With season three of The Crown premiering on Netflix at the end of last year, the show’s historian, biographer Robert Lacey, has released The Official Companion: Volume 2, which takes readers behind the scenes of the award-winning series and aims to separate fact from fiction.
The latest volume: Political Scandal, Personal Struggle and the Years that Defined Elizabeth II, explores the real history behind the second and third season of The Crown (so both Claire Foy AND Olivia Colman) and covers the period spanning from the Suez Canal Crisis in 1956 to the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. Each chapter focuses on a specific episode of the series, with Lacey discussing political and historical events of the time to reveal which storylines were based on fact, and which were added by Crown creator Peter Morgan for dramatic effect. Over the course of 20 chapters, Lacey looks at key events from British history, including the Moon landings and the Aberfan tragedy. Over this 20-year period the United Kingdom had seven Prime Ministers, yet one thing remained constant: The Queen. But the time period also proved a difficult one for Her Majesty, which Lacey addresses as he discusses the Duke of Windsor’s alliance with the Nazis, Princess Margaret’s colourful personal life and Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla Shand (soon to be Camilla Parker Bowles).
As an established biographer, Robert Lacey certainly knows his stuff and it’s evident he’s conducted a lot of research on the history of the time. He’s gained a reputation over the years for his page-turning narrative style, and once again this is evident as he presents the facts in an interesting and accessible way, rather than the account being dry and dull. If there’s one downside it’s that the book could be longer and include more detail for each season (the first volume came in at 366 pages for just one season, compared to 320 pages for two), but that’s just a slight niggle, and could just be the history buff inside of me being greedy to learn more! Love them or loathe them, the Royal Family are an intriguing bunch and Lacey paints a vivid portrait of life at the palace behind the scenes. It’s incredibly interesting not only to learn about a period of history which isn’t covered by the school curriculum, but to gain an insight into the creative process behind The Crown. Lacey details which scenes actually happened and how even the stories which aren’t necessarily true may have been shaped by real-life events.
A fascinating account of the Queen’s reign over the two decades and the political and social history of the time, Robert Lacey’s latest book is an essential read for avid fans of The Crown and history enthusiasts alike.
The Crown: Official Companion Volume 2 is out now.