The eagerly anticipated fourth season of The Crown dropped on Netflix this month much to the delight of its fans. If, like me, you binged it instantly you will already be OBSESSED with the storylines (plus fact checking them), the wardrobe, and two exciting additions to the cast; Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) and Princess Diana (Emma Corrin).
This season focuses on the tumultuous time from 1979, when Thatcher’s Conservative government took office, up to 1990 when she was ousted by her own party. Unemployment was rife, trade unions collapsed, Britain warred with the Falklands and controversy surrounded South Africa’s apartheid policies. The decade also saw the Royal family face challenges such as Lord Mountbatten’s murder by IRA bombers, Princess Margaret’s health struggles, and an unwelcome intruder to Buckingham Palace. Whilst Anderson gives a stellar performance as the PM, perfecting her gait and accent, centre stage arguably goes to Charles and Diana, played by the brilliant Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin, respectively.
Facing mounting pressure to find a suitable wife and secure an heir, Charles settles on Lady Diana Spencer, the sweet, virginal nursery assistant from an aristocratic background. There is just one flaw; he loves a married woman, Camilla Parker-Bowles. Their engagement photocall famously prompted Charles to say, in response to a reporter’s question as to whether they were in love: “mmm, yes…whatever in love means”.
Despite the marriage, he maintains a close relationship with Camilla, much to Diana’s displeasure. Even going as far as having a special bracelet made for her and wearing cufflinks given to him as a present from Camilla on his honeymoon.
It’s easy to forget how young Diana was when she married Charles, just 20 to his 32 years. Suddenly she was thrust into the spotlight with the entire world watching her every move. Corrin embodies the naivety perfectly. We even witness a spectacular scene when the two women in Charles’ life have an excruciatingly uncomfortable lunch date. The stress combined with her marriage woes led to her development of bulimia. Prince William’s arrival provided a welcome distraction. We know how the story played out. Affairs, jealousy at Diana’s popularity overshadowing Charles, a near-death skiing accident escape, desperate attempts to salvage the marriage and the Queen’s refusal to grant a divorce. For this season at least.
Dramatic storylines aside, we must take a moment to appreciate Diana’s wardrobe. Her style evolves throughout the season, from youthful yellow dungarees, preppy peter pan collar blouses, roller skates, and garish print woolly jumpers to assured checked two-piece skirt suits. For their 1983 Australia tour, outfits were copied from the white linen dress she wore to Ayers Rock to an amazing blue & silver flouncy floor length dress she wore dancing with Charles in Sydney – a real life Cinderella moment. Her Emmanuel’s puff sleeved taffeta wedding dress was painstakingly recreated from the original designer sketches at enormous cost for a few seconds of screen time. My personal favourite was a white satin gown and beaded bolero she wore at a New York Gala. She emerges under paparazzi flashlight bulbs looking positively ethereal.
Whilst there has been controversy surrounding the season’s portrayal of the Royal family as unyielding and cold, and a Twitter backlash against Clarence House, the official account of Charles and Camilla, writer Peter Morgan defends the embellished and imagined conversations due to artistic licence. The series ends on a rather chilling note, with Prince Phillip warning Diana that if she breaks away, “I don’t think things will end well for you”. It parallels a Shakespearean tragedy. And of course, we know there was more tragedy to come.