Season 2 of The Crown is available on Netflix today (!!!) and after binging it we’ve realized that there’s definitely a rebellious streak in the royal bloodline—one that extends way further back than Prince Harry.
You still may be swept up in the news of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement and the debate it sparked—is it a sign that the monarchy is progressing or not really social progress at all?—but we spoke to Vanessa Kirby, who stars as Princess Margaret in the hit series, and found out that he’s definitely not the first to break with tradition.
“She is so vastly royal in her blood, and yet, she’s consistently looking for a way to find herself outside of that,” Kirby tells FLARE of the Princess she plays. “That’s very difficult when you’re so utterly part of the establishment.”
“I think she’s trying to find herself,” says Kirby, and we get to witness that journey in Season 2 of The Crown.
Set in the early 1960s, a time of immense change across the world, with Queen Elizabeth holding on for dear life to the traditional monarchy as colony after colony gains independence from Britain. Most members of the royal family are upset to see their universal power diminishing, but not Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister Princess Margaret. Known as the Royal Rebel, Princess Margaret juggles her royal duties with riding on the back of her new lover’s motorcycle (unheard of for a Princess, FYI) and promoting the need for progress.
In case your memory is fuzzy, the last time we saw the Queen in The Crown was 1956, when she had just decided that Margaret would not be allowed to marry her one true love, a once-divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend. Frustrated that the rules of her regal lineage barred her from enjoying a long and happy life in love, a dejected Margaret spends all of her time drinking, staying out late and breaking as many rules she can.
In Season 2, Margaret is seen gallivanting about town with her new lover and rebellious photographer, Antony Armstrong-Jones, and, while the two end up marrying, Kirby doesn’t think it was out of true love. “I think with Tony she finds somebody which represents the total opposite of her family,” says Kirby. “She can never escape her family, so she’s sort of got one foot in each camp.”
Margaret’s desire for progress is nothing new, either. Back in Season 1, Episode 8, she told Churchill that the monarchy should be more dynamic and human. And she’s sticking to that line of thought in Season 2 when it comes to her relationship with Antony. “It shouldn’t be stuffy and old fashioned, and Tony is the antithesis of all of that,” says Kirby. “I think [their relationship] is very deliberate. I think it comes out of pain and escapism and infatuation, and that doesn’t bode well.” While Season 2 of The Crown doesn’t get this far in history, the marriage between Margaret and Armstrong-Jones came to a very public end, with both of them having multiple affairs.
Although Margaret died in 2002, Kirby is positive she would have identified as a feminist had she been around today. “I think she wants to be a woman that speaks her mind,” Kirby says. “[She wants to] be true to herself in a way that her sister doesn’t feel able to.”
In preparing for her breakout role, Kirby fell in love with the Princess for being an OG royal activist. “She literally doesn’t give a shit what people think, and I think that’s quite rare,” said Kirby. “She’s also very much herself no matter who she’s with and she feels things very deeply. I wish I was a little more like her.”
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