the British pound. It’s difficult to believe that this settled, middle-aged monarch was quite so insecure, fantasizing about a different life racing horses and nervous about being seen as less exciting than Margaret.

The queen takes such a back seat this season that most of our empathy goes to other members of the family. Painful events like the Aberfan disaster, Princess Margaret’s disintegrating marriage, and the death of Edward VIII juxtapose more hopeful moments, like Prince Philip’s spiritual awakening and the queen’s sweet relationship with a prime minister from the opposing Labour Party. We also meet a college-age Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and watch the beginning of his relationship with Camilla Shand (Emerald Fennell), presented clearly here as the love of his life … and the one who (initially) got away.

If anyone grabs a major nomination from Season 3, it won’t be Colman, but rather Helena Bonham Carter, who steals the show as the miserable Margaret. Things have cleaned up a bit in this season of the TV-MA show, too: A final episode focuses on infidelities by Margaret and her husband, with on-screen kissing but nothing like the explicit sex scene found in Season 2.

Laura Finch

Laura is a correspondent for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and previously worked at C-SPAN, the U.S. House of Representatives, the Indiana House, and the Illinois Senate before joining WORLD. Laura resides near Chicago, Ill., with her husband and two children.



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