'The Crown' Primer: Everything to Know Before Starting Season 3

Two years after the second season of Netflix's crown jewel series last aired, revisit what happened in the season two finale and find out what to know about the events and characters in season three.
Sophie Mutevelian/Netflix

Two years after The Crown season two was released, the royal drama returns to Netflix for its third season with a brand new cast playing the British royal family.

The expansive and expensive show — which is estimated to have cost Netflix "upward of $150 million," per a recent New York Times report — focuses much of its third season on the monarchs finding their purpose in a rapidly modernizing world.

As a recent New York Times Magazine profile on creator Peter Morgan pointed out, the series "lifts the curtain on the whole royal enterprise. The Crown doesn’t feed public fantasy — it pours cold water on it."

While much of each season is derived from public record and meticulous research, at the end of the day it's a fiction series that takes the occasional artistic liberty — like, say, having a politician resign in 1967 instead of 1965.

"I think there’s a covenant of trust with the audience," Morgan told the Times. "They understand a lot of it is conjecture. Sometimes there are unavoidable accuracy blips — an event might not have taken place where, or even when, I imagined it did. But I’m absolutely fastidious about there being an underlying truth."

Ahead of the season's release, revisit where season two ended, learn where season three will pick up and get to know the new faces of the series with The Hollywood Reporter's handy primer.

Where the Story Left Off

At the end of season two, the marriage troubles between Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip had come to a head, and the couple had just welcomed their fourth child, Prince Edward.

Where Season 3 Picks Up

As with seasons one and two, not much time will have passed when the season begins. Britain has elected a new prime minister, Harold Wilson, and the Queen isn't necessarily excited by the new politician she'll have to work with for the next several years. (Spoiler alert for history: They do eventually develop a working relationship.)

A major theme of the season sees the royals reflecting on their place in modern British society, and how they'll be able to serve their people in the changing '60s and '70s. Meanwhile, the marriage between Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones is crumbling, Prince Charles is preparing for his future royal duties and falling in love and Prince Philip is thinking about how to modernize the monarchy.

Who's Who

While the characters are familiar, the faces are new. In addition to the new actors playing royal trio Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and Princess Margaret, Prince Charles and Princess Anne are played by older actors, as the characters are now young adults. Then there are the new political figures featured this season, including Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Lord Mountbatten.

The most notable new faces include:

Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth

Taking over for Claire Foy as the titular monarch is Oscar winner Colman, who will play the character from the late 1960s through the 1980s on the series, though season three will end in the late 1970s.

Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret

The royal troublemaker and younger sister of the queen will now be played by the Oscar nominee, taking over for Vanessa Kirby.

Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip

TV veteran Menzies, who has had critically acclaimed turns in The Terror and Outlander in recent years (not to mention Game of Thrones), takes over for Matt Smith as the queen's husband.

Josh O'Connor as Prince Charles

The young actor (Florence Foster Jenkins) has a memorable episode that takes place during the semester he spent abroad in Wales before his investiture as the Prince of Wales.

Erin Doherty as Princess Anne

Another standout is Call the Midwife's Erin Doherty as the second-oldest royal child.

Jason Watkins as Harold Wilson

Watkins plays the two-time prime minister with whom the queen worked in the late 1960s through the mid-'70s.

Charles Dance as Lord Mountbatten

The Game of Thrones star plays the queen's cousin, who, in addition to his political dealings, plays a significant role in Charles' life.

Emerald Fennell as Camilla Parker Bowles

The Killing Eve season 2 showrunner plays Charles' first love.

Two people who won't appear: Lady Diana Spencer and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who have been cast but will make their debuts in season four of the series, which is currently filming in England.

Release Date

Season three of The Crown is available to stream Sunday, Nov. 17 on Netflix.