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Without a dragon or superhero or zombie in sight, The Crown became an immediate international hit when it debuted on Netflix last fall, earning star Claire Foy a Golden Globe and netting the streaming service 13 Emmy nominations. Creator Peter Morgan’s (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) sumptuous look at England’s royal family took viewers into what felt like every corner of Buckingham Palace — and many of the British Empire’s farthest-flung territories — to tell the story of Elizabeth II’s ascent to power, covering her public triumphs and private challenges with an equal degree of precision.
The series’ second season, which covers 1956–64, will follow Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip (Foy and Matt Smith, reprising their roles for just one more season) everywhere from Tonga to Papua New Guinea, and even the Antarctic — while focusing more on their private lives as the family expands with the birth of Princes Andrew and Edward. In this first look at the new season (out Dec. 8 on Netflix), we see a much more self-assured leader emerging, even if things at home are still fractious at the onset.
“I think [Queen Elizabeth] starts to realize she needs to pay more attention to her personal life now that the other part of her life is going all right,” says Foy. But the swinging ’60s aren’t an easy time to be the monarch: “The world’s changing faster than anyone can catch up with. There is no letup. She just keeps having to go from one crisis to another to another, and at some point, it’s about five crises at the same time and you have no idea how she manages to get up in the morning,” says Foy.
Below, find an even deeper dive into some exclusive first-look images from the season.
When President Kennedy (Dexter’s Michael C. Hall) and his impossibly stunning wife, Jackie (Jodi Balfour), come to the palace, the Queen is equally enthralled and intimidated. “Her focus is really on this dazzling woman — and not just because of her husband’s flirting, but the whole attention on Jackie as a phenomenon,” says the episode’s director, Stephen Daldry, of this imagined version of what might have happened during the president’s actual 1961 visit. “The Queen’s beginning to feel the first aches and pains of middle age, and here is this woman who seems to have a huge role even within foreign policy.” Adds Foy: “The Kennedys were a real symbol of the ’60s and the world moving forward, and the Queen is very much stuck in the past at that point. It’s a real wake-up call.”
Having it All
At the end of the first season, Elizabeth had become comfortable in her role as monarch and in exercising her authority. Her home life was the struggle. And finding her footing doesn’t get any easier for the Queen. “She’s neglected her personal life, so there are all sorts of things she has to sort out,” says Foy of her character’s evolution in season 2. So will we see a shift in Elizabeth and Philip’s relationship? “As politics change around them and as they become older, there are huge changes that take place in them as human beings,” says Smith. “But to talk about [specifics] would give things away. You will have to watch!”
In the Family Way
In addition to delving more into Prince Charles’ troubled youth, season 2 of The Crown introduces two new royals: his and Princess Anne’s siblings, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. “We never really got to do the new-mother thing [in season 1]. We just jumped a period of time, so you will see a bit of that,” says Foy. Adds Smith:“It’s The Crown. It’s still about politics and the crown and how these two wrangle their marriage and how they bring up their children.”
Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) — whose doomed affair with Capt. Peter Townsend ended in sadness in season 1 — starts a relationship with society photographer Tony Armstrong-Jones (played by Matthew Goode), a story set in the bohemian, artistic world of London’s Chelsea neighborhood. “We follow her struggles to find a relationship that is not only suitable, but a man who she feels that she could love,” says Daldry. “It’s a chaotic situation, and they get into trouble. It’s fun.”
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The Crown season 2 debuts on Netflix on Dec. 8.