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Rivalry, jealousy, and personal affairs are at the forefront of The Crown season 4.
The series delivered its best and most controversial season yet, which was to be expected with the arrival of two iconic figures: a young Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) and “The Iron Lady,” Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (X-Files‘ Gillian Anderson).
We’re breaking down the biggest moments episode-by-episode!
Season 4 Episode 1 – Gold Stick
Lord Mountbatten aka Dickie, Prince Charles’s closest confidant and mentor, and Prince Phillip’s surrogate father, was spending time in their holiday home in the Republic of Ireland when the boat he took out during their outing exploded into smithereens. Two members of the IRA took credit for the assassination. The bombing took the lives of Mountbatten, 14-year-old Nicholas Brabourne (Dickie’s grandchild), and Paul Maxwell, a friend of the family who worked on the boat. Mountbatten’s daughter Patricia and her husband, Lord John Brabourne, survived along with one of their twins, Timothy. Lord Brabourne’s mother, the dowager Lady Doreen Brabourne, died of her injuries the next day.
While the series sticks close to facts, it does sensationalize parts of the script. In the episode, Charles reads a letter from Mountbatten after his death, in which he’s scrutinized for continuing to have a relationship with Camila, a married woman. This is a pivotal moment because it convinces the heir to throne to follow his duty rather than his heart and pursue Diana, a sweet, innocent, well-tempered woman who will make a good Queen.
The Crown S4. Picture shows: Princess Diana (EMMA CORRIN) and Prince Charles (JOSH O CONNOR). Filming Location: Kensington Town Hall
Season 4 Episode 2 – The Balmoral Test
Diana truly impresses Prince Phillip when she accompanies him on a morning hunt, spots the stag, and helps him put it outs of its misery with one shot. Phillip shares the joyous news with the rest of the family, who all give Charles the nod of approval to marry Diana.
Charles tells Camila that Diana “passed with flying colors,” but doesn’t want to marry her because she’s just a child. There’s a 16-year-old age-gap between Diana and Charles.
Season 4 Episode 3 – Fairytale
A royal engagement kicks off episode 3, though Prince Charles’s “it’s done, I did it” comment after the fact is far from romantic.
Lady D, on the other hand, was ecstatic and celebrated with her friends soon after, which may have been the last moment of happiness and normalcy in her life. After picking out the ring, moving into the palace, starting her royal training, and announcing the engagement publicly, Diana soon learned that she was in for a life of loneliness and always being second-best to Camila.
She was quickly disillusioned from her “fairy tale” life when she discovered that Charles rang Camila every day during his six-week trip but didn’t even bother to contact her once.
All of this culminated in Diana’s real-life battle with bulimia. The Crown, which had trigger-warnings ahead of the specific episodes, didn’t shy away from vividly showing her bingeing on food before throwing it all up in the bathroom.
When Charles returns from his trip, she confronts him about the cheating during their wedding rehearsal, which is witnessed by Princess Margaret. As someone who was denied her true love due to the family’s “duty,” she immediately called out the lack of love between Charles and Diana. “How many times can this family make the same mistake,” she questioned, but it fell on deaf ears as Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth, and the rest of the lot were convinced that the process was sound and with time, the two would learn to love each other.
While we see Diana in the iconic wedding dress, the episode didn’t feature the wedding because Peter Morgan said you can just watch it on Youtube. And that, friends, is true.
The Crown S4. Picture shows: Princess Diana (EMMA CORRIN)
Season 4 Episode 4 – Favourites
At a time when Britain was facing rising unemployment and a struggling economy, the fourth episode focused heavily on the 1982 Paris-Dakar rally and showed Prime Minister Thatcher as a mother rather than a politician. Her “favorite son,” Mark Thatcher, his French co-driver, Anne-Charlotte Verney, and their mechanic went missing prompting a huge search and rescue mission. A plane spotted them roughly six days later and brought them back to safety.
The Queen was taken aback by Thatcher’s comment about her “favorite” child, but Prince Phillip assured her she too had one. This prompted her to schedule lunches with each of her children to figure out which one she liked most, but instead, she learned that they were all lost and questioned whether she’d been a good mother.
Season 4 Episode 5 – Fagan
It shouldn’t be easy to break into Buckingham Palace, let alone sneak into the Queen’s bedroom, but Michael Fagan, a disillusioned Brit with nothing to lose, successfully did so twice in 1982.
