I know, like me, you’re going to be worried about how the Crown’s third season will fare when Olivia Colman replaced Claire Foy’s Queen Elizabeth. In fact, considering how the columnist Charles Moore highlighted the seemingly insurmountable difficulty of Colman’s “distinctly left-wing face.”
I am pleased to report that Colman has somehow, I believe through some sort of high-offal diet and exercise program involving chasing arrivistes off the ground managed to overcome her facial habits and most successfully channel Top Windsor.
The rest of the new cast (Netflix’s plan to switch actors every two seasons, spanning around two decades of real time, has always been clear) is equally fine.
Tobias Menzies, whose face clearly shows a man on the verge of either delighting you or cutting you with a hidden blade, is a true Duke of Edinburgh, a man I’m pretty sure was stalking peasants with a bowie knife in the secret reaches of Balmoral until he was finally stopped by age.
When her marriage to Lord Snowdon crumbles, Helena Bonham Carter is the perfect Princess Margaret, constantly overcome by internal misery and embracing outward excess. If there is a hint of Julie Walters / Mrs Overall creeping in towards the end of the 10-hour run, well, as far as I’m concerned, that’s just the icing on the cake.
The series covers the years between 1964 and 1977. Harold Wilson is elected; Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) dies with QEII after a very emotional deathbed scene; Queen’s image surveyor Anthony Blunt is proving to be a bad hire but a great opportunity for coded interactions and thematic resonances with The Crown’s central concern.
The gulf between an individual’s image, a monarch an organization, and its reality. The show also devotes a whole episode to the Aberfan tragedy of 1966, the delayed public reaction of the Queen to which, we are told, as a monarch remains her greatest regret.
Like the bumblebee that physics laws say should not be able to fly, The Crown continues to defy dramatic storytelling laws and include more publicity than is theoretically possible for a show to survive.
The state of the economy of Britain as we slalom towards the three-day week, the socio-political ramifications of every decision taken by anyone from the under gardener to Lord Mountbatten (now Charles Dance, as it has certainly been written since the dawn of time) are all packed in, the big clunking pieces still entirely lubricated by the family’s soapy antics.
Margaret wants a bigger part after she secures a bailout from the Americans, but Liz and her advisors reckon that effectively charming the president (Lyndon B Johnson) by slagging his predecessor (JFK) comes under the heading of “beginner’s luck” and so decline.
Philip’s mother Princess Alice (a beautiful, brilliant Jane Lapotaire), returns home in asylum after years and then as a nun in Greece, causing Philip’s midlife crisis which breaks your heart fairly. He is sorted out by the new dean by starting a counseling service for priests who have confidence problems and getting the duke into their fold.
It’s all done beautifully and told in good taste. Each penny on the screen is up. It’s untouched.
It will leave you either wishing for the monarchy to be decapitated for its constant, parasitical privilege (great scenes emerge from Philip complaining about being forced to cut back on his yacht consumption, for example) or abolished for the Windsors’ own good. It all depends on how far left you’ve got a face I suppose.


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