The fourth season premiere of The Crown on Netflix features one of the most memorable character introductions of the entire series. Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) has just arrived at Sarah Spencer’s vast family estate, which is as forlorn as it is opulent. Sarah’s younger sister, a 16-year-old girl dressed as a tree for a school performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, hides behind two towering ornamental plants as he waits in the foyer.
She has been instructed not to show herself to Charles, but Diana (Emma Corrin) can’t help but steal the show, even when she’s meant to be in the background. Later, Charles learns from his date that the withdrawn, bashful kid may have orchestrated their meeting. Sarah snickers about Diana, saying, “She was infatuated with the thought of meeting you.” Obsessed.
The Crown is designed to resist calcification because of its extensive cast replacements every two years and its focus on episodic storytelling. But the current season feels even fresher than the last one, when Claire Foy and Matt Smith were replaced by Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, respectively.
Through the eyes of two new major characters, we see the British royal family in a new light: Diana, who desperately wants to join the Windsors despite knowing that her marriage to a man in love with another woman will be a disaster, and Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson), whose (ironically) populist contempt for the residents of Buckingham Palace grows with each encounter.
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With former major players such as Prince Philip and Elizabeth’s sister Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter) playing diminished roles, the fourth season is the first in which the domestic tensions among the royals are nearly as interesting as the British history that unfolds outside the palace gates.
Creator Peter Morgan and his writers continue to be impressive in their capacity to condense national events into dramatically compelling crises of the week and to flesh out real-life characters in just a few scenes (though, delightfully, the show doesn’t bother to do so for whimpering princelings Andrew and Edward).
During the eleven years of Thatcher’s prime ministership (1979-1990), Elizabeth is torn between two opposing views of the future held by two very different, quite obstinate people.
Diana begs for the kind of familial warmth and marital fidelity that are anathema to the Windsors, her loneliness leading to bouts of bingeing and purging, rollerskating to Duran Duran within the palace’s carpeted hallways, and even having dinner with Charles’ mistress, the callous and cunning Camilla Parker-Bowles (Emerald Fennell).
Diana, portrayed by Corrin, is still star-struck by her own popularity, which will finally kill her. Corrin is a good fit for the role of the royal family’s most popular member for decades. And while The Crown has always provided spectacular spectacle, Diana’s scenes feature some of the series’ most stunning gowns.
While Diana charms and disarms, Thatcher reduces the United Kingdom to its bare essentials. One of the undervalued delights of The Crown has been observing prime ministers come and leave, frequently with little ceremony. But in this season we only see Thatcher as Prime Minister.
Philip dismisses Thatcher as the “daughter of a shopkeeper”; nonetheless, Morgan’s Thatcher is an even better creation than his Diana; she was a tough woman who shattered class and gender barriers but was on the wrong side of history on virtually all significant issues, including Apartheid.
She frequently cooks, irons, and dotes on her favorite child, and would likely have no tolerance for a lady who isn’t always doing everything. The flawlessly stylish Anderson, Morgan’s companion, initially appears to be dreadfully miscast; her portrayal is only marginally less mannered than Meryl Streep’s award-baiting performance in The Iron Lady.
However, the stoop, creaky voice, and facial tics rapidly coalesce into a lady who is as vicious as she is unassuming, a cruel hawk disguised as a hairspray grandmother. The Crown travels almost as extensively as its characters, but its most impactful excursion this season is to working-class London, which is being decimated by Thatcher’s austerity tactics.
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The stark difference between Buckingham Palace and the drab neighborhoods just a few miles away is quite stunning and serves as another unimpressed outsider’s view of the Windsor way of life.
Ultimately, though, Thatcher and Diana plant suspicions about Elizabeth’s motherhood at her feet. It’s a side of the queen we’ve rarely seen, even on The Crown — a symbol of continuity and tradition wondering if she’s done enough to prepare her now mostly adult children for the modern world, even as she fulfills her duty to instruct her son and his new bride to perform royal romance for the public. Charles, who is appropriately self-pitying, is aware that if Elizabeth must choose between becoming queen and his mother, he will always lose.
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What Do the Royals Think of Season 4 of the Crown?
“The queen is aware that many viewers of The Crown perceive it to be an authentic depiction of the royal family, and she is unable to change that,” a senior courtier stated. “However, I can transmit that she was outraged by the portrayal of Prince Philip as an uncaring parent to his son.
Why is the Crown’s Fourth Season Controversial?
In the fourth season, Diana and her disastrous love with the then-Prince of Wales were introduced. Critics of the play rushed to his defense after its broadcast, with insiders close to him stating Prince William was “upset” by scenes of Charles angrily attacking Diana.
Did the Royal Family Endorse the Television Show the Crown?
Princess Meghan and Prince Harry. Prince Harry told James Corden that he is “far more comfortable with The Crown” than “fake news” tabloid articles. “It’s fictitious… In a 2021 visit on James Corden’s The Late Late Show, Harry stated that the film is loosely based on reality. Nov 9, 2022