By: Emma Sweeney
“Everyone in this system is a lost, lonely, irrelevant outsider, apart from the one person, the only person, that matters. She is the oxygen we all breathe. The essence of all our duty. Your problem, if I may say is you seem to be confused about who that person is,” says Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband, referring to the Queen, as he speaks to Princess Diana in the last episode, season 4, episode 10, of The Crown.
Season four of The Crown was released on Netflix on November 15, 2020. The Crown depicts Queen Elizabeth II’s rule as the longest-reigning monarch in British history and the longest- running female monarch in world history.
The Crown’s seasons are divided by each prime minister’s term. The fourth season covers Margaret Thatcher’s term from 1979 to 1990. Thatcher was the first woman to serve as prime minister of Britain and is dubbed the “Iron Lady.”
The Crown exposes Thatcher’s controversial leadership. Queen Elizabeth II was hopeful to have a woman by her side in leadership for the first time but is disappointed when she learns of Thatcher’s decision to choose an all- male cabinet.
Throughout her eleven-year term, Thatcher faced surges of unpopularity and resentment from the people because of her policies.
“As we see in The Crown, unemployment skyrocketed; at its peak in 1984, more than twice as many were out of work as five years earlier. Income inequality rose, too, as did crime. If you were one of those shut out of the boom times — if you lived in the north, say, or worked in manufacturing — you experienced her reign as a period of ever-increasing precarity,” says Vulture.
Despite both Queen Elizabeth and the Iron Lady sharing many similarities- such as age, a dedication to their roles, and motherhood- in the show, there is conflict between them as they continue to disagree on the country’s issues. The Crown pits the two leaders against one another- leading to a rivalry, which did not appear to happen in real life.
There has been controversy over the accuracy of The Crown– as it portrays the royal family in a negative light. In a statement to Deadline, Netflix says, “We have always presented The Crown as a drama—and we have every confidence our members understand it’s a work of fiction that’s broadly based on historical events.”
Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Princess Margaret, says, “It is dramatized. I do feel very strongly, because I think we have a moral responsibility to say, ‘Hang on guys, this is not … it’s not a drama-doc, we’re making a drama.’ So they are two different entities.”
Furthermore, Thatcher’s term begins one of the most interesting periods in British history. Some events in the season include Lord Mountbatten’s assassination, political unrest between the IRA, Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage, the Falklands War, Michael Fagan’s break- in at Buckingham Palace, and Thatcher’s departure from office.
The anticipation of this season was high as viewers have been waiting for the introduction of the People’s Princess, Lady Diana. The show depicts one of the most fascinating and publicized relationships in royal history, the marriage between Princess Diana and Prince Charles. The show dramatizes their relationship.
At only twenty years old, Diana married Charles and became a princess. Her naivety and beauty made her a star.
Behind the fairytale façade, Diana’s experience as a royal was anything but magical. She was under constant scrutiny by the press and the royal family, who is depicted to show her no warmth. Diana attracted publicity because of her approachability and relatability, which contrasted with how the public usually views the royals; Charles reacted to the people’ love of Diana with jealousy and resentfulness.
Throughout their marriage, both Diana and Charles had affairs; Charles most notably with his old girlfriend, Camilla Parker- Bowles, which deeply impacted Diana. Diana had ongoing mental health problems and an eating disorder.
The show depicts their tumultuous marriage was a disaster from the beginning. Charles was pressured into marrying Diana because she received his family’s approval and his true object of affection, Camilla, did not.
The series shows how the fictionalized royal family makes the same mistake with Charles and Diana as they have done countless times in the past. They do not learn that trying to control who someone should love will only end in failure.
Both Diana and Charles did not understand one another and had no idea what they were getting themselves into. They were both immature and naïve. Diana is seen as a victim to fame and what happened behind closed doors as her life shattered around her.
Princess Diana is not the only conflicted character as each person has problems and pain of their own. Each of the Queen’s children yearn for her love and affection, but the Queen keeps her stoic and serious misdemeanor. Her fortitude and sternness are important characteristics for a leader, but do not make for the warmest mother.
In the fourth episode, “The Favourites,” the Queen tries to decide who is her favorite child and sets up meetings with each of them, which reveals the complicated and depressing truth of being a royal.
Princess Anne, the Queen’s only daughter, feels lost as her marriage falls apart. She feels overlooked for her contributions to charity and her participation in the Olympic games. She expresses her jealously of Diana’s spotlight.
Prince Charles is casted aside by the public, as they only care for Diana. He is absorbed in his rank. He continues to disappoint his parents, proving to be an unfit king.
Prince Andrew, who is revealed to be the Queen’s favorite, is appreciated for his participation in the Falklands War. When he marries Sarah Ferguson with an elaborate wedding, he is overshadowed.
Prince Edward, the youngest son, reveals that he is bullied at school for his position, but still uses his power over people.
Additionally, Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister, has a troubled love life and struggles with her identity as a royal, as she is stripped of her seniority just when she wanted more responsibility. She sees how her family swept their secrets under the rug. Margaret struggles with her health- she even undergoes lung surgery.
The Crown portrays every character as a victim- trapped in their sense of duty; however, their struggles do not take away from how they treated others or how they view themselves as superior. The show depicts how some royals remain enveloped in their privilege and arrogance, while trying to escape the pressure and stress they feel from the outside world and their inner circle.
The obligation to try to achieve a perception of perfection takes a toll on the royals because they are only humans who constantly make mistakes. The Crown excellently shows the difficulty of balancing leadership and morality. Each character struggles with making a decision that will be either best for their image or their heart, rarely achieving both.