“The Crown” Season Four Follows Turbulent Period for Royal Family


Courtesy of Town & Country

The historical drama’s new season takes place during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, a period punctuated by division, illness, and death in Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Season four, just released on Netflix, marks the debut of Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher and spotlights the tempestuous relationship between Diana and Prince Charles.


With the first three seasons building up to the marriage of Charles and Diana, season four opens in the late 1970s as the British royal family focuses on safeguarding the line of succession, which depends on the Prince of Wales’ marriage. Season four chronicles the heavily scrutinized relationship between the Prince and Princess of Wales, from the early days of their courtship to the growing rift in their marriage. The show’s first teaser trailer provides a glimpse into the couple’s 1981 wedding, giving viewers a look at Diana in her wedding dress and her 25-foot train. However, the new season won’t portray the wedding ceremony, only the moments leading up to it. Director Benjamin Caron explains this plot choice in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.


“If you want to go and watch the reality version of  ‘The Crown’ you can just go on YouTube and see that,” Caron said. “We’ve always been interested in what happens behind the curtains and not in front of the curtains.”


Keeping with the theme of going beyond the royals’ public facade, season four depicts Princess Diana facing enormous pressure to conform to the royal family and constantly do her job, as well as her struggle with bulimia. Humanities senior Victoria Robinson, who has been anticipating the new season for months, looks forward to the show’s portrayal of the princess’ life behind the palace walls.


“[I’m excited to see her] life and her experience adjusting to being royal,” Robinson explained. “I think it will be interesting to see more about what her life was like in terms of her relationship with the royal family.”


The turbulent marriage takes a toll on Prince Charles as well, who becomes increasingly dejected and subdued as their relationship dissolves. However, Charles and Diana are not the only royals facing a troubled marriage in season four, as the prince’s younger sister Anne deals with a rocky marriage of her own to Olympic champion Mark Phillips. The shared marital woes bring the siblings closer as they commiserate together, and season four features more of their sibling camaraderie. In an interview with Netflix Queue, Erin Doherty, who plays Princess Anne, expands on the siblings’ relationship.


“You’re watching these people grow,” Doherty said. “You see them experience a similar coming-of-age, but take different routes.”


Meanwhile, the new season explores the tense relationship between the Queen and Prime Minister Thatcher, accentuating their contrasting temperaments and differing views on public policy. Other events of season four include Charles and Diana’s 1983 royal tour of Australia, Diana’s 1989 ride on the Concorde, and Michael Fagan’s 1982 breaking and entering at Buckingham Palace.


New cast members include Emma Corrin as Princess Diana, Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, Sex Education) as Thatcher, and Angus Imrie (Fleabag) as young Prince Edward. Season three’s main cast returns for the new season, with Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth, Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret, and Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip. For a full cast list, click here.


Although production ended two weeks early because of COVID-19 and some scenes remained unfilmed, writer and creator Peter Morgan made the decision to stop filming altogether instead of waiting to start again and postponing season four’s release. Season four will be followed by two more seasons with new cast members, and season six will be the show’s final chapter.