‘The Crown’: The History Behind Season 3 on NetflixBreaking News
tags: British history, The Crown, royal history
The third season of “The Crown,” Netflix’s opulent show about Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and family, kicks off with an episode called “Olding.” The title refers to both the queen’s reaching middle age and to a spy scandal at the heart of the British establishment, a blending of the royals’ private lives and state affairs that continues throughout the season’s other nine episodes.
Opening in 1964 and taking viewers into the ’70s, Season 3 follows Elizabeth as she leads her country and family through a series of crises. As in previous seasons, the script imagines many private conversations and scenes of which there is no historical record. But The New York Times covered the real-life events that provide the backbone to each episode.
Here’s how the history behind the fiction was covered. You can explore more in the TimesMachine archive browser. (Warning: This feature contains spoilers for all 10 episodes of Season 3.)
Episode 1, ‘Olding’
“Old bat” are the first words we hear from Olivia Colman’s Queen Elizabeth, spoken as she inspects a new portrait of herself. This austere profile, betraying no emotion but designed to convey a sense of majesty, marked the queen’s transition from a young princess to a settled monarch. It mirrors the queen’s image that has been printed on British postage stamps since 1967.
Showing one’s true colors is also a central theme later in the episode, when a K.G.B. agent is discovered within the royal household. Anthony Blunt, who was in charge of the queen’s official art collection, was also a Soviet spy, and his betrayal remained a secret for years, as he continued to serve in Buckingham Palace. His identity was only publicly revealed in 1979, when Margaret Thatcher, then prime minister, told Parliament of his actions. The queen knew about Blunt’s identity, but was advised to take no action, The Times reported. And Blunt received immunity from prosecution so as to avoid compromising counterintelligence operations.
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