The episode paints the picture of what life was like in Britain for Fagan and many others as it juxtaposes the royals’ lavish parties and celebrations with the rest of the world dealing with soaring unemployment due to Thatcher’s war in the Falkland Islands. This showed just how far removed the royals were from reality and the struggles of the everyday people.
Fagan, specifically, lost his job as a painter/decorator, lost his wife, custody of his kids, and simply couldn’t get back on his feet again.
When no one would listen to his grievances, he decided to facilitate a chit-chat with the Queen by breaking into the palace and waking her up around 7 a.m. While there are mixed reports about how the situation went down in real-life, according to the episode, Fagan got to express his dismay with the current state of Britain, which registered with the Queen.
Fagan was committed for a psychiatric evaluation and spent three months in the psychiatric hospital. He still lives in London to this day.
PICTURE SHOWS: Queen Elizabeth II (OLIVIA COLMAN). Filming Location: Lyceum Theatre
Season 4 Episode 6 – Terra Nullius
The royal family begins to learn just how unhappy Diana is in the marriage as rumors that she’s “doing things to herself” begin to circulate.
Charles and Diana embark on a very important tour of Australia, but it’s a bumpy road as Diana fumbles an interview, refuses to be separated from her infant William, and looks “weak and fragile,” according to her husband, who is still phoning Camila from abroad.
With tensions boiling over, the two realize they cannot continue on this path and have an honest heart-to-heart where they express their love for each other and vow to make this marriage work. Charles is so serious about it, he even ignores a call from Camila.
But all of that goes right out the window when Diana steals the show and captures the heart of the nation. This was supposed to be Prince Charles’ big moment, but all eyes are on Lady D. Prince Charles is so jealous and resentful that he doesn’t even acknowledge that without Diana, they would have likely lost all support in Australia and New Zealand. Any and all love that they had for each other early on in the trip fizzles out entirely and he goes crawling back to Camila.
Back at Buckingham Palace, Diana gets an audience with the Queen and tells her how Prince Charles resents her, but instead of support, the Queen informs her that she was milking the spotlight and overstepped. It’s not the first or last time the royal family makes Diana feel as if she’s solely responsible for her failed relationship or blames her for being loved by the people.
Season 4 Episode 7 – The Hereditary Principle
The Crown tackles many tough subjects, but episode 7 focuses on Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret’s institutionalized family. At first, the scenes from inside a mental hospital may be confusing to audiences, but it all comes into focus after Princess Margaret has lung surgery in 1985 and loses yet another lover, Derek Jennings, aka Dazzle.
While the duo has a fling in the episode before he breaks things off to join the priesthood, it’s unclear if the relationship happened in real life.
Margaret spirals into a bit of a depression, so Prince Charles convinces her to go see a therapist, who mentions that she’s heard through the grapevine that mental health may run in the family.
That’s when Margaret learns of Katherine and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, her and Elizabeth’s cousins, who were hidden away to protect the monarchy from the shame of the disease.
The records show that both Katherine and Nerissa died in the 40s and 50s, but Margaret convinces Dazzle to visit the mental institute and check it out firsthand. He informs her that the women are still alive and fully aware of their familial ties to the crown. He also says that there are a total of 5 cousins institutionalized.
Margaret confronts her mother, who explains that the idea of one family having blood rights to the throne was already so fragile that they couldn’t let the public know about the mental illness and question the integrity of the bloodline.
A follow-up therapy session reveals that the genetic fault came from Aunt Fenella, the wife of the Queen Mother’s brother John Herbert Bowes-Lyon, and thus, would never have directly impacted the bloodline of the crown. Margaret deems what her family did unforgivable, but despite feeling completely empty inside and broken by the system, she assures Dazzle that being apart of the royal family is her happiness.
The Crown S4. Picture shows: Margaret Thatcher (GILLIAN ANDERSON). Filming Location: Elstree (Stage 7)
Season 4 Episode 8 – 48:1
The episode sees Thatcher and the Queen clashing over apartheid in South Africa. 48 of the 49 of the commonwealth nations backed the sanctions, including the Queen, but Thatcher was opposed as she thought they’d damage Britain’s economic interests. This meant that the negotiations were brutal as Thatcher kept refusing to sign before eventually caving, which led to this great quote: “in the ring with the Queen, the Iron Lady melted.”
Michael Shea was the Queen’s press secretary, who came to warn the palace that “Today” was set on running a piece about the fraught relationship between Thatcher and the Queen. He advised that they put out a statement shutting the rumors down, but the Queen decided that she wanted to leak the story as she didn’t agree with Thatcher’s policies.
