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The Truth Behind The Crown: The New Characters

Nigel Brown
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With the third season of The Crown set to premiere on November 17th, fans are well aware that the major roles are to be taken over by new actors – most prominently, Olivia Colman as The Queen, Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret.

With the new season covering the lives of the Royals between 1964 and 1977, we are set to encounter a few more famous faces that gained notoriety during this period in history – some of whom would shake the monarchy to its very core over the coming decades. 

Here, we give an overview of four new characters who will be introduced in forthcoming instalments of The Crown and explore how significant a role they played in the lives of the Royals.

Harold Wilson

Prime Minister Harold Wilson will undoubtedly loom large over the third season of The Crown, given that he served as Prime Minister not only between 1964 and 1970, but from 1974 to 1976 as well. 

Played in the Netflix drama by acclaimed character actor Jason Watkins, Wilson should bring a markedly different dynamic to the relationship between The Queen and her Prime Minister. As Elizabeth II’s first PM to come from a lower-middle-class background, Wilson will provide a marked contrast to The Queen and those she usually interacts with – one which, perhaps surprisingly, resulted in an almost instant rapport between the Head of State and her head of government. 

Harold Wilson was also instrumental in overseeing a period of considerable change in British history; following the independence granted to British Somaliland in 1960 and a speech given by Harold Macmillan in South Africa forecasting “winds of change”, the government was beginning to realise that the state of the British Empire was untenable. Many colonies were losing patience and potentially gearing up for revolt, so the 1960s and 1970s saw the systematic disassembly of the British Empire.

This sets up a potentially intriguing dramatic contrast for the forthcoming season of The Crown; the diminishment of the vast Empire the British Monarch had fought to build, overseen by a Prime Minister for whom The Queen professed a great fondness. 

Camilla Shand

In 1971, Prince Charles met a woman who would loom large over the rest of his life – and over the Royal Family itself. He was introduced to Camilla Rosemary Shand at the home of Lucia Santa Cruz and quickly became friends; they would progress to lovers when Camilla decided to make Andrew Parker Bowles jealous for courting Princess Anne.

The down-to-earth, quick-witted Camilla will be played by Emerald Fennell in the upcoming season of The Crown, fresh off her stint as a screenwriter and showrunner on the BBC America smash hit Killing Eve. No doubt she will be excellent casting for the strong-willed woman of intellect who captivated Charles – only to break his heart by marrying Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973, while Charles was stationed abroad during his military service.

The two love triangles at the heart of the young Royals in the 1970s – between Charles, Camilla, Andrew and between Anne, Camilla and Andrew – could provide a deep well of high emotion for the third season of The Crown; a hint of soap opera to round out the stuffiness of the elder generations. 

For the true story of how Camilla Shand went to Camilla Parker-Bowles and, finally, the Duchess of Cornwall, watch our documentary The Real Camilla

Margaret Thatcher

Although Margaret Thatcher didn’t become Prime Minister until 1979, she became leader of the Conservative Party in 1975 – so there is a small chance she will be featuring in the third season of The Crown.

Either way, Thatcher has been cast, with The X-Files’ Gillian Anderson playing the formidable Iron Lady and filming of her scenes already underway. The Queen’s relationship with Margaret Thatcher was considerably frostier than it had been with Harold Wilson; Thatcher famously hated her annual visits to Balmoral, and didn’t seem particularly interested in fostering friendliness with the Monarch. As far as Thatcher was concerned, while it was important that The Queen be kept informed and in line, gaining Elizabeth II’s approval was of significantly less concern. 

Even if Margaret Thatcher doesn’t end up making an appearance until season four, the clash of personalities between these two powerful women will definitely be something to look forward to as the series develops. 

Lady Diana Spencer

Diana Spencer didn’t enter the public eye until 1977 – when she was formally introduced to Prince Charles – so she is unlikely to appear in the third season of The Crown given that it covers the period from 1964 to 1977.

When the 16-year-old Diana met Prince Charles he was almost twice her age, and was courting her older sister Lady Sarah Spencer. It wasn’t until three years later that Charles began to consider Diana as a potential match, and a year after that they embarked on a marriage which would almost immediately be characterised as loveless – and would eventually develop into something much darker and more tragic than the mere affectionless boredom of its early years. 

Newcomer Emma Corrin will be playing Lady Diana Spencer, and she certainly looks the part. As the relationship develops – and unravels – over the coming seasons, portraying the wildly emotional ups and downs of Charles and Diana is sure to present a tremendous challenge.

For the true behind-the-scenes story of Diana Princess of Wales and her tumultuous life as a Royal, watch our exclusive panel discussion The Royal View: Royals on the Rocks.

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