Secrets of The Crown’s new series from Queen vs Maggie to Princess Diana’s pain
With The Crown’s most hotly-anticipated series yet coming to our screens in mid November, Britain is bracing itself for another wave of right royal nostalgia.
But as the storylines become more recent, the tensions run higher than ever with Season 4 featuring explosive events which almost tore the firm apart.
And this season the complex character of Diana is introduced to the binge-watch classic.
Ahead of the Netflix show’s return we look at some of the flashpoints which could make uncomfortable viewing for the House of Windsor.
The Crown, series four, is released on Netflix on November 15
The Charles Problem
As the 1970s draws to a close, the Royal Family, the media and the nation as a whole seems preoccupied with The Charles Problem – why, past the age of 30, the heir to the throne is not yet married and shows no signs of settling down.
The playboy prince is pictured every other week with a different society suitor on his arm. Over a decade of dating, the list of girls is endless.
Being a serial dater is great tabloid fodder, but it’s also a real problem for the monarchy. With no child for Charles, there is no line of succession.
The Crown’s writer Peter Morgan deals with this early on. Without wishing to spoil the fun, there is a revealing scene where The Queen, Charles’s mentor Lord Mountbatten, Princess Anne and Prince Philip gather for lunch.
The talk is of Charles, who is absent, and the dizzying number of girls he is dating – who’s in and who’s out.
Among them an ‘impeccable horsewoman’, a Guinness family member, Sarah Spencer (an older sister of the as yet unheard of Lady Diana) and another married woman no one in the room is cheering for – one Mrs Parker Bowles. But who will Charles choose?
Step forward, Diana
Charles is unsure who this ethereal youngster is when she first appears, part hidden behind a statue in the great hall at Althorp – the Spencer family seat.
He had been there to take out her older sister Sarah, but appears smitten instead with the teenaged Diana, who we later learn was ‘obsessed’ by meeting him too.
Lord Mountbatten is assassinated by the IRA shortly after writing a letter to Charles urging him to put duty first, find a suitable bride and put Camilla, with whom he had been having an affair, behind him.
Charles decides on Diana
Diana wins the heart of Prince Philip on a deer stalking trip at Balmoral, and consequently wins over the entire family.
Emma Corrin, who plays Diana, said: “She knew the rules. She knew why she was there – to be approved and I think she just turned on the charm. “
Soon after, the couple announce their engagement.
A team of researchers spent months separating the truth from the fiction, but this is a dramatisation, said actor Josh O’Connor, who plays Charles.
“We know almost every beat of the Charles and Diana story as so much of it has been played out in the media. I wanted to play it truly as a conflicted love story.”
This series charts their rocky marriage and Diana’s discovery that she is rather more famous and desired by the world than her husband could ever be.
Diana, meet Camilla, the other woman
We now know the extent to which there were ‘three people’ in her marriage, as Diana famously told Martin Bashir years later.
But it is almost impossible to comprehend the level of hurt Diana felt when she discovered that while Charles went on a six week Royal tour alone just days after the engagement, he was talking to Camilla every day, but had his aides block calls from Diana for weeks.
Diana had been driving herself to distraction, alone in her new apartment at Buckingham Palace, where she felt just as isolated from the Royal Family.
This is when we learn for the first time that Diana is bulimic.
In a tense scene in series four, Camilla invites the lonely Diana out for dinner, on the face of it to offer her support and advice, only to cruelly destroy her with all the personal details she knows about her new fiance that Diana has no idea about.
She even reveals the sweetheart nicknames they still call one another. When Diana discovers a piece of jewellery she thought was a romantic gift to her from Charles, but proves not to be, the wedding is nearly off.
Philandering Charles’ sweet talking seems to be the only thing that can save the wedding of the century. It becomes very clear that Charles and Camilla have a stronger bond than Diana ever imagined.
The disintegration of Charles and Diana’s relationship will threaten the very monarchy itself.
Thatcher’s clash with the Queen
Relations between the Queen and Britain’s first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher are strained and the Queen’s constitutional obligation to remain silent is tested.
Maggie and husband Denis are put to the Royal Family’s infamous ‘Balmoral Test’ but fail ingloriously. Viewers are treated to a hilarious scene where Maggie dresses inappropriately for a deer stalk with the Queen.
The trip hardens Maggie’s resolve to clear out all the privileged establishment old guard from her cabinet.
Olivia Colman, who plays the Queen, said: “Elizabeth and Margaret are the same age, have the same drive and the same devotion to their fathers, same work ethic.
“But yet they don’t get on. It’s not the beautiful friendship that the Queen hopes it’s going to be. Gillian (Anderson) is incredible to work with, every now and then I got a proper chill, she was so like the real thing, but yet so able to grin and be silly the moment we cut.”
Gillian Anderson, who gives an award-winning performance as Thatcher, said: “They have many similarities. But where the Queen leans back, Thatcher leans in; where the Queen stays mum, Thatcher makes very clear her opinions; where the Queen does nothing, Thatcher takes action.”
Margaret, the spare sister
Princess Margaret has always struggled with life in her sister The Queen’s shadow.
Now a divorcee in her 50s she faces being further overlooked for the younger, glamorous Diana, Princess of Wales.
Lonely, suffering from ill-health (you name it, she had it) and underemployment, Margaret’s world turns inward.
When she stumbles upon a piece of family history, and discovers the shameful way the Royal Family dealt with it, her pain and anger erupt, provoking an explosive confrontation with the Queen Mother.
While never losing her signature sharp wit, her own experiences have made her aware of the pitfalls of a gilded life and as the Wales’s marriage crumbles she becomes an unlikely source of sympathy for the tragically mis-matched couple.
Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Margaret, said: “She is freshly divorced from Snowdon and is adjusting to her life as a single woman.
“She has become closer to her sister – as they get older, they are less rivalrous. With the introduction of Diana, she relates to the young princess and she definitely empathises with the relationship with Charles as she can see that disaster is going to happen.
“Just as they interfered with Margaret’s marriage and affairs of the heart, they are going to do the same with Charles and Diana. She is frustrated that the family haven’t mended their ways.”