As expected, when the news broke and detailed the ideological rift between the two leaders, it was scandalous, especially as it broke the Queen’s rule of never passing political comments on options.
Despite the story running against the advice of Shea, the Queen’s private secretary made it very clear to him that he was to take responsibility for the leak. Shea was identified as the “palace mole” and forced to give up his position serving the royals. He started a new chapter as a novelist writing political thrillers.
The tension between these two powerful women also overshadowed the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, and you know how the royals are about not getting their time in the spotlight.
Season 4 Episode 9 – Avalanche
Speaking of the spotlight, Diana seemed to steal it again when she tried to surprise Prince Charles with a performance of “Uptown Girl” at a gala during his 37th birthday. As usual, it led to a pretty explosive fight between the couple, which caught the Queen’s attention. Princess Anne clued in her mother about Diana’s several affairs with her bodyguard and riding instructor.
During a ski trip with friends soon after, Prince Charles gets swept up in an avalanche. Both Diana and Prince Charles made it out alive, but his close friend, Major Hugh Lindsay was killed. The avalanche puts plenty into perspective for the royals.
When the Queen summons them for an audience, Prince Charles is ready to inform his mother that he wants to end the marriage and finally be with the woman he loves — Camila. But before he can even get a word in, Diana informs Elizabeth and Prince Phillip that almost losing Charles in the avalanche made her realize just how much she loves him.
Princess Diana truly commits to making the marriage work — she cut off ties with her other lovers, moves into Highgrove, and plans a special surprise for her and Charles’ 7th wedding anniversary. The same cannot be said for Charles, who continues his dalliance with Camila and found himself repulsed with Diana’s gift for their anniversary, a video of her singing a ballad from “Phantom of the Opera.”
Anne tries to convince Charles that Camila will never leave Andrew for him and that their relationship is nothing more than a fantasy, but Camila assures him that she loves him.
So, Charles begins ignoring all of Diana’s calls eventually pushing how towards solitude and loneliness. He hopes he’ll get her to slip up and have another affair, which she does as she runs back to Major Hewitt.
Season 4 Episode 10 – War
After learning about the affair, Charles immediately ran to his mother to tattle on Diana in hopes that it would finally lead to a separation, but the Queen was having none of it.
He also made sure that everyone believed Diana wasn’t mentally stable enough to go on a trip to New York by herself. The family made Diana doubt herself and feel like she couldn’t do anything right.
However, her trip was a smashing success. She received even more love from the people in America than she did in the U.K. She visited many low-income places that weren’t on the radar of American politicians and made the front page after treating aids patients like actual human beings. Of course, this didn’t sit well with Charles, who assumed the whole trip was Diana’s way of once again stealing all the thunder.
Even worse, the coverage made Camila realize that she could never compete with Diana or be as loved as the Princess of Wales, which made Charles lash out at Diana for upsetting his mistress.
Margaret Thatcher was betrayed by her longest-serving Cabinet minister, Sir Geoffrey Howe, when he gave a scathing speech during his resignation. This was later seen as the catalyst for a leadership challenge that found her withdrawing from the position after 11.5 years.
The Queen, who grew to respect Thatcher as a woman and a politician, awarded her the Order of Merit for getting England back on track.
Phillip had a brutally honest conversation with Princess Diana about getting her priorities in order and explained that they all feel like outcasts in the royal family.
We can all thank the series creator and executive producer Peter Morgan or changing his mind.
“As we started to discuss the storylines for Series 5, it soon became clear that in order to do justice to the richness and complexity of the story we should go back to the original plan and do six seasons,” Morgan said per the streamer.
For those who were anticipating that the season might near present-day or even give us a straight-from-the-palace look at the Megxit drama, don’t get your hopes up. While season 5 will bring us into the 21st center, the EP said the additional season will allow the team to creatively explore the current period in greater detail.
This mean, Olivia Colman will stay on as the Queen for one more season before giving the crown over to Imelda Staunton (Professor Umbridge for you Harry Potter fans) for two seasons.
Colman took over from Claire Foy, who portrayed the younger version of the monarch.
Last week, it was announced that Lesley Manville will play Princess Margaret.
Since season 4 was able to complete production prior to the COVID-19 pandemic halting everything, there’s a huge chance it will air sometime later this year.
The fourth season begins the reign of Princess Diana and will welcome newcomer Emma Corrin in the role of Prince Charles’ wife.