Marital discord, her sister’s provocative new boyfriend, babies and political turmoil are making life difficult for the Queen!
Welcome back to The Crown, which starts streaming on Netflix from Dec. 8. Now set in the early 1960s, much of the drama surrounds Queen Elizabeth sending husband Prince Philip off on a five-month tour, which is among the stresses explored in the new season.
“When they finally get a chance to look at their marriage, it’s in pretty dire straits,” Claire Foy, who’s back as the young Elizabeth, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “They’ve both in their own ways dealt with it and made themselves feel better or healed themselves in whatever way they are able to.”
Part of their “healing” involves welcoming their two younger sons, Prince Andrew (born in 1960) and Prince Edward (1964).
“She’s able to focus on that a lot more — on the personal relationships in her life, as opposed to thinking about the duty that she has and what she means to the British public,” says Foy, 33.
For much more on The Crown, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
This season is a departure from the “fairy story” of last year’s, says director Philip Martin. By the early 1960s, the public “is questioning whether we need a royal family,” he says. “It’s a complete energy change.”
Watch Elizabeth and Philip: A Royal Romance now on the new PeopleTV network. Go to PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite mobile or connected TV device.
There are also flashbacks to Philip’s lonely childhood. (His own royal family was ousted during the coup in Greece and his mother was institutionalized.) “We learn a lot more about him and his history and his heritage,” says actor Matt Smith, who portrays him in the series. “It has made him quite tough and resilient.”
Meanwhile, Princess Margaret has been forced to end her affair with Group Capt. Peter Townsend due to his previous divorce. The show explores her burgeoning relationship with the man who would become her husband, society photographer Tony Armstrong-Jones, played by Downton Abbey’s Matthew Goode. A swinging ’60s figure, their raunchy romance “captures the feeling of the times,” says historical consultant Robert Lacey.