A disaster of a marriage. The fingers in her mouth. The cheating. The lying. The jealousy. The mental health crises.The awkward hug. An intruder. Imposter syndrome. Diana Spencer and Margaret Thatcher. British pride is at its height in season four of the Netflix hit TV series The Crown, presenting a racy, controversial, tea-filled season.
Viewers met Camilla Parker-Bowles (Emerald Fennell) in season three when Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) proclaimed she was the one whom he wanted to marry, and consequently anoint with the title of Princess of Wales. But, since Camilla was born into an undesirable bloodline, the royal family pushed Charles to find another wife—someone fit to be the future Queen of England.
With time, his family thought he would come to accept this royal duty. Instead, his resentment toward his family heightened—evident in his letters to the Duke of Windsor in season three.
The same cycle of falling into forbidden love continues in season four. The anger Charles feels toward his family drives him to court almost half of Britain’s finest women. It was during these escapades that he happened upon Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) dressed in a garish Christmas tree costume.
While Charles courted Diana, England welcomed a new prime minister. Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) was all brain and no heart rising to office with the intent of revamping Britain from “top to bottom.” The poised Anderson stole the show with her Thatcher-like severity and cold-hearted manner further characterized by her scratchy, stretched thin voice—making for a strong imitation of the former prime minister.
Meanwhile, Corrin’s portrayal of Lady Di was a strong yet vulnerable depiction. Her constant head tilt, her blue-green eyes sliding to the right, and the corner of her mouth twisted upward was almost a fixed stance. There were few changes in her demeanor. But behind her coy smile, her pain was transferred from the screen to the viewer.
Diana’s pain was exemplified in the scenes in which she dealt with Charles’s snide remarks and infidelity, as he takes every chance he has to run off to his former mistress Camilla. Her pain is exasperated further by Charles’s refusal to protect her from the hardship that comes with falling in line as a member of the royal family.
Charles reduces his relationship with Diana to a mere formality. As he proposes to Diana, he cites her societal rank as his reason for wanting to marry her. He makes her return to her apartment that same day and visits Camilla the night before his wedding rehearsal. Influenced in part by Charles’s constant absence and dismissive behavior, Diana succumbs to an eating disorder.
The beginning of several episodes opened with a note to the viewers about “scenes of an eating disorder which some viewers may find troubling” —another aspect of this season, which, aided by Corrin’s acting, made Diana’s pain all the more palpable. She would go to the kitchen at any time of day, rummage through the fridge for sweets and meats, then scarf them down in a rush of aching hunger. Moments later, she would be seen with one hand cupping the side of the toilet and the other plunging into her mouth to induce vomiting. This routine was followed by hand washing, teeth brushing, and an ensuing depression.
While Diana was struggling, Thatcher was waging an unpopular and unwanted war in the Falkland Islands to assert British dominance. While Thatcher exerted her control over England, the unemployment rate was at an all time high and was accompanied by massive government spending.
The show also dedicates time to Michael Fagan (Tom Brooke), a man of many trades but who has no job, is divorced, and affected by the ‘Iron Lady’s’ tough policies. The episode entitled “Fagan” was darkly comedic as it portrayed him breaking into Buckingham Palace not once, but twice, and eventually speaking to Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) about the state of the downtrodden.
Queen Elizabeth, meanwhile, dealt with many emotional stressors that arose during this time, including the Irish and the Australians wanting to break free from the monarchy, the assasination of Uncle Dickie (Charles Dance), the attempted suicide of her sister Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter), and Diana’s pleas for affection. Through all of this, Colman beautifully portrays an unaffected, strong, and emotionally suppressed monarch.
The only disappointing part of this season was the reenacting of Diana and Charles’s wedding. Aside from that, the end of the season promises increased tension between Charles and Diana, and Thatcher’s struggles to keep her position as prime minister.
Photo Courtesy of Netflix