The iconic royal ascended the British throne in February 1952 and reigned for 70 years before her death on Sept. 8. So it's no wonder that her fascinating life became the inspiration for Netflix's Emmy-winning series.
Depicting the highs and lows of her royal world, The Crown goes inside the most impactful moments that shaped Queen Elizabeth II into the most famous monarch in the world. From the death of her beloved father, King George VI, to the drama surrounding King Charles' tumultuous marriage to Princess Diana, the period drama reminds viewers that being the queen isn't all garden parties and royal weddings.
Even Prince Harry, who has admitted to watching some of the show, told James Corden in February that The Crown "gives you a rough idea about what that lifestyle, what the pressures of putting duty and service above family and everything else, what can come from that." Yet, he did emphasize that the show is fictional and "loosely based on the truth."
With that disclaimer in mind, let's relive Queen Elizabeth II's reign by taking a closer look at the most eye-opening episodes of The Crown.
Episode Two, "Hyde Park Corner"
In this episode, Princess Elizabeth (Claire Foy) and her husband, Prince Philip (Matt Smith), embark on a tour of the Commonwealth, not realizing that the princess' father, King George VI (Jared Harris) is gravely ill. This episode is crucial for many reasons, as it's the last time Elizabeth and Philip are equal in their marriage. Elizabeth also choses her regnal name, officially becoming Queen Elizabeth II.
Because Elizabeth did not expect the passing of her father, she didn't pack a black dress. Packing funeral cloths while traveling has since become a rule for senior royals.
Episode Five, "Smoke and Mirrors"
Despite ascending the throne in February 1952, Queen Elizabeth wasn't coronated until June of the next year. (An earlier episode indicates that this was a move made by Prime Minister Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) to keep power.) Episode five of The Crown highlights what an affair the coronation was. Philip is put in charge of the ceremony, infuriating many with his suggestion to televise the event.
As for Elizabeth? She struggles between family and duty after her uncle, the former King Edward VIII, known as the Duke of Windsor, and his wife Wallis Simpson are not invited to the coronation. She eventually embraces her new role as the head of monarchy, taking on the crown with a silent grace.
Episode Seven, "Scientia Potentia Est"
With the advances of science rapidly growing, Elizabeth realizes there were gaps in her education, having focused solely on the country's Constitution. Knowing that she will have to interact with those of great intellect, the queen enlists the help of a private tutor.
She also tries to promote longtime private secretary Martin Charteris (Harry Hadden-Paton) to a senior role over another deserving, albeit older, employee. During this story line, she indicates that Martin is the closest thing she has to a friend, suggesting the loneliness she feels as the sovereign.
Episode 10, "Gloriana"
Once more, Elizabeth is torn between family and duty when her sister, Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby), begs to marry the divorced Peter Townsend (Ben Miles). Though Elizabeth personally doesn't disapprove of the match, her role as the head of the Church of England has her wary of giving the couple permission to marry. In fact, the only way Parliament will approve of the marriage is if Margaret gives up her royal rights and moves abroad.
Shockingly, Elizabeth turns to her scandalized uncle, who gave up the crown for love. He advises Elizabeth to put the crown first, siding against Margaret. This results in Elizabeth telling Margaret that she cannot bless the marriage, which breaks her sister's heart.
Episode Three, "Lisbon"
Amid marriage struggles, including suspicion of infidelity on Prince Philip's part, Elizabeth attempts to work on the relationship while aboard the royal yacht in Portugal. It doesn't help that Philip's private secretary is facing a divorce of his own, which could have damning effects on the reputation of the queen and duke's marriage.
Eventually, the royals meet for an honest talk about the state of their marriage, with Elizabeth essentially asking Philip what he needs to stay in the game. Philip's answer? He hates being outranked by his son. In return, Elizabeth appoints Philip a prince of the United Kingdom.
Episode Five, "Marionettes"
In this episode, Elizabeth embraces the idea that the monarchy needs to modernize in order to be one with the people. The revelation comes about after writer and politician Lord Altrincham criticizes the queen for her posh mannerism and exclusive behavior. She goes on to meet with her critic and agrees to begin televising the Christmas speech.
Episode Eight, "Dear Mrs Kennedy"
The Kennedys (played by Michael C. Hall and Jodi Balfour) arrive at Buckingham Palace for a visit, where the First Lady and the queen bond over having to overcome their shy natures for public life. Yet, when Elizabeth learns that Mrs. Kennedy mocked her and the ways of the palace, the queen is fired up to prove she is more than just a face on a stamp.
