Season three of The Crown is here, everybody — and that means it’s time for our first recap! Here’s a closer look at episode one, “Olding.” (Need a refresher on seasons one and two? Head over here!)
We begin with a new Queen — Olivia Colman, who recently won an Oscar for playing Queen Anne — wearing the Diamond Diadem. The caption helpfully notes that it’s 1964. That means that no time has passed since the last episode of season two (which ended with Prince Edward’s baptism, on May 2, 1964), even though we’ve got new, older actors playing each role.
The transition between young Elizabeth (Claire Foy) and middle-aged Elizabeth (played by Olivia Colman) is emphasized with the presentation of a new stamp design. In reality, the stamps were changed three years later, in 1967, when the Dorothy Wilding stamp portrait was exchanged for the Arnold Machin portrait. The Machin design is still the same one used today.
The Queen studies the two stamps and sighs about getting older. She does so, sadly, without a brooch.
We cut to Elizabeth and Prince Philip, now played by Tobias Menzies, watching television while they eat breakfast. It’s general election day, and Philip is worried that Harold Wilson will want them all gone if he becomes prime minister. (The election took place on October 15, 1964.)
The Queen butters her toast and hmmmms while wearing her pearls and an invented floral brooch. Then she gets some awful news: Winston Churchill has had another stroke. (That really happened on January 15, 1965.)
Meanwhile, Princess Margaret — now played by Helena Bonham Carter — is over in Kensington Palace, frightening her servants while lounging beside a pillow that reads “It’s not easy being a Princess!” Indeed. Lord Snowdon is out and about doing his own thing, and Margaret’s not happy about it.
Back at Buckingham Palace, the Queen has a meeting with Sir Anthony Blunt, who was both the Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures and a distant cousin. (Blunt is played by Samuel West, who also portrayed him more than a decade ago in a BBC film, Cambridge Spies.) They talk about early modern art, and Blunt reminds her that she’s agreed to make remarks at the opening of a new exhibition. She thanks him for not making her feel stupid about art.
And then she goes to visit Churchill one last time, giving John Lithgow a brief Crown swan song. He falls asleep, and she kisses him on the head before leaving.
From swan songs to torch songs: Princess Margaret’s regaling a small, drunken party of friends in her apartment with a halting rendition of “Just One of Those Things.” She’s accompanied by a large pair of floral button earrings and a brooch in her hair.
Tony, now played by Ben Daniels, returns to hear his wife’s sad, sad song. Disgusted, he heads to his dark room, where he develops lots of pictures revealing the class restlessness in London on election day.
Harold Wilson wins, and the Queen wears another invented floral brooch for their first audience. He’s very awkward and apologetic around her, which is strange, because in reality they’d known each other for years, even socializing as far back as the 1940s.
Wilson is the subject of lots of discussion around the dinner table later that night. Mustached Michael Adeane, now played by David Rintoul, listens as Elizabeth and Philip wonder whether Wilson would be a good spy.
The Queen’s aunt, the Duchess of Gloucester, wears diamonds as she interjects that her husband would have made a fantastic spy, because he’s so forgettable. Then the Gloucesters bicker quite nastily across the dinner table.
The Queen’s face sort of says it all. Jewelry side-note: the earrings she’s wearing in this scene are invented jewels. They’ve been featured throughout the series as substitutes for Queen Alexandra’s Wedding Earrings.
The marital discord continues further down the table, as a turquoise-clad Margaret complains to her mother about Tony’s frequent absences.
The Queen Mother, now played by Marion Bailey, downplays the whole thing, saying that Margaret and Tony can spend lots of time together on their upcoming trip to America. (That took place in November 1965.) Wearing some generic invented jewels, she says that she and Bertie always bonded during their trips.
The family is in the middle of celebrating the Duke of Gloucester’s birthday when the Queen is summoned to the telephone. Before poor Henry can even blow out his birthday candles, HM announces that Churchill is dead. (The timeline is all over the place in this episode. Henry’s birthday was on March 31. Churchill died on January 24, 1965.)
In a shot reminiscent of the first episodes of season one, we get a close-up of the Queen’s pearls as she dresses for Churchill’s funeral. The show generally uses the pearls as a symbol of the Queen’s royal status.
Another symbol of status, the insignia of the Order of the Garter, is shown resting atop Churchill’s coffin during his funeral procession.
A brooch-less Queen receives Martin Furnival Jones, the director of MI5 (from 1965 until 1972, to be precise). She’s all ready for him to announce that Harold Wilson is a spy, but he reveals that it’s somebody else — someone in the royal household. More specifically, it’s Sir Anthony Blunt. (Fact check: this is true! On April 23, 1964, after being offered immunity from prosecution, Blunt confessed that he had spied for the KGB from the 1930s until the 1950s. Coincidentally, 1964 was also the year that Princess Margaret was also allegedly bugged by the KGB during a visit to Denmark. Might have been an interesting addition to the episode…)
Full of anger over Blunt’s betrayal, the Queen still has to go make remarks at the art exhibition. Wearing an invented tiara and an invented suite of diamond and blue (topaz?) jewels, she gives a speech full of double meanings about duplicity. (The tiara is just … lord, it’s not good.)
Then the Queen expresses her fury to Blunt, and then has to eat a little crow, apologizing to Wilson for misjudging him.
Meanwhile, Prince Philip is livid with Blunt, who coolly reminds him about the Profumo scandal (which featured prominently in the last episode of season two). He engages in some light blackmail, reminding Philip that he was depicted in drawings found in Stephen Ward’s apartment, and that information could be very damaging if it came to light.
In the end, Blunt keeps his job (which did happen), his confession is kept secret (also true), and the Queen is left in her invented jewels to brood on a rainy night, probably wishing she’d been given better accessories for her first royal soap outing. (Sigh.)