In the show’s fourth season, we meet the most anticipated figure, Lady Diana, while the monarchy balances at the brink of personal and national calamity spanning from marital misery, tabloid sagas, and undeniable civic unrest.

Aamyneh Mecklai, Staff Writer

Cast: Olivia Colman, Josh O’Connor, Gillian Anderson, Emma Corrin, Helena Bonham Carter, Tobias Menzies

Creator: Peter Morgan

Platform: Netflix

Run time: 45-minute long episodes, 10 total episodes

Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars

Olivia Coleman as Queen Elizabeth II. 

Queen. Prince. Duchess. Buckingham Palace. Crown. Entourage.

This lexical field of rapturous regality connotes fairytale-like endings, undeniable power, and extravagance. It is most likely that after watching the fourth season of The Crown, you will question these words’ dreamy connotations.

The show is based on Queen Elizabeth II’s life from just before her coronation in the first season to Margaret Thatcher’s unabashed tenure as Prime Minister, and the marriage of Lady Diana and Prince Charles in its fourth season. Some of the biggest British political rivalries uncovered in this season include the IRA attacks, the Falklands War, and turmoil within the Commonwealth. Moreover, the uncomfortable friction between Downing Street and Buckingham Palace, often represented by their heads, Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Thatcher, is chronicled in minute but selective, soapy detail.

Princess Diana, played by debut actress Emma Corrin, was perhaps the most anticipated and glamorous royal figure. And it’s safe to say that Corrin delivered. She exuded a sense of relatability and an unflinching vulnerability in her tilted, demure gaze that made her the perfect juxtaposition to the tight-lipped royal family, particularly the Queen, played marvellously by Academy Award-winning Olivia Coleman. 

Meanwhile, Thatcher, played by Gillian Anderson, also stole the show with a strong accent and Iron-Lady-resembling mannerisms. The power dynamic between the Queen and Thatcher stemmed from their incongruous personalities and outlook, which was captured particularly well in Episode 2, The Balmoral Test, and Episode 9, Avalanche. Thatcher’s unforgiving practicality and the Queen’s uncompromising sense of duty and power, which she often found in doing and saying nothing, made for a gripping juxtaposition. 

Brewing with controversy, this season revolves around breaking precedent. The Queen expresses her opinion on the Prime Minister. The Royal family discovers mental health issues within their lineage. The Prince, with the help of his staff, openly betrays the woman he married. The Princess slips out of the Royal box to dance to Joel’s Uptown Girl. A civilian breaks into the Palace to converse with the Queen. 

Princess Diana dancing to Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl 

Royally scandalous, isn’t it? The show’s writer and executive producer, Peter Morgan, strings together a selective narrative to create a riveting season, which forces most viewers to ask: Is this show factual or fictitious?

The show’s creators emphasize that the show, though broadly based on the Royal family, is often fuelled by Morgan’s “creative guesses.” Recently, there has been controversy surrounding the show’s accuracy. Some historians have even urged Netflix to put out a disclaimer, warning viewers that its narrative is partly fictitious, at the beginning of each episode.

But the truth is that The Crown is a convenient blend of historical anecdotes and soapy drama. That’s what makes the show universally engaging. However, amid its drama, this season also conveys an important message: the monarchy, often blissfully ignorant, has never been more distant from its people. It took a civilian intrusion into the Queen’s very own bedroom for her to realize the state of Britain’s crumbling economy and spirit.

Queen. Prince. Duchess. Buckingham Palace. Crown. Entourage.

This lexical field of rapturous regality now connotes more than just extravagance and fairytales. Season 4 showed its viewers that wearing a crown comes at a cost. This cost is often an inability to marry a woman of one’s choice, an obligation to remain apolitical, or the perennial incapacity to be understood, let alone accepted. Buckingham Palace is undoubtedly royal and imperial. But as Michael Fagan, the Queen’s unwelcome civilian intruder, noted, their walls, and souls, have deep, undiscovered cracks. 

This season, like its three precedents, are not history lessons. Season 4 takes the form of an elegantly narrated, richly performed soap opera and is based on craftily selected political and personal rivalries that can delight and devastate when unfolded amid U of T’s finals season in equal parts. 

Aamyneh Mecklai is a first-year undergraduate student at Trinity College, studying Finance & Economics at Rotman Commerce.

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