What to Read Before You Binge-Watch Season 2 of The Crown

If you’re like us, you’re probably bingeing Season 2 of The Crown, released by Netflix on December 8, as quickly as possible (but elegantly, of course). The slow-burning crises of the royals, the costumes, the sets, the way the characters pronounce “duty” (“duu-taaay”)—these are just a few of the reasons to love the show, including Claire Foy’s portrayal of Queen Elizabeth. This will be her last season before Olivia Colman hops in at the start of the 1960s, so we can’t wait to see Foy alongside a few new additions. Matthew Goode will play Antony Armstrong-Jones, a playboy photographer who marries Princess Margaret, with Michael C. Hall and Jodi Balfour as JFK and Jackie O. Drama!

We put together a quick recap of Season 1 for those of you who haven’t revisited. And once you’ve streamed all of Season 2, we have a list of British shows to watch if you love The Crown, so you can keep a stiff upper lip.

Season 1 started with King George VI’s illness and death. You’ll remember from The King’s Speech that George became king when his brother Edward abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson. George dies from lung cancer, with a few heartbreaking scenes as Elizabeth, her sister Margaret, and the Queen Mother realize they are living his final days together.

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Elizabeth learns of her father’s death on a tour of the Commonwealth with her husband, Prince Philip, who is a brash, unusual choice for the future sovereign, a kind of foil to his wife. Elizabeth is subdued and prim, while he enjoys running off to weekend shooting parties.

The Queen’s coronation occurs when she is just 25, when it starts to become evident that Philip doesn’t take so easily to kneeling to his wife, or obeying her as a subject. Edward, the Duke of Windsor, returns to England with his wife, Wallis, for the event, but gets a frosty reception and watches it on television. Tensions continue to grow between Elizabeth and Philip, including one fight in which paparazzi catch Elizabeth throwing objects at her husband. He becomes jealous especially when the Queen gives Lord “Porchy” Porchester a direct line to her at Buckingham Palace.

Princess Margaret’s ill-fated love story with Peter Townsend puts her sister in the awkward position of blessing their union, which she eventually does—but only on the condition that Margaret gives up all her titles and royal privileges. She ends her relationship with Townsend, and has a hard time forgiving her sister, the monarch, if at all.

As a leader, Elizabeth isn’t content to talk merely about dogs and horses, and endeavors to learn much more about British parliament and world politics. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Winston Churchill conceals his ill health from her as long as he can. We learn that Churchill lost a daughter at a young age, which haunts him, despite his bombastic political style. And this possibly explains his affinity for Elizabeth and their tentative friendship, which is tested by the Great Smog of 1952, in which London is engulfed in a thick cloud of poisonous gases. When Churchill eventually steps down, Anthony Eden takes over, but quickly gets himself into a crisis over ownership of the Suez Canal—not to mention the fact that he is unwell himself.

By the end of Season 1, Elizabeth has asked Philip to open the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, in a bid to make him feel less emasculated. He will also be traveling for five months on a tour of the Commonwealth, an opportunity that initially, at least, certainly does not displease him. In fact, it sets the stage for further exploration of Philip’s character, his childhood, and his relationship with Elizabeth (including his alleged affairs) in Season 2.

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