Elizabeth does this by convincing the President of Ghana to cut ties with the Soviet Union during a foxtrot. She later obtains an apology from Mrs. Kennedy.
Episode 10, "Mystery Man"
Elizabeth and Philip's marital problems come to a head after the Duke of Edinburgh is seemingly connected to the Profumo affair thanks to his knowing a central figure in the scandal, osteopath (and party thrower) Stephen Ward. Specifically, as Ward faces charges for his role in the political drama, people begin to wonder if the queen's husband is the unidentifiable man in one photo from a Ward party in question.
Elizabeth confronts her husband, who admits to knowing Ward but denies being the mystery man. After informing Philip that she knows about the picture of a ballerina that he hides in his desk, he swears his love and loyalty to Elizabeth. The episode ends with Elizabeth giving birth to her last child, Prince Edward.
Episode One, "Olding"
The queen, now played by Olivia Colman, learns there is a mole in the palace: art adviser Sir Anthony Blunt. Rather than expose the turncoat, Elizabeth allows Sir Anthony to remain on in order to prevent scandal.
Episode Three, "Aberfan"
A national tragedy sparks criticism for Elizabeth, who is viewed as not caring enough for not visiting the disaster zone at Aberfan. In contrast, Philip (now played by Tobias Menzies), who always encourages the family to modernize, attends the funeral of the children who lost their lives in the deadly collapse.
Eventually Elizabeth is convinced to visit Aberfan, where she experiences the wreckage and devastation firsthand. Though she shows little emotion during the visit, she makes an effort to connect with the grieving community and support them during this trying time. She lets her true emotions show in the privacy of the palace, where she weeps silently to herself while listening to a recording of a song sung at the funeral.
Episode Six, "Tywysog Cymru"
At the Prince of Wales's investiture, Prince Charles (played by Josh O'Connor) expresses empathy and support for Welsh countrymen. This directly contradicts the ceremony's purpose, which was meant to squash Welsh nationalism. In result, the mother and son face off over their thoughts about the future of the monarchy. Though Charles hopes to maintain his sense of identity, Elizabeth reminds her son that no one is interested in hearing his opinions.
The scene showcases how the expectations and duties of the crown can weigh heavily on more than just the queen.
Episode Nine, "Imbroglio"
Much like the drama involving her sister and Peter, Elizabeth finds herself disapproving of Charles' attachment to Camilla Shand. To keep the pair apart, Charles is shipped off and Camilla's family encourages her to marry her on-again, off-again boyfriend Andrew Parker Bowles. Once more, Elizabeth sides with duty rather than the heart.
Episode Four, "Favourites"
After Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's (Gillian Anderson) son goes missing during a race, the politician makes a comment that shocks the queen: her son is her favorite child. This inspires Elizabeth to spend one-on-one time with each of her children, trying to figure out if she, indeed, has a favorite. While Philip is confident that Princess Anne is his favorite of the royal brood, he refuses to tell Elizabeth who her obvious favorite is.
Following many awkward visits with the Windsors, it's clear that Prince Andrew is the one Elizabeth favors the most.
Episode Five, "Fagan"
The queen has an awkward run-in with commoner Michael Fagan, who has broken into her bedroom in the middle of the night. Surprisingly, Elizabeth handles the unexpected visitor with grace and, during the visit, the two discuss the state of the country. Episode five indicates that despite being out of touch with every day life, the queen truly wants what is best for the people.
Episode Eight, "48:1"
The typically apolitical queen finds herself clashing with Prime Minister Thatcher over the ongoing apartheid in South Africa. While the queen supports the idea of placing economic sanctions on the country, Thatcher shuts down the idea, afraid the decision would affect the economy. As the U.K. press starts to report on the queen's displeasure with Thatcher, the palace press team doesn't censor the rumors, per Elizabeth's request.
This, unfortunately, backfires in Elizabeth's face, because the monarch isn't supposed to take political stances. In result, Elizabeth must fire her press secretary Michael Shea as a scapegoat.
Episode 10, "War"
In the season-four finale, Elizabeth tells Charles exactly how she feels about his hope for a divorce from Princess Diana (Emma Corrin). The answer? Not great. In a conversation that rivals the one following Charles' investiture as the Prince of Wales, Elizabeth reminds her son that his one duty is to uphold his marriage, which is a reflection of the crown. In addition to scolding Charles for his childish behavior, she highlights his immense privilege, not seeing how miserable the young couple is.
Though Elizabeth shuts down the conversation on Charles' side, Philip is less successful with an unhappy Diana, who feels utterly invisible in her marriage and royal life.
Season five of The Crown will arrive on Netflix in late 2022.
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