Last year, Netflix hit ratings gold with a series about a woman who is instantly recognisable, yet still an enigma. The Crown gave viewers a peek behind the silk damask drapes of Buckingham Palace to reveal a young, inexperienced Queen struggling to adapt to her new position as head of state. Writer-creator Peter Morgan wove her intimate relationships with her husband Prince Philip and rest of the royal family against the backdrop of epic political machinations.
On 8 December, the series returns to the small screen for its second season. Though The Crown's stars and creator have kept much of the new season's plots under wraps, they have dropped a few hints, namely that it will explore the Queen's reign from 1956 to 1964. Here are some of the big events that might be featured in the next batch of episodes:
1. The Queen faces new challenges
It's one thing to train to be a monarch, it’s another to fulfill its duties, day after day, year after grinding year. In the second season, Elizabeth struggles with, as Philip says in the trailer, "the whole relentlessness of it all. The fact it never stops, not for a minute." It's also an era when Cold War realities convulse governments and Britain's political strength is put to the test. "I've been Queen barely 10 years, and in that time, I've had three prime ministers and not one has lasted the course," the Queen says in the trailer.
There are also challenges of a personal nature. By the early 1960s, the adulation once heaped on Elizabeth and Philip has faded. The Queen's formal style is becoming seen as old-fashioned, even fusty. Now everyone is fawning over the charismatic U.S. president, John F. Kennedy and his beautiful wife Jackie. Will their visit to Britain in 1961 upstage the monarchy?
2. Philip leaves Britain to find himself
In season one, Philip struggled in his royal role as the Queen’s husband. Once a fast-rising naval officer, he left his job to support his wife but yearned for a more defined place within the monarchy. Now, the new trailer hints, he finds his groove on the Royal Yacht Britannia's inaugural world tour, a 63,000-km odyssey through the southern hemisphere. He grows a bushy beard, slides back into the routines of military life and relaxes, perhaps for the first time in his life. He sends home films of his travels, including one showing penguins at the South Pole.
During this time, Philip carves out a role for himself, independent of that of his wife, by channelling his boundless energy into a multitude of projects ranging from a book of Antarctic bird photographs to the massively popular Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme for youths. In recognition of his achievements, his proud wife bestows him with the title "Prince of the United Kingdom" in 1957.
Princess Margaret finds love again
The Queen's sister was always a rebel. In the last season, she discovered the limit of her rule-breaking nature when her desire to marry a war hero and divorcée, Group Captain Peter Townsend, collapsed amid criticism. She was devastated, blaming her sister for not standing up for her.
Now, moving with a free-spirited artistic crowd in London, the glamorous princess meets her match in photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones. The handsome, charismatic photographer is clever and charming, and, as an aristocrat who works for a living, he’s the ultimate non-prince consort. Sparks fly when they meet.
Philip and Elizabeth expand their family
A photograph of a heavily pregnant Elizabeth being held by her husband teases that the new season of The Crown will spend more time delving into their family life. In the first season, viewers saw only glimpses of Elizabeth as mother to Charles and Anne.
Now established in her role as monarch, she has more time to devote to being a mother and wife. In 1959, while on an exhausting 45-day visit to Canada, Elizabeth discovers she's pregnant with Andrew. Will that tour be featured in The Crown? The answer comes